Kyler Murray on Cardinals missing playoffs: ‘I hope this motivates us’
Rattling off five wins in the first seven games of 2020 put the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the relatively high expectations.
DeAndre Hopkins was everything the Cardinals thought he’d be, Kyler Murray was on an MVP-candidate trajectory and the defensive unit looked improved from a wildly disappointing 2019 season.
So after faltering with a 3-6 finish after that high point and missing the playoffs with an 18-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams to close their regular season on Sunday, the Cardinals’ franchise face and second-year head coach were asked what to make of an 8-8 season and third-place finish in the NFC West.
“It’s really tough. It still goes back to winning the games you’re supposed to win and you’re not putting yourself in this position, granted we still had an opportunity today to put ourselves in the playoffs,” said Murray, who missed most of the Rams game with an ankle injury. “Me personally, obviously what happened today, not being able to play for majority of the game sucks.
“It is what it is, but again, I feel like I know we are a playoff team. I know what we’re capable of, but again, that’s just something that kept holding us back all year, us hurting ourselves and it came back to bite us, for sure.”
Against Los Angeles, Murray went 8-of-11 for 87 yards but injured his ankle on the first possession of the day. He returned for a rally attempt near the start of the fourth quarter but couldn’t help Arizona add any points to the scoreboard.
The Cardinals quarterback, who finished his second NFL season, said painful losses to sub-.500 teams like the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers were missed opportunities.
Over the final two games of the year, the Cardinals lost to teams running out a third-string quarterback and a backup without a single NFL pass attempt in his career.
“I think part of it is going through it, learning how to win and some other reasons that I don’t care to break down right now,” Murray said of what needs to be fixed this offseason. “We got to be better in all phases and I hope that this motivates us as an organization. Like, it’s an ugly feeling and nobody wants to feel like this, especially when, we’ve all talked about it, we’ve kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We feel like we should already be in the playoffs but we’re not.
“You just have to use it as motivation. I know what type of guy I am. I know what type of a player I am. I don’t really need a lot to motivate me. So, I know what type of intensity, what type of want to that drives me. I think as a team it should motivate us a lot.”
On Sunday, the Rams’ backup who burned Arizona was John Wolford. He passed for an admirable 22-of-38 for 231 yards and a pick, and rushed six times for 56 yards.
Arizona, once Murray went down with an ankle injury, turned to Chris Streveler, who himself hadn’t attempted an NFL pass until Sunday. He went 11-of-16 for 105 yards, a touchdown and an interception that was returned for a score.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury declined to discuss what he told his team after the loss knocked them out of postseason contention.
Coming off a 5-10-1 season in 2019, his first as an NFL head coach, Kingsbury remained optimistic despite the disappointing loss and run of poor games to end the year.
“Obviously, incredibly proud of that group. We made strides, there’s no question, as an organization,” Kingsbury said. “We’re not where we want to be, but the competitiveness from Year 1 to Year 2 definitely stepped up. I thought … each and every week we had a chance and guys believed we could win the games. We just didn’t get it done enough as a group.
“We made strides and that’s in the right direction. We have to continue to get pieces around Kyler, continue to build it the right way. We just have to learn from these (losses) and keep moving forward.”