ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury expecting big Wild Card game from Kyler Murray

Jan 14, 2022, 7:32 AM
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals and head coach Kliff Kingsbury wait along the sidelines du...
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals and head coach Kliff Kingsbury wait along the sidelines during a 37-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray are getting a taste of the postseason for the first time since arriving to the desert in 2019.

There’s no doubt about it, Monday’s Wild Card matchup against the Los Angeles Rams marks the biggest NFL game of their respective careers.

And while Kingsbury didn’t go as far as predicting a victory over the NFC West champions, he did call his shot when discussing Murray.

“I think this is what he’s been waiting for for three years,” Kingsbury said after practice. “He’s a guy who wants to be playing for something and knows he’s playing for something.

“This is his first shot at the playoffs and I expect him to probably play the best game of his career. I know he’s going to give it everything he’s got.”

Murray is no stranger to highlight-reel type plays and big statistic performances, but that’s a mighty tall task given it is his first NFL playoff game of his young career.

Or is it?

Before joining the Cardinals, Murray and success went hand in hand at every stop he made along his football career, whether that be posting a ridiculous 43-0 high school record to playing in the College Football Playoff Semifinals in 2018.

To finish off Murray’s Heisman campaign that year, the Oklahoma Sooners fell behind Alabama 21-0 after the first quarter of the Orange Bowl but made it a bit more competitive in what ended as a 45-34 loss. Murray heated up to finish 19-of-37 for 308 yards and two scores, adding 17 rushes for 109 more, plus a rushing touchdown.

But since getting picked No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, Murray hasn’t gotten those career-defining type moments, aside from a few primetime games, as the Cardinals worked their way out of the NFL gutter. And though there was steady improvement over the first two years, Arizona was on the outside looking in when it came to postseason play.

“He’s watched me for a long time, so he knows my mental as far as big games or just the game in general,” Murray said Thursday when asked what he thought about Kingsbury’s claim. “I eat, breath and sleep football. To be in this situation, I’m excited about it.

“There’s no fear. There’s no nerves about playing at a high level. You’ve just got to go out there and execute the plays and be yourself. I cherish this moment. I understand and I’m excited for it.”

There’s no denying that these types of games bring a different feeling of intensity and importance than others.

For Murray, it’s about taking what he’s picked up over the years of watching those closest to him rise to the occasion when their numbers were called.

“I was always raised to win regardless, no matter what,” Murray said. “We don’t lose. Whether it was a race, whether it was a chess match, getting first chair in the band class, it didn’t matter what it was. That’s just the way I was raised. I grew up in a sports family. Everybody played football, baseball, basketball. I knew every player. I knew what they wore. I knew their number. I knew everything about them.

“For me, watching them growing up, I always wanted to be like the guys that everybody watched. They were usually the best players and usually played the best in the big-time games. If you want to be that guy, that’s what you’ve got to do. That’s what you’ve got to be.”

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