DAN BICKLEY

Bickley: Kyler Murray, Cardinals show clear progress in upset win over Steelers

Dec 3, 2023, 4:16 PM | Updated: Dec 4, 2023, 9:19 am

Over 36 seasons in the Valley, the Cardinals have been absurd, inept and occasionally elite.

They have rarely been more professional than they were on Sunday.

Our NFL team beat the Steelers and Mother Nature on a weather day in Pittsburgh. Their 24-10 victory marked their first road win in 10 tries. They took the fight to a franchise that prides itself on physicality and toughness, prevailing in one of the league’s most hostile environments.

With a pair of weather delays, the game lasted nearly 4.5 hours. Those who remained rooted on the couch have rarely felt more pride.

The victory was clear progress for quarterback Kyler Murray, who delivered in every way possible. He was rock solid in terrible conditions. He made big throws when his team needed them the most. His body language was fantastic. By the end of a very long day on the road, his stock had soared considerably.

Murray enters the bye week with significant momentum. It will be a great chance for him to reset, refocus and finish the season as the team’s franchise quarterback.

It was another breakout game for tight end Trey McBride, and a small slice of vindication for the general manager who drove this franchise into a ditch. McBride was the star of the surreal second-quarter performance, when the Cardinals wrestled the game away from the stunned hosts.

First, the Cardinals defense stopped their opponent cold on a dramatic goal-line stand. The offense took over and responded with a 99-yard scoring drive. McBride had a touchdown reversed on a controversial replay review, only to catch another touchdown pass on the ensuing play. On a drive that ended in a deluge, Murray was 4-for-4 for 58 yards on third down.

Doesn’t get better than that.

The game was also a tribute to their finest warrior, James Conner. He celebrated his return to Pittsburgh with 105 rushing yards and a physical presence that lifted everyone in his vicinity. After a Steelers lineman talked smack to Conner early in the game, the ramrod rusher grew even meaner. And in a moment that warmed the Valley’s heart, he practically stiff-armed Patrick Peterson back to Minnesota.

In the end, the game was a spectacular victory for head coach Jonathan Gannon and his coaching staff. After a dreadful home loss to the Rams, the Cardinals were not at all interested in zombie football, the detached and dispassionate mindset that affects many bad teams once the calendar turns to December.

The Cardinals were spirited and angry. Every tackle seemed to carry a degree of malice. They kept their focus through a 45-minute halftime delay, and another lengthy pause in the third quarter.

And most impressive:

After McBride was seemingly robbed of a touchdown catch in the first half, Gannon didn’t waste a moment complaining. Instead, he clapped his hands together with extreme force, exhorting his team to push through and push forward. That’s exactly what they did. This was his finest moment in his short tenure as head coach.

What a strange, compelling, inspiring Sunday afternoon. And for those who worry about the race to the bottom and the collateral damage of such a victory:

No Draft status can compare with the pride and toughness the Cardinals exhibited on Sunday.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6–10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

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Western Governors University

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