Christian Kirk throwing a pass for the Cardinals was years in the making
In 2018, the Arizona Cardinals had a double pass play drawn up for then-rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk.
Kirk, though, was injured against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 when Arizona finally called the play.
Larry Fitzgerald in relief caught a screen pass, rolled to his right and fired a strike down the field to running back David Johnson for a 32-yard touchdown.
“I was sitting on the couch and I knew when they broke the huddle I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, of course they call this play,'” Kirk told reporters Tuesday.
After three years of waiting, Kirk finally got his chance to throw the ball in an NFL game Sunday at the San Francisco 49ers.
Quarterback Colt McCoy pump faked to his left and flipped the ball on a reverse to Kirk who was in motion from the slot.
Kirk kept rolling to his right and then fired a deep ball down the field on the run. The ball placement was perfect for receiver Antoine Wesley to grab it before going out of bounds at the 49ers’ 1-yard line.
“I felt like people were kind of asleep on my arm ability,” Kirk joked. “I always knew I could throw … but finally got my chance to do it.”
Kirk’s throw gained 33 yards, one more than Fitzgerald’s but one shy of six points.
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He said he was disappointed to not get Wesley his first career touchdown. But running back James Conner punched the ball in one play later to give Arizona a commanding 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
To bring Kirk’s NFL passing career full circle, the play Arizona ran Sunday was not designed for him.
McCoy said postgame that it was intended for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to throw to A.J. Green. Hopkins was out Sunday with a hamstring issue and Green was, and still is, on the COVID-19 reserve list.
“Earlier in the week, we kind of had to mess around with where I was aligned pre snap, just so I could get the ball quick enough to really sell as if we were running a reverse,” Kirk explained. “I think cutting my split down a little tighter to the offensive line really helped. I was able to get the ball in my hand and keep it in my hands for a lot longer to keep the defense honest.”
The timing could have been better for Kirk, who said he hyper-extended his right thumb on the previous play. The fourth-year receiver thought about saying something, but he knew this was a golden chance to do this for the first time as a pro.
So he muscled through it.
His hurting thumb evidently did not affect the throw.
Kirk pointed out that he’s no stranger to passing in games, as he did so twice at Texas A&M and 11 times at Saguaro High School, according to MaxPreps.
He completed 7 of 11 throws in high school, but he went 0-for-2 in college. Kirk said that was not entirely his fault, though, pointing to one throw from a 2016 game against Mississippi.
“Unfortunately the ball wasn’t caught, but it was it was pretty good ball,” Kirk said. “If you could ask people who saw, they would say they would agree as well.”