Play-calling Kyler Murray nearly spurs Cardinals comeback in loss to Ravens

Aug 21, 2022, 10:45 PM | Updated: Aug 22, 2022, 8:32 am
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley (19) talks with Kyler Murray during the second half of...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley (19) talks with Kyler Murray during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

GLENDALE — For almost three quarters of action, the Arizona Cardinals’ first and only home preseason game at State Farm Stadium left a whole lot to be desired, exhibition or not, in the 24-17 Sunday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Offensively, Arizona lacked consistency and sputtered for over a half of football, putting up a whopping three points. The defense didn’t do itself any favors, either, with a lack of tackling prowess and the inability to stop Baltimore’s passing game and rookie tight end Isaiah Likely.

That was until quarterback Kyler Murray, adorned with a headset and laminated play sheet, took over play-calling duties from head coach Kliff Kingsbury while staring at a 24-3 deficit with about two minutes to go in the third quarter.

The end result? His longest stint as a play caller ended with a pair of scoring drives and a jolt to the team’s system.

“He did a nice job. He was fired up. He was more excited than he gets when he throws one so I don’t know what that’s all about,” Kingsbury said postgame. “It was fun to watch. He was talking to those guys and doing a nice job leading.”

Beginning on Arizona’s own 26-yard line, Murray helped manufacture the team’s longest drive of the night by a mile, chewing up more than 8:30 of clock over 16 plays and 74 yards. That includes four pass plays of at least 13 yards. Only the team’s second-quarter drive that resulted in a field goal saw more yards (77).

Quarterback Trace McSorley capped off the impressive drive with a one-yard run to give the Cardinals their first touchdown of the evening.

The momentum churned out by the offense poured over onto the defensive side of things.

After getting absolutely gashed by the Ravens’ passing attack, the Cardinals were finally able to get the better of Baltimore thanks to the play of linebacker Chandler Wooten.

On the first play of the Ravens’ drive following the Cardinals’ touchdown, Wooten snagged quarterback Anthony Brown’s pass intended for wide receiver Bailey Gaither. The turnover not only gave the Cardinals excellent field position on the Ravens’ 19-yard line, it gave Cardinals quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and Murray another shot at chipping away at Baltimore’s lead.

In his first taste of action Sunday night, Guarantano delivered. Needing just three plays from scrimmage, the signal caller wasted little time finding the end zone behind a 15-yard strike to wideout Jontre Kirklin.

“He’s very aggressive. He wants the big play every time,” wide receiver Greg Dortch said of Murray’s play-calling. “I love that, I love that a lot. That’s how he plays, he’s explosive, he’s a playmaker, so of course he’s going to call plays to show that.”

And with yet another stop from the defense, the stage was set for one last shot at ending Baltimore’s bizarre win streak.

Unfortunately for Arizona, that Murray magic would run out. But it wasn’t for the lack of trying.

Backed up to their own 15-yard line, the Cardinals had just under four minutes left in the game to make something happen.

Looking to stay aggressive, Murray dialed up a trio of deep balls, with only one completion to show for them. A pair of back-to-back sacks didn’t help matters, either, as Arizona eventually found itself in a 4th-and-long situation with under two minutes to go.

Instead of moving the chains once more, though, Guarantano couldn’t link up with Kirklin to keep the drive alive.

Murray stayed aggressive from start to finish.

“He’s going to take his shot,” Kingsbury said. “We were all telling him to get a little bit but he wanted to take his shot.”

Preseason or not, not coming away with a W is never a satisfying feeling even if the wins and losses don’t count.

But the experience gained on the field, or in this case on the sideline, for Murray is still a consolation.

“I think he gets the chance to really back off, see the macro view of it and see what all goes into it, the protections and knowing where the back goes and seeing the coverage,” Kingsbury said.

“Then even the leadership on the sideline. … It’s just a good way for him to stay involved and just see it from a different perspective.”

Murray wasn’t the only one to take something away from his play-calling, either.

“I just think my life would be a lot easier if I didn’t call plays,” Kingsbury said jokingly. “That’s a good gig if I could just do that. But I wouldn’t get paid to do that.”

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