DAN BICKLEY

Kyler Murray injury is cruelest blow of Arizona Cardinals’ season

Dec 12, 2022, 10:09 PM | Updated: Dec 13, 2022, 3:09 pm
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals is looked over on the field after being injured against th...

GLENDALE — A season full of hard knocks saved its cruelest blow for Kyler Murray.

The Cardinals quarterback was felled by a non-contact knee injury in the first 71 seconds of a 27-13 loss to the Patriots. A player with elite self-preservation skills suffered what is feared to be a torn ligament on a play that involved no tackle, no defender and no malice from the opponent.

Bad luck doesn’t get any worse than that.

“Don’t look good, but we’ll know more (Tuesday) morning,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Thus, a season full of unwanted drama turned ghastly and grotesque on Monday night, where the Cardinals’ ninth loss of the year guaranteed a losing season, where most fans once again left in silent contempt. They were the lucky ones.

Murray left on a cart, sobbing uncontrollably under a towel, riding off to a place he’s never been before, a realm of fear and uncertainty about the future.

“I’ve never seen him in that type of shape, so it wasn’t good,” Kingsbury said.

For a while, the Cardinals seemed to rally around their fallen quarterback. The defense played with passion and purpose. James Conner inspired all with a 10-yard bull romp into the end zone. A patchwork offensive line was holding its own. And backup quarterback Colt McCoy once again moved the offense with a sense of ease and poise.

But bad football teams find a way to lose, just like bad football coaches find ways to fail their team. Both occurred on Monday night.

Kingsbury lost his patience and his senses near the end of the first half, eschewing a field goal that prompted a six-point swing and a momentum shift that led to 20 unanswered points for the visitors. He was also failed by his most skillful players.

Hollywood Brown dropped a key fourth down pass. DeAndre Hopkins triggered a defensive touchdown by fumbling a ball he toted carelessly, far too trusting of his vice-grip hands. Mounting injuries made the trainer’s room like a Manhattan bagel shop on Sunday morning, where you need to take a number and wait your turn. And in the end, there was the burnt shell of a playoff team from 2021, a team that has now lost 14 of its last 19 games.

“The self-inflicted stuff offensively was really bad tonight,” Kingsbury said.

The Cardinals were playing for pride on Monday, and even that failed. And regardless of the outcome, Murray’s injury is the dominant story moving forward.

Non-contact injuries have become a serious point of serious concern among players in 2022. Many have called for the abolition of field turf, which is used in 14 of 30 NFL stadiums. But that isn’t an issue at State Farm Stadium, where the field is natural grass and considered among the best playing surfaces in the league.

The injury casts a pall over the rest of the regular season. Entering Monday’s game, the most important priority in Arizona was the elevation of Murray, a quarterback who has regressed after signing a $230 million contract in the offseason. Ideally, the rest of the regular season would’ve been a chance for Murray to get right, to build confidence and momentum entering the offseason.

Now, it looks more like rehab than rebirth.

If Murray tore a ligament, he faces a long and arduous road back. And you can’t help but wonder about the psychological effects on a player who was already skittish in the face of NFL danger.

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