Kyler Murray’s step back in Cardinals offense among key takeaways from Week 11

Nov 20, 2023, 4:40 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2023, 12:27 pm

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray exceeded most expectations in his return to action in Week 10 against the Atlanta Falcons.

This past Sunday, though, he didn’t meet them.

Despite starting fast and scoring through the air and on the ground in the 21-16 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 11, Murray’s play throughout the tilt was inconsistent at best.

He was the first one to acknowledge he didn’t get the job done postgame.

“Just feel like offensively, myself, feel like [I] had enough chances to win the game,” Murray told reporters.

“Let the team down. That’s how I feel.”

There were more than a couple different instances where better ball placement and overall accuracy from Murray could have resulted in a massive gain, first down or even points in the one-score affair.

Among the most glaring misses was a late one to second-year pro and tight end Trey McBride.

Attempting to convert on fourth-and-four and down five points, Murray had an open McBride sprinting across the field with a lot of green ahead of him.

Instead of hitting him in stride, Murray underthrew his tight end, resulting in one of three turnover on downs for Arizona.

“Fourth down, Trey, it’s on me,” Murray told reporters postgame. “Bad feet.”

The second biggest mistake of the day for Murray came early in the second quarter.

Looking to answer a Texans touchdown with one of his own down in Houston territory, Murray aired one out in the vicinity of wide receiver Hollywood Brown, who had a few steps on cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.

But much like the McBride gaffe, Murray underthrew the rock, allowing Stingley to make up the lost ground and come away with an interception.

The rust factor was a lot more evident for Murray in Week 11 than it was a week prior, leaving many to wonder what form we’ll see against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Barn(es) stormer

Losing a starter and leader like the Cardinals did with MIKE backer Kyzir White on Sunday is never easy to overcome.

But given what Krys Barnes put on the tape in place of White, the unit didn’t miss a beat in the attempted comeback.

Barnes turned in arguably his best game as a Cardinal on Sunday, recording three tackles, an interception and two passes defensed in the loss.

It was Barnes’ speed on the INT that had fellow inside linebacker Josh Woods talking after the fact.

“Krys is always locked in. He prepares as if he’s the starter and getting all the reps,” Woods said. “He’s a really good football player, we knew that coming in. It was a tight battle between him and I coming out of (training camp).

“I’m just happy he got his (first career pick). He was sliding, too. He was scooting down the sideline. … We all knew he was fast, but I didn’t know he was hitting 20.5 (mph).”

Barnes will have plenty of opportunities for more interceptions and big plays, too, following head coach Jonathan Gannon’s announcement that White will head to injured reserve and miss the rest of the season with a torn bicep.

Pass the sticks

Barnes wasn’t the only one to step up in place of White on Sunday.

Woods also saw an uptick in responsibility with the taking over of the green dot.

Much like Barnes, didn’t blink at the opportunity.

“Communication, all the adjustments, checks, but our coaches don’t just talk to Kyzir when they make the (play calls),” Woods said Monday of his added duties. “They say it to the room, they expect everybody to know those things.

“In terms of leadership, I talk all day. I don’t shut up. I think I talk too much to some of my teammates. That wasn’t a big change. I think the biggest thing was just the level of responsibility knowing I don’t have Kyzir to lean on. It’s other guys leaning on me.”

It was a solid day all around for Woods, who set a new season high for tackles with seven.

The game also represented what’s yet to come for Woods with White done for the rest of the year.

Up for the Challenge

The Cardinals defense, for most of the first half, was getting lit up by Texans rookie QB C.J. Stroud and his nearly 300 yards passing through two quarters.

Outside of Jalen Thompson’s second-quarter INT, Stroud was doing his thing with ease.

But from the third quarter on, the unit reigned supreme over Houston. Not only did the Cardinals defense limit Stroud to less than 100 yards in the second half, it forced two turnovers in the red zone to give Murray and the offense multiple chances at a comeback.

So, what changed?

“I think we just settled in. We challenged each other in the locker room (at halftime),” Woods said Monday. “It’s not on one person, one position group. Everybody just has to step their game up and play better. And everybody rose to that challenge.”

Just give him a chance, coach!

Wide receiver Greg Dortch has seen very little in the way of offensive snaps in 2023.

But with both Michael Wilson and Zach Pascal sidelined due to injuries, his number was called more times offensively (46 snaps) than it had the first 10 games of the season (45).

And much like he has in the past for the franchise, the wideout did something with the added looks, pacing the team with six catches on eight targets for 76 yards.

Dortch may not bring the same kind of size as his 6-foot counterparts, but he certainly has the ability to make guys miss and/or bounce off defenders.

The wide receiver just needs the chance in a crowded WRs room.

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