DAN BICKLEY

Kyler Murray’s return brings back the Cardinals’ prized player to the Valley

Nov 12, 2023, 6:07 PM | Updated: Nov 13, 2023, 10:22 am

GLENDALE — Kyler Murray is our little red Corvette.

Out of the body shop. Back on the freeway. Once again in the winner’s circle.

The Valley kicked the tires on our rehabbed quarterback on Sunday, and the response was everything we hoped.

Namely, the wheels are still elite.

Savor the rare victory and the new beginning. The Cardinals certainly did.

“A jolt of energy and belief within our team,” Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon said. “That’s why he is who he is. Couldn’t be happier for the guy.”

Murray led the Cardinals on a game-winning drive that culminated in a chip-shot field goal and a 25-23 victory over the Falcons. The final possession turned on a third-down, 13-yard scramble that was vintage Murray, escaping a heavy rush and turning disaster into destiny.

Murray’s return won’t save the season. But it will make the Cardinals relevant and compelling once again.

“I just want to win,” Murray said. “It feels good to win.”

Not often does a player get a complete career reset — a chance to return with a better version of yourself, inside a better system, under the handling of better coaches.

Murray gets that chance.

He made mistakes in the first half:

— He became the latest Cardinals quarterback to misfire on a sure touchdown pass to a wide-open Hollywood Brown.

— He took a couple of penalties, once because his left foot misfired before taking the snap.

— And he took most of his snaps in shotgun formation, the only real concession to his comfort zone.

But his quickness and athleticism were as devastating as always, and far better than anyone could’ve expected. He showed 100-percent trust his rehabilitation. He led scoring drives on three-of-four possessions in the first half. And after throwing a bad interception in the second half, he came through in the end, making good on a sideline promise to Gannon that he would get his team all the way down the field.

It takes more than talent and a surgically-repaired knee to step across the white lines. Even under the best of circumstances, it takes real courage to play professional football. And Murray let it rip without hesitation or doubt. He showed real courage and real leadership.

“It felt normal,” Murray said. “It felt right.”

Murray’s presence clearly lifted the Cardinals, a team that suddenly equipped with playmakers. Trey McBride become the first Arizona tight end in 34 years with 100 or more receiving yards; Greg Dortch contributed a huge punt return; while Brown, James Conner and Michael Wilson suddenly seemed more dangerous.

Gannon clearly appreciated the return of Murray. Even if he felt a little sheepish for effectively telling Valley fans to temper their expectations earlier in the week, for suggesting he might not be the same Kyler Murray for some time.

“Maybe that’s why (Murray) laughed at me,” Gannon said. “He believes if you give him the ball, he’s going to win the game. There it is.”

Or as McBride said: “Kyler is a heck of a player. He’s a guy who makes plays, he’s a guy who extends plays … you can never stop with him. He’s a great player and I’ve very excited to have him back.”

There was a lot of good stuff swirling after the game with the locker room booming with music and laughter. That’s because the Cardinals returned more than a good player on Sunday.

They welcomed back their franchise quarterback and a future that is suddenly shining bright.

Dan Bickley

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Kyler Murray’s return brings back the Cardinals’ prized player to the Valley