Perfect, He’s Not: Cardinals QB Kyler Murray Must Break This Bad Habit

Kyler Murray - Arizona Cardinals

Getty Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray receives a snap against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, September 26, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

It’s hard to complain about Kyler Murray.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback is off to an MVP-caliber start in his third NFL season, leading his team to a 3-0 record while ranking among the league leaders at the position in nearly every statistical category.

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So far in 2021, Murray has emerged as an odds-on favorite (along with L.A. Rams QB Matthew Stafford) to win the MVP award, frustrating defenses with his arm and his legs. He’s the first player in team history to throw for 1,000 yards in the first three games of a season, and his completion percentage of 80% or better in back-to-back games also is a franchise first.

Murray’s 10 total touchdowns (seven passing, three rushing) are second-most in the league, trailing Tom Brady (Buccaneers), who has 11, and tying Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs). He also has claimed the Cardinals’ franchise record for career rushing touchdowns for a quarterback with 18 and counting.

And like it or not, Murray even has expanded his fan base into the “Star Wars” universe, thanks to a nickname from teammate Chandler Jones.

There’s one stat, however, that should have Cardinals fans concerned heading into the NFC West showdown with the also-unbeaten Los Angeles Rams in Week 4: Murray has thrown four interceptions through three games, tied for third-most in the NFL.

Turning It Over Like a Rookie

Murray has the most NFL experience among players who have thrown four or more interceptions so far this season. Rookies Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) and Zach Wilson (Jets) lead the league with seven INTs each, followed by Murray and second-year pro Joe Burrow (Bengals) with four.

The timing of Murray’s interceptions this season has been curious. As Cardinals sideline reporter Paul Calvisi noted in the “Cardinals Underground” podcast Tuesday, September 28, Murray has thrown an interception on Arizona’s first possession after halftime in every game this season.

Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, Murray has bounced back to lead a scoring drive on the next possession in all three games — touchdowns against the Titans and Vikings, and a field goal against the Jaguars. Calvisi credited Cardinals radio producer Jim Omohundro with noticing both trends.

Of Murray’s four interceptions, one was a nice play by Vikings linebacker Nick Vigil, while the other three were the result of the quarterback forcing the ball downfield. Murray was hit in the head on one of those — his second INT against the Vikings — and contends “it would have been a touchdown” otherwise.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t said much publicly about the interceptions this season, with the lone exception coming one day after Murray’s two-INT performance against the Vikings.

“(He’s) still being uber-aggressive at times when we can probably check it down and take care of the football a little bit better,” Kingsbury told Arizona Sports’ “Wolf & Luke.” “But you walk that fine line. You want to play aggressively, you want to be in attack mode, but you also want to be smart.”

‘We Got Our A***s Kicked’

Murray also has struggled in his previous four games against the Rams, throwing four interceptions while averaging 187 passing yards and scoring six total touchdowns. He’s been sacked 11 times and has a passer rating of 75.8 in those games.

The Cardinals also have been outscored by nearly 14 points per game in the four losses.

“They were just better than us,” Murray told reporters Wednesday, September 29. “We got our a***s kicked every time we played them pretty much.”

Despite the past problems with the Rams, Murray spoke confidently about the Cardinals’ opportunity to measure their progress on Sunday, October 3, in Los Angeles. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. MST at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

“These are the ones you’ve got to embrace,” he said. “The team is expecting me to be my best Sunday. That’s how I see it, and I’m excited for it.”

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