What we learned in Cardinals QB Kyler Murray’s return in Week 10

Nov 13, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: 10:16 pm

Kyler Murray runs the rock in Week 10...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball while being chased by Richie Grant #27 of the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter at State Farm Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray exceeded expectations in his return to action on Sunday, exactly 11 months removed from a torn ACL.

Completing 59.4% of his throws for 249 yards and an interception in addition to running the rock six times for 33 yards and a score, Murray willed his team to a come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons 335 days after that fateful night last December.

There’s still a lot to unpack from multiple sides of Arizona’s 25-23 win despite already touching on Trey McBride’s big day and BJ Ojulari’s continued progression.

So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

What ACL tear?

The knee looks fine to me!

Murray put a lot of doubters to shame with what he did on the ground Sunday.

The stat line doesn’t jump off the page — six carries for 33 yards and a touchdown — and is far from Murray’s best output as a runner, but it was the way he reached the total that had a lot of us in the press box saying “we know that guy.”

The biggest example of that was his 13-yard scramble that traveled nearly 70 yards on his way to a first down and an eventual W.

“I knew I was probably like 20 yards back or 15 yards back from the line of scrimmage,” Murray said postgame. “I knew it was third-and-10, so you do the math.

“At that point, if I’ve got to take a hit, I’ve got to take a hit, but we’ve got to win the game. That was kind of the mindset and when you’re running like that everything is kind of blurry. For me, it was just do whatever is necessary to win.”

Rust and familiarity

Murray deserves a lot of credit for Arizona’s victory.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some rust.

The biggest examples were a couple penalties — a false start and delay of game — and deep miss to Hollywood Brown.

Murray and Brown had Atlanta dead to rights on a 33-yard strike, but a slight overthrow from the QB spelled fourth down, not touchdown.

With more time on task in a new offense, that miss and those miscues should be cleaned up.

“That’s the first time he’s played a game in a long time and in the system, so now it’s trying to continue to evolve what he liked, what he didn’t like, our operation and how we got to get that a little bit cleaner, some of the other things throughout the game situationally,” Gannon told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Monday. “What can we clean up? What can we expand on?

“No matter the result, our process is always the same. Let’s learn, let’s get better, let’s grow from it and get ourselves ready to go versus Houston.”

Under center underutilized

A big topic entering Sunday’s tilt centered around Murray’s effectiveness running the offense from under center, a given in offensive coordinator Drew Petzing’s scheme.

But like all good coaches, Petzing didn’t go into the matchup with a one-size-fits-all mentality. It’s all about utilizing your QB’s skillset.

He did just that, with Murray operating mainly out of shotgun formations as opposed to just a handful of plays from under center.

Excluding his kneel down ahead of Matt Prater’s game-winning field goal, Murray registered 56 shotgun snaps to just nine under center.

For comparison, former Cardinals QB Joshua Dobbs saw a 39-19 split (minus kneel downs) in Arizona’s only other win this season.

Different players. Different play types.

That’s not to say that number can’t increase for Murray as he gets more games under his belt.

Just don’t expect Petzing and Co. to have a drastic flip of the switch in that department unless it’s absolutely warranted.

The Tune tangent

When healthy, Murray typically plays every available offensive snap. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, however, with rookie Clayton Tune earning two snaps in the victory.

Both were significant moments in the game. One came on a fourth-and-1 handoff to James Conner that kept the drive alive for an eventual Prater field goal and early lead.

The second had much more stock to it, with the Cardinals turning to the rookie for a goal line tush push.

Or should I say, Tune push (still workshopping the name).

The play went off without a hitch as Tune found paydirt and again was a big part in the Cardinals taking a lead.

It was a positive development for the 2023 fifth-rounder after a whole lot of negative the week prior, a credit to the QB’s mental game.

“He’ll continue to have certain plays up each week and he did a good job executing,” Gannon said postgame. “That’s not easy to do coming in a game cold and getting a snap and scoring. He had a great week of practice.

“He came back the right way after getting beat up a little bit, and that’s how coaches and players need to respond when you get beat up a little bit. It shows your true character.”

Special Barbarian

Speaking of getting beat up a little bit, that’s what Dennis Gardeck continues to do to opposing quarterbacks in 2023.

But Sunday marked a big achievement for the Barbarian, with Gardeck recording the 13th sack of his career and setting a new franchise mark for the most by a Cardinals undrafted free agent.

Gardeck, however, is far from satisfied.

“I’m trying to get rid of those asterisks for the undrafted,” Gardeck said postgame. “But I’m really happy to have that undrafted record.

“That’s not the standard that I hold myself to, so we’re going to keep hunting.”

With his play on Sunday, Gardeck is up to five sacks on the year, with four coming in three of the past four games.

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