Scottsdale Stars Christian Kirk, Byron Murphy Save Cardinals From Ugly Upset

Christian Kirk - Arizona Cardinals

Getty Arizona receiver Christian Kirk makes a catch during the Cardinals' 31-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, September 26, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Kirk had seven catches for 104 yards in the game.

The Arizona Cardinals were mired in a trap game and trailed the winless Jacksonville Jaguars by nine points late in the third quarter when a pair of hometown favorites came to the rescue.

Scottsdale, Arizona, natives and former Saguaro High School teammates Christian Kirk and Byron Murphy both made momentum-changing plays in the second half to help the Cardinals remain unbeaten with a 31-19 road win over the Jaguars on Sunday, September 26.

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With the win, the Cardinals improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2015, which is also the last year Arizona made the playoffs.

Kirk finished with seven catches for a season-high 104 yards, lining up on the outside as well as in the slot against the Jaguars. He provided a much-needed spark for Arizona’s offense in the second half (five catches for 67 yards) as the Cardinals rallied from a 19-10 deficit.

“Christian Kirk is playing at a tremendously high level,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. “Whether it’s inside or outside, anything we’re asking him to do, he’s making big plays.”

After Cardinals running back James Conner scored the first of his two touchdowns to cut the Jaguars’ lead to 19-17, Murphy closed out the third quarter with a pick-six on a failed flea-flicker — his second interception of Trevor Lawrence — to give Arizona a 24-19 lead.

Murphy, who gave up a catch on a flea-flicker in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, reacted quickly when Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde pitched the ball back to Lawrence. With J.J. Watt bearing down on him, Lawrence made the risky sideline throw and Murphy made him pay.

“I saw the ball in the running back’s hand, and then he pitched it back and I just turned my head and ran,” Murphy told sideline reporter Paul Calvisi after the game. “Thank God the ball came to me and I got the pick. … I had to make up for the last one I gave up.”

As soon as the ball was in his hands, Murphy said he knew he had a touchdown.

“I saw the end zone,” he said. “House call.”

Sabercats Set Standard for Winning

Being undefeated is nothing new for Kirk and Murphy. As teammates for one season at Saguaro High in 2014, the Sabercats went 14-0 and won the Arizona state championship.

Following the Cardinals’ victory in Jacksonville, Florida, Murphy told FOX sideline reporter Megan Olivi that winning is now the standard in Arizona.

“Our standard is to win every single game,” said Murphy, who also had four tackles and two pass breakups in the road victory. “We’re not going to lower our standard for anything.”

Losing to the 0-3 Jaguars would have sent an entirely different message. Jacksonville now has lost 18 consecutive games dating back to last season. The Jaguars’ last win came on September 13, 2020, against the Indianapolis Colts.

“When things go bad, we’ve got to make sure we stick with each other as a team,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s two interceptions were the sixth and seventh of the season for Lawrence, the former Clemson star and No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The first was a great play by Murphy and really not Lawrence’s fault.

On third-and-8 from Arizona’s 17-yard line, Lawrence completed a short pass over the middle to tight end Jacob Hollister, who then had the ball jarred loose on a hit by linebacker Jordan Hicks. Murphy scooped up the deflection for his first interception of the season and the second of his career.

‘Never in Doubt’ in Second Half

Murphy and Hicks both received game balls from Kingsbury in the locker room after the win. Receiver A.J. Green got one too for his first 100-yard receiving day in Arizona.

Green finished with a game-high 112 yards on five catches, giving the Cardinals two 100-yard receivers in a game for the first time since Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald both went over the century mark against the Baltimore Ravens on September 15, 2019.

“That’s about as big of adversity as you could face going in at halftime,” Kingsbury told the team after the game. “You came out … in the second half and made it never in doubt.”

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed 28 of 34 passes for 316 yards with one interception against the Jaguars, but he was held without a passing touchdown for the first time this season. Murray also completed an NFL career-high 82.3% of his passes.

Instead, the Cardinals got all three offensive touchdowns in the running game — including a 1-yard TD from Murray in first quarter.

“We’ve started off great,” Murphy said of Arizona’s 3-0 record. “We’ve just got to keep it going.”

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