Cardinals leave Los Angeles with something bigger than a win

Oct 3, 2021, 4:41 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2021, 3:16 pm

The Arizona Cardinals left Los Angeles with a big “L” on Sunday:


Their 37-20 demolition of the Los Angeles Rams leaves no doubt. Their offense is unstoppable and their defense is full of playmakers. They are the only unbeaten team remaining in the NFC. Anything seems possible with ascension of Kyler Murray, even a Lombardi Trophy.

Nobody in football is more demoralizing or dangerous. Defensive players can do everything right against Murray. And he still makes them wrong.

Of all the great plays the Cardinals quarterback executed on Sunday, the most profound moment came when he scrambled for a first down on 3rd-and-16, even though the Rams had a designated spy who read the play perfectly. Murray still made him look foolish.

Those are the plays that carve the heart out of an opponent, and they are happening with regularity.

Murray’s maturity and comfort level are staggering. Once, everyone obsessed over his height, a player officially listed at 5-foot-10. Now, it’s clear his small stature is what makes him so special, so elusive and so aesthetically thrilling. He will do for a generation of young quarterbacks what Steve Nash and Steph Curry once did for undersized basketball players.

Murray’s dismantling of the Rams makes him the clear MVP frontrunner at the moment, and he gives the Valley four teams capable of winning a championship, along with the Suns, Mercury and Rising.

Murray shares a lot with the Suns. He wears No. 1, just like Devin Booker. He is a diminutive star at the sport’s most important position, just like Chris Paul. His accuracy as a passer is like Deandre Ayton’s unfathomable shooting percentage.

Early on Sunday, the Rams gashed the Cardinals with their running attack, just like the previous two opponents. But in his third year as a professional, Murray’s control and command of the game was breathtaking. And as the Cardinals stacked touchdowns, the Rams were forced to play from behind.

Meanwhile, questions resurfaced about Matthew Stafford’s ability to win the biggest of games. He was intercepted once; had a second pick negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Isaiah Simmons; and was not at all in synch with his band of receivers. Certainly not like Murray, who completed passes to seven different receivers and it made it look effortless.

The performance ended the Sean McVay reign of dominance, a head coach who had won all previous eight matchups against the Cardinals. The star-studded crowd at SoFi Stadium expected carnage, and were stunned to see it happening to their own team. This was the second signature win of the young season for Arizona, and a much-needed statement game against the Rams.

There might be lingering skeptics in Arizona. Kliff Kingsbury’s teams have a history of fading badly down the stretch, a trend that dates all the way back to his days at Texas Tech. There is a fear that his system doesn’t evolve over the course of a long season, allowing defense to catch up along the way. Last season was no different, when Murray’s Cardinals squandered a 6-3 record and missed the playoffs entirely.

But this team feels different. Kingsbury is no longer on a hot seat, earning a big chunk of credibility on Sunday. The offense is moving vertically and not operating inside a small, sorry rectangle. Their kicking game ranks among the best in the NFL. They are getting solid contributions from multiple running backs and their tight end. The secondary is far exceeding expectations. Judging by their on-field demeanor against the Rams, there is a powerful belief growing inside the Cardinals locker room.

Just wait until the Cardinals rank No. 1 in some expert’s power poll, pumping crazy amounts of oxygen into the fan base.

This is what happens when a quarterback declares stardom in the NFL, lifting everyone in his vicinity. Murray seems sturdier this season, physically and emotionally. He seems unflappable and unbeatable.

And you can’t help but wonder what a ring-less Larry Fitzgerald is thinking at the moment, or if his absence was necessary to make all of this a possibility.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Presented By
Western Governors University


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Dan Bickley

Joshua Dobbs #9 of the Arizona Cardinals on the field after defeating the Dallas Cowboys  at State ...

Dan Bickley

Have Arizona Cardinals found hidden treasure in QB Josh Dobbs?

The early results from Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Dobbs have been a revelation and is making the new regime look good.

23 hours ago

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the first quarter at ...

Dan Bickley

Deandre Ayton’s lack of playoff moxie is no longer the Suns’ problem

The Suns polished off their championship roster on Wednesday by getting rid of Deandre Ayton and adding depth to the roster.

2 days ago

Joshua Dobbs #9 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass during the third quarter in the game against...

Dan Bickley

Cardinals’ upset win over Cowboys especially sweet for the polarizing Gannon

Sunday’s victory over the Cowboys was especially sweet. It was Arizona’s seventh victory over the Cowboys in its past eight tries.

5 days ago

Corbin Carroll #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up on deck during the first inning of the MLB g...

Dan Bickley

Diamondbacks seizing moment in final surge of regular season

The Diamondbacks are surging. They are having a moment. They are seizing the moment. They are again the talk of Major League Baseball.

9 days ago

Evan Longoria #3 of the Arizona Diamondbacks slides into home plate to score the game winning run a...

Dan Bickley

Stellar 2023 MLB season has baseball back on track

It’s hard to define a great baseball season. You know it when you see one. We are witnessing one of the best in 2023.

10 days ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: The Arizona Diamondbacks are a team that no one wants to play

Video: Bickley Blast: The Arizona Diamondbacks are a team that no one wants to play. Video: Felisa Cárdenas and Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports

10 days ago

Cardinals leave Los Angeles with something bigger than a win