The meteoric rise of Cardinals QB Kyler Murray

INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – Watching Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is like watching poetry on the football field. Murray plays football like he is a magician. He’s there one moment and in the next moment, he’s gone, disappearing into a mist of missed tackles and almost sacks. 

Even the best of the best acknowledges this.  

In the week leading up to the Los Angeles Rams played the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium in an NFC West Showdown, Aaron Donald admitted he doesn’t particularly care trying to run around the football field so that he could put his hands on Murray. 

“Cause it’s hard,” Donald said. “He’s fast, he’s quick, he can make a lot of things happen. He is similar to how (QB) Russell Wilson plays. He can run 20-yards back and throw a deep ball and hurt you. So, he does a lot of things with his feet and extends plays and make the good throws downfield. He is a good football player.”  

Oct. 3, 2021. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams in his team’s 37-20 win at SoFi Stadium. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Murray didn’t waste time validating Donald’s assertion. On Arizona’s first series of the game in the first quarter, Murray dropped back to pass on second down. With Donald chasing him down, Murray methodically rolled out right and completed a pass in the flat. Donald came close to sacking Murrary but wound up grabbing a bunch of air and turf. 

On Arizona’s second series, Murray showed off his mercurial arm strength, pinpointing a 41-touchdown strike to wide receiver A.J. Green for a touchdown. 

That’s the exasperation of putting down a dual-threat quarterback like Murray. Signal-callers like Murray presents a different set of challenges, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said. 

“He is dynamic outside of the pocket,” Morris said. “He is dynamic in the pocket and he has a great arm. He’s talented, he’s unique. He can throw, he can run, he’s fast. He becomes particularly dangerous in the red zone. All those things we know about him. We love this kid and how he moves and how he plays. And we got to go out and it’s a great challenge for us to get them on the ground. It’s a great challenge to try to fluster them. It’s a great challenge for us to try to get them off the rhythm and off-balance. And it’s our job to do that. We’ve got some capable players to do it too, and I look forward to the challenge.”

The skillset of Murray that Morris was referring to about Murray is the multi-dimension he brings to the table. Although he is short (5-foot-10), Murray is cat-quick and can outrun defenders with the greatest of ease as he did on a video game scramble in the second quarter against the Rams.  

Oct. 3, 2021. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is the No. 3 passer in the NFL. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Facing a third-and-16 and operating out of the shotgun formation, Murray, facing immediate heat in the form of a pass rush from Rams linebacker Kenny Young, dipped inside and then scooted 18 yards to his left for a first down. Arizona would then punched its third touchdown of the game to go up, 21-10. 

Donald, who got left on the carpet a couple of times by some shake and bake moves by Murray, said prior to the game that Murray is playing at another level than he has been. That’s saying a lot. Murray came into the game as the NFL’s No. 3 quarterback, having completed 73 percent of his passes and earning a 113.8 QBR. 

Rams head coach Sean McVay talked about the progress that Murray has made since he first came into the league.  

“He has always been such a dynamic playmaker that can extend plays,” McVay said. “He’s doing a great job distributing the ball evenly. (WR Christian) Kirk’s their leading receiver right now, but he’s getting (WR DeAndre) Hopkins involved. (WR) AJ Green’s making his plays. They’ve done a nice job getting (RB Chase) Edmonds involved. (TE) Max Williams as well. 

McVay continued, “The way he is seeing the field, and then just the explosive athleticism. His ability to extend plays has always been well-documented, but to be able to be decisive, understand where those issues are coming from, and then being able to make plays in the rhythm and timing that sometimes you’re looking for.” 

Last season, Murray passed for 3,971 yards and rushed for an additional 819 yards, making him a lethal offensive threat through the air and running the football. 

“He is playing good football,” Donald said. “He is making a lot of plays, making it hard for guys to get to him in time. So, you know what to expect. Just got to get after him.”

The Rams and the Cardinals both came into Sunday’s game undefeated. Both posted 3-0 marks. Both teams have remarkable quarterbacks. The Rams have Matthew Stafford. The Cardinals counter with Murray, a third-year quarterback with zenith potential. 

The Cardinals averaged 34.3 points a game before they played the Rams. Los Angeles, on the other hand, was scoring at 30 points per game clip. Also going for the Rams was an eight-game winning streak against the Cardinals since McVay took over as head coach of the Rams. 

Murray and the Cardinals put an end to that win streak with a convincing 37-20 win.

“I was pretty confident coming into this game with the game plan we had, the week of practice that we put together and probably the best game plan, I think personally, that we’ve had since I’ve been in the league,” Murray said. “So, with that, being confident in all the guys, this team, I was just confident just going out there and letting it ride and the guys did the same.”

Murray continued, “I can’t be more proud of them. As far as being 4-0, I’m trying to go 1-0 each and every week. We did that this week, but we’ve got another good team next week. (I’ll) celebrate this one, but like I said, it’s a tough league, we know that.”

Oct. 3, 2021. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) firing one of 32 attempted passes against the Los Angeles Rams. In the Cardinals’ 37-20 win, Murray completed 24 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Murray completed 24 of 32 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s win against the Rams. And for good measure, Murray danced his way to 39 yards rushing to keep the Cardinals undefeated.

Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said that Murray has made great strides towards understanding how to become a more efficient passer and only run when he has to.

“Yeah, that was big time,” Kingsbury said. “He continues to impress me with that – knowing when to take off and when the party’s over and throw it away, and then knowing where his outlets are and his shutdowns. Some big time third downs. We were off on third down last week. He came back and was really dynamic on third down with his feet and his arm.”

As the season progresses, Murray and the Cardinals are likely to make a lot of noise when it comes to competing for a postseason bid. A step in that direction was knocking off the Rams, which they have not been able to do since 2017. Finally, with a group of solid playmakers on the Arizona roster, including at the running back position, Murray feels that the Cardinals will thrive offensively.

“It’s dangerous as far as the weapons that we have,” Murray said. “Me being able to move the ball, our O-Line blocked their ass off today, the defense played well. You saw a little bit of it today. We had some flashes of some of the old stuff, many penalties and stuff like that, but for the most part we overcame. We fought through the adversity that we faced today but it was good.”

Featured Image Caption: Oct. 3, 2021. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) goes back to pass against the Los Angeles Rams. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline