It was an up-and-down day at the office for Kyler Murray.
The Arizona Cardinals quarterback had another big day, completing 20 of 28 passes for 261 yards and tossing touchdowns to three different receivers — DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Zach Ertz — in a 31-5 victory over the Houston Texans.
But the Cardinals quarterback was hit hard and often by the Texans on Sunday, October 24. Murray was sacked four times in the game and endured another four QB hits.
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After the game, offensive lineman Josh Jones tweeted an apology to Cardinals fans for not doing a better job protecting Murray against the Texans. He also promised to “flush this week and bounce back even harder” when the Green Bay Packers visit State Farm Stadium on Thursday, October 28.
He also got beat by Collins again late in the second quarter, and the Texans defensive lineman delivered a hard hit to Murray’s head on a controversial roughing-the-passer call. Collins clearly hit Murray in the head, but the 5-foot-10 QB ducked just before the contact.
Murray was sacked twice on the Cardinals’ first two possessions, stalling both drives. He took another big hit on Arizona’s next possession when he was tripped up by Texans DL Jacob Martin in the end zone for a safety.
Martin grabbed hold of Murray’s helmet and facemask to make the tackle, but no penalty was called. After being helped off the field, Murray was taken into to the sideline training tent.
Murray ended up inside the medical tent twice during the game, which Hopkins said was a concern to “everybody in the stadium.”
“Kyler is a great player. He’s a leader on this team, so for him to go in the tent, I think it brings a little awareness to everybody, a little panic,” Hopkins said after the game. “He’s tough. He’ll bounce right back.”
Murray will have to bounce back quickly, as the Cardinals (7-0) and Packers (6-1) meet in an NFC showdown Thursday night.
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Kyler Murray ‘Finds a Way’
Murray acknowledged that he was hit more than usual against the Texans but said he felt fine after the game.
“Yeah, I took some shots today,” he said. “Obviously we’ve got to be better.”
Coach Kliff Kingsbury said the Cardinals “didn’t protect as well as we would have liked,” and he credited Murray with finding a way to make plays despite the steady pressure.
“He had a good look in his eyes the entire game, kept stepping up making plays,” said Kingsbury, who was back on the sidelines after being out nine days with COVID-19.
“There were definitely some adverse conditions that he battled through, and I think that’s just part of his progression,” he said. “We’ve seen it this year: When things aren’t going great, he steps up and finds a way.”
On one such play late in the first half, Murray used his feet to avoid another potential sack and ultimately found Hopkins wide open for 15-yard gain and a first down.
Murray also threw his first interception since Week 3 in Jacksonville. The pick came midway through the third quarter on a play where it appeared Murray and Ertz weren’t on the same page. After the game, both players claimed responsibility for the turnover.
Cardinals Counter with Play-Action
The Cardinals attempted to counter the Texans pass rush by using play-action more than usual.
The NFL’s Next Gen Stats noted Murray used the play-action pass on a season-high 45% of his dropbacks against the Texans and completed 11 of 13 passes for 133 yards and all three of his touchdowns on those plays.
The play-action game was bolstered by Arizona’s success running the ball. The running back tandem of Chase Edmonds (15 carries, 81 yards) and James Conner (10 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD) pitched in with solid contributions on the ground as the Cardinals rushed for 172 yards on 37 carries (4.6 yards per carry).