DAN BICKLEY

Colt McCoy’s play making Kyler Murray’s injury issues irrelevant for Cardinals

Nov 21, 2021, 6:23 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2021, 7:32 am
Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals throws the ball during the second quarter against the Seatt...
Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals throws the ball during the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on November 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

In Arizona, the real McCoy is a legendary broadcaster looking for his first championship in 50 years behind the microphone.

The other McCoy is a backup quarterback who might help the Cardinals beat the Suns to the Valley’s next title.

Well done, Colt. And with all due respect, we hope we’ve seen the last of you on a football field in 2021.

The Cardinals regained the No. 1 seed in the NFC on Sunday with a hard-earned 23-13 victory over the Seahawks in Seattle. They improved to 2-0 against the NFC West without Kyler Murray. They remain unbeaten on the road (6-0). They now control the narrative for the only first-round bye in the NFC, merely the greatest playoff advantage since the NFL staged the Ice Bowl in Green Bay.

The Cardinals followed their only real path to victory with great success, receiving excellent games from McCoy and running back James Conner, helping the Cardinals control momentum and time of possession; fortressed by great performances from Chandler Jones and the Cardinals defense.

It worked.

Still, playing a good game at quarterback is no easy task for a backup on the road, and McCoy has succeeded in two pivotal tests. In relief against the 49ers and Seahawks, McCoy completed 57-of-70 passes for 577 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

In his 33rd career start on Sunday, he threw over 300 yards for just the third time in his career, and the first time in seven years.

Great seasons are often preserved by unsung backup quarterbacks. Earl Morrall started nine games for the 1972 Dolphins, the NFL’s only unbeaten Super Bowl champions. Steve Fuller went 4-1 for the 1985 Bears, widely considered the greatest team in history. Jeff Hostetler and Nick Foles were reserves who rose to the occasion and won Super Bowls for the Giants and Eagles, respectively.

McCoy didn’t always flash championship pedigree on Sunday. He received a huge break when an apparent Seattle interception in the third quarter was overturned. He received a Pro Bowl performance from tight end Zach Ertz, who made about 10 big plays, scored two touchdowns and set the tone with his spike taunt of Seahawks fans in the first quarter.

But McCoy never stopped producing, finishing the job with a gutsy touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter that stamped his place on this football team.

When McCoy took over following a loss to the Packers on Thursday Night Football, the Cardinals had dropped to the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They will be the No. 1 seed and the NFL’s only two-loss team when/if Murray returns on Dec. 5 against the Bears in Chicago. What more could you ask of a NFL veteran?

Murray’s absence on Sunday seemed like a concession to the long term, a tribute to erring on the side of caution. It means he will enter the final month of the season with a month’s rest for his injured ankle. The decision also agitated some members of the fan base who miss watching Murray’s electric talent display; and who are frustrated with the Cardinals’ obfuscation and lack of transparency with injured players.

It could’ve been a serious issue around Valley water coolers if the Cardinals lost on Sunday. Especially if Murray has been cleared by the team’s medical staff, and if his team and his teammates expected him to play on Sunday, putting it on the line like everyone else in a hostile environment.

Remember, when it comes to playing hurt, Murray has not always been a willing participant. A brief video from Friday’s practice revealed a quarterback who seemed to be moving very well in the pocket. It might’ve been a ruse to fool the Seahawks. It spawned more questions about Murray, and whether he was smart or soft.

Like a great teammate, McCoy made the issue irrelevant. He made enough plays for the Cardinals to stand atop the NFL entering their bye week, entering the final month of the season. And depending on what happens in the playoffs, he might’ve done enough to become the greatest backup quarterback in Arizona history.

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

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