Hard Knocks recap: Kyler Murray returns to forefront, Cardinals give back on Thanksgiving
HBO’s Hard Knocks In Season: Arizona Cardinals dropped a new episode Wednesday, and the show once again had a lot to work in ahead of Arizona’s bye this week.
Kyler Murray was back in the fold after missing two games, players supported an important cause on Thanksgiving and the Cardinals went through another heartbreaking loss in the final seconds of a home game, this time against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Isaiah Simmons and Marquise Brown got time in the spotlight during the latest installment, so here’s a quick breakdown of the biggest moments from the episode.
Backup QB Colt McCoy did not have the same platform as when he started games the past two weeks, but that did not stop him from a bright moment early on. Steve Heiden was a focal point as he took over the offensive line coaching responsibility after Sean Kugler was fired last week.
McCoy said in the quarterbacks meeting room in response to the news, “How about we rush for 100 yards this week? I’d put money on it right now.”
Arizona racked up 181 rushing yards, as James Conner had his most productive day of the season with 120.
Marquise Brown in the game plan
Perhaps head coach Kliff Kingsbury was throwing others off the scent of his game plan last week. He told reporters that Brown — who returned from a foot injury — could be on a snap count.
Well, quarterbacks coach Cam Turner said on the show that Brown would be in the game plan a lot, mostly in the slot.
Brown caught six passes from Murray for 46 yards, playing 97% of the offensive snaps. Not sure that works as a pitch count.
Brown’s and Murray’s returns to the field gave the show opportunities to explore their relationship back to college.
“I had a privilege to host him on his visit to Oklahoma, I was recruiting him,” Murray said. “Ever since, we’ve been boys.”
“Me knowing him and him knowing me, I’m able to adlib a little bit out there, kind of know what he’s thinking,” Brown said.
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) December 1, 2022
Several members of the Cardinals, including DeAndre Hopkins, spent Thanksgiving serving meals, taking pictures and signing autographs at the UMOM New Day Centers. The organization focuses on preventing homelessness and offers domestic violence relief services.
Hopkins said they served 400-500 women who have been victims of domestic violence.
He talked about his mother being in a domestic situation while he was a kid, leaving her blind.
“We’ve been through a lot as a family,” Hopkins said. “I’ve had people help me my whole life, so for me, it comes natural.
“Just show our face, give our time and let people know that they’re loved and appreciated.”
Kingsbury, Keaontay Ingram, Manny Jones, Charles Washington, Kelvin Beachum and Christian Matthew were among those participating in the visit.
The ups and downs of Simmons
Defender Isaiah Simmons has had his share of highs and lows this season. His role diminished for a few games from having the green dot and starting in Week 1 to getting benched after a difficult first outing.
He’s made game-swinging plays several times, notably in Week 2 when his forced fumble led to the game-winning touchdown return.
“Being benched, it was tough to deal with,” Simmons said. “I’m just sitting there trying to figure what can I do to put myself back on the field.”
On camera, he asked defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson what he isn’t understanding. Robertson told him he is a different player when he knows what to do as opposed to when he’s thinking what to do.
That topsy-turvy theme fed perfectly into his performance during the game.
On the Chargers’ second touchdown in the first half, Simmons looked lost in coverage, leaving receiver DeAndre Carter open for the score. Linebacker Zaven Collins yelled out, “Zay?” with his hands up.
Simmons later had a critical sack on a third down to give the Cardinals the ball back with three minutes left in the fourth quarter leading 24-17.
The offense failed to run out the clock, though, and L.A. scored on its next possession, setting up a two-point conversion attempt for the win with 12 seconds left.
The Chargers motioned running back Austin Ekeler out wide, and Collins followed. That left Simmons alone on tight end Gerald Everett. Everett faked one way and cut toward the middle of the field, and Simmons was caught leaning the other way. Ballgame. L.A. wins 25-24.
The Cardinals dropped to 4-8 on the season and 1-6 at home.
Kingsbury told the locker room that he sounds the same each week but instructed his players to rest and recharge during the bye week. His message was to not let the team’s circumstances — like its record — dictate how the players act, treat people and play going forward.
Budda Baker, who earlier told his teammates to take accountability and be perfect to finish the season, said they only have five more guaranteed games, so empty the tank.
More dodged controversy
The moment after Sunday’s game that caught the most attention was Murray criticizing the play call on a first-half, fourth-and-inches attempt from Arizona’s territory. Murray was intercepted, the Chargers scored and the game’s complexion changed. After the loss, Murray said Arizona was “(expletive)’d schematically” on that play.
The show did not have that moment in the episode, which is not the first time it has shied away from high points of interest.
Running back Eno Benjamin’s falling out and release was ignored in entirely Week 11.
- Antonio Hamilton took responsibility and apologized to his position group for not tackling George Kittle on a touchdown allowed last week against the 49ers.
- The NFL Films cameras gave clear shots of a couple of calls that went against the Cardinals vs. the Chargers. One was a fumble by L.A.’s Joshua Palmer. It was initially called Arizona ball but overturned. The show gave a good look at it, which only made the reversal more confounding.
- The second call was on a Collins interception that was reversed to an incomplete pass. This angle was a bit more clear in showing the ball hit the turf and moved. Collins said before the game he would intercept a pass, and he was almost right.
Reminder, there won’t be a new episode next week due to the bye.