Cardinals save season with all-time comeback win over Raiders
The NFL was drunk on Sunday. The Cardinals authored one of the greatest turnarounds in Arizona sports history and it wasn’t even the best comeback of the day.
But no team needed it more.
The Cardinals’ 29-23 victory over the Raiders was breathtaking, unbelievable and saved the franchise from last place and fan-based mutiny.
It showcased Murray’s unparalleled athleticism and quickness. The game, and maybe the season, turned the moment Murray started freewheeling in the pocket and making plays with his legs. He produced a two-point conversion on a play that lasted 20.8 seconds, a play where Murray covered 84.9 yards with his legs. It is one of the more unbelievable highlights the league has uncorked in years.
After that superstar moment, a scouting report surfaced on Twitter that said Murray “runs like a toddler that just stole his parent’s phone.”
In the end, Murray directed a dominant second-half performance; saved the Cardinals from the brink of disaster; chained Derek Carr to the sideline for 30 minutes of real-time; re-established his MVP credentials; validated that $230 million contract and pulled the plug on all those study hall jokes.
It was exactly the kind of statement Murray needed to make in Week 2, exactly the kind of performance that makes the Cardinals dangerous and so demoralizing to opponents. And from the depths of darkness, our NFL team is suddenly tied for first place in the NFC West.
For a while, it appeared the Cardinals were going to spend another week in the doghouse, as our civic piñata and communal punching bag.
They were outgained 253-86. Through the first six quarters of the season, the Cardinals were the worst team in the NFL. And after being labeled “star backer” in the offseason, Isaiah Simmons barely saw the field in the first quarter. At halftime, they trailed 20-0.
The Cardinals were fast approaching peak malfeasance, and on a day when Herm Edwards finally lost his job at ASU, many were hoping that Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim would join him on that train out of town.
But the second half offered redemption for everyone. The offensive line swallowed up the Raiders’ dominant pass rush, making Chandler Jones look irrelevant. Darrel Williams finally became a factor in the offense. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. did a great job defending Raiders’ star Davante Adams. A talent-deficient defense stood up to the Raiders, who became far too conservative.
The Cardinals made many mistakes along the way. Clock management was frequently abysmal. Murray’s receivers too often let him down, particularly A.J. Green. But Murray seemed to have his body language completely under control. Every time, Murray compensated with his transcendent talent, making a play to save the Cardinals.
Finally, when Hollywood Brown failed to secure an easy reception on fourth down in overtime, the Raiders appeared destined for victory. That’s when Simmons delivered a crushing tackle/forced fumble that led to Murphy’s game-winning touchdown.
The scene was eerily like his rookie season, when Simmons was exposed in Week 1; benched and stripped of responsibilities; only to come up with a game-saving play in overtime. Back then, it was a Week 7 interception against the Seahawks, in a game he only played five snaps.
On Sunday, it was a thunderous tackle and exclamation point. Hopefully, it will launch his season in a better direction.
The Cardinals clearly butchered their preseason preparation. It took them six quarters to find their rhythm. But after Murray’s miracle on The Strip, the Cardinals are 9-1 in their last 10 road games. Somehow, they turned a bad loss in progress into an all-time victory.
The kind that might save a season.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.