Hail Murray brings Cardinals memorable, pivotal win over Bills
The headline is so obvious, so cliché, so accurate.
A decade down the road, we will remember this moment: Kyler Murray’s desperation heave perfectly flung toward the heavens; DeAndre Hopkins catching the ball in the company of three defenders; a lightning bolt of magic that saved the Cardinals from a damaging loss; a stardust moment that eliminates any chemistry concerns between the quarterback and his star receiver.
“Disbelief was the emotion,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “That dude is one of a kind.”
Both of them.
The Cardinals needed this. Their 32-30 victory over the Bills comes at a pivotal point in the season. It saves head coach Kliff Kingsbury from another week of heavy scrutiny, where his play calling and game management seem to be growing liabilities. It launches the team into a three-way tie atop the NFC West.
Like most successful walk-off home runs in the NFL, this result will fill the locker room with a sense of delirium and destiny, a launching pad to something greater down the road. It will fuel the team through the aches and rigors of a short week, where they must assume the unenviable role of visiting team in a Thursday Night Football showdown against the Seahawks.
“Never been a part of one of those,” Kingsbury said. “So I’m still at a loss for words.”
Murray has never completed a Hail Mary before, and this will announce his MVP candidacy. Before his game-winning pass to Hopkins, Murray added two more rushing touchdowns to his resume, and he now has 10 on the season. There were also moments when frustrations were once again evident on his young face.
A reminder: We are watching a unique player, a Mighty Mouse quarterback who is currently the best show in the NFL. Nothing about this ride will be predictable, other than our viewing pleasure.
Murray took over with 34 seconds left on Sunday. On the game’s final play, his speed, athleticism and elusiveness created a small window of opportunity. And Murray cashed in. It was very much like the two Hail Mary’s that Aaron Rodgers pulled off in State Farm Stadium during a playoff loss to the Cardinals.
“I knew once it left my hand, it had a good chance,” Murray said.
These kinds of plays can have powerful aftershocks, fueling an ascending player to even greater heights.
Everything about the moment was spectacular, a clutch pass delivered on-demand, knowing it was the final fling of the afternoon.
“He’s playing at a ridiculous level right now,” Kingsbury said.
Now, about the catch:
Hopkins has had a highly-productive, combustible start to his Arizona career, from an assortment of great games to the target-less first half against the Dolphins to that incident on the 101 when he was stuck inside a political caravan.
This was the game when he flashed his greatness. When he officially passed Larry Fitzgerald as the Most Valuable Receiver in Arizona. When he sparked another round of Bill O’Brien jokes on social media. When he showed just how dependable those hands are, especially in traffic.
“D-Hop got that X factor,” Cardinals safety Budda Baker said.
“Funny, all you saw was black gloves rising from everybody,” Murray said.
This game reminded Valley sports fans of all the electric moments in the history of State Farm Stadium. And that many more great moments are on the horizon, coming fast.
“This one is No. 1,” said Hopkins, ranking the catch as the best in his decorated career. “It was to win the game. No question. Against a playoff opponent.”
As for the strategy involved?
“Two plus two equal four,” he said. “Go downfield, throw it up.”
The Hail Murray saved many from embarrassment: Patrick Peterson got burned on a couple of big plays and dropped a couple of interceptions. Kenyan Drake coughed up a key fumble. The sure-handed Fitzgerald lost control of a pass, leading to a Buffalo interception. And Kingsbury is still struggling to find the right mix in high-leverage situations.
But there’s a lesson learned in the end-game chaos: Sometimes, throwing the ball downfield to Hopkins is all the Cardinals offense needs to make magic happen.
It worked on Sunday, when prayers were answered, where hope was resuscitated just as hope was lost, in a breathtaking moment we’ll never forget.
“It was a great catch, a great throw and Cards win,” Baker said.
Simple as that.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.