Kyler Murray’s injured ankle seems to be feeling just fine, and so are the Arizona Cardinals.
Murray was back in MVP form following a monthlong break to recover from a high ankle sprain, scoring four touchdowns — two passing, two rushing — in the Cardinals’ 33-22 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, December 5.
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Murray tested his injured ankle often against the Bears, rushing for 59 yards on 10 carries — both season-highs — and twice getting into the end zone on a rainy afternoon at Solider Field as the Cardinals improved to an NFL-best 10-2.
The cold, wet weather caused a few problems for Murray, who fumbled twice in the game but got the ball back both times. He had no trouble making plays with his legs.
“It felt good just to be out there moving around, kind of being myself and just playing the game I love to play,” Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s great to be back.”
He also acknowledged that the extended time off was needed to make sure he’s healthy as the Cardinals look to end a five-year playoff drought.
“I’d rather not have to sit out or be hurt, but I think the patience all kind of worked out in the end,” Murray said. “I think if I would have rushed it back and tried to play a couple weeks ago, I probably would have hurt it even more.”
He showed no signs of being limited by the ankle against the Bears (4-8).
“I tested it out [before the game] and that gave me confidence. I knew I was fine,” Murray said. “I don’t know how many times I ran the ball today or how many yards, but I felt good when I took off.”
On third-and-goal late in the first quarter, Murray turned a broken play into a 9-yard touchdown run:
He was back in the end zone again in the fourth quarter after faking a handoff to James Conner, then sprinting to his right and scoring untouched:
Murray, who had been sidelined the past three games, left the field to chants of “M-V-P” from the traveling Red Sea:
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Another Milestone for Murray
Murray also was efficient in the passing game, completing 11 of 15 attempts for 123 yards and two TDs for a passer rating of 136.9. It was the fewest passing yards in a game this season for Murray, whose previous season-low of 229 yards came in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns.
Murray connected with DeAndre Hopkins for the game’s first touchdown, something Cardinals fans haven’t seen since Week 7.
Hopkins, who played sparingly in his return from a hamstring injury, made a spectacular diving catch across the goal line for touchdown on fourth-and-2 at the Bears’ 20-yard line. The catch at first was ruled incomplete, but that was quickly overturned:
Murray said he had “no fear” in taking the fourth-down shot to the end zone.
“I could have played it safe,” he said. “We had somebody else wide open. But that’s, in my eyes, the best receiver in the league, so you give him a chance, and he made a play.”
Murray’s other TD toss came on an impressive one-handed catch from Conner, who then rumbled 23 yards down the sideline to give the Cardinals a 21-7 lead with 5:40 to play in the first half:
On that same drive, Murray became the fourth-youngest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 career passing yards:
Cardinals Overcome Elements
Murray said the cold, wet and windy weather “definitely” played a role in slowing down Arizona’s passing game. It rained for much of the game, and the temperature at kickoff was 35 degrees.
“It was really slick, really wet out there,” he said. “It’s good to come on the road, play in this environment against a tough team and get a win.”
The weather also wiped out a large portion of Kingsbury’s play sheet, Calvisi reported.
Despite the wet weather, the Cardinals scored touchdowns on their first three possessions. They also improved to 7-0 on the road, matching the franchise record for road wins in a season.
Murray spread the ball around against the Bears, completing passes to eight different players. Conner was the Cardinals’ leading receiver with with two catches for 36 yards. He also had 75 rushing yards on 20 carries. As a team, Arizona rushed for 137 yards on 35 attempts.
“I thought the defense was tremendous,” Kingsbury said. “We were disjointed offensively. We couldn’t throw it as well as we would have liked, but [I’m] proud of the effort.”
Next up for the Cardinals is an NFC West showdown with the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, December 13, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.