1st: Kyler Murray reinforces his value to the Cardinals
- At halftime of the Cardinals/Raiders game on Sunday, I found myself thinking about something I'd never thought about before: Had I been wrong all along about Kyler Murray? Did I have a blind spot with K1 that was preventing me from seeing what he truly was, a talented but checked out QB? I've been all in on Kyler as the Cardinals franchise QB since I saw him in person for the first time at Cardinals rookie minicamp in 2019. Sure, I've been critical of some areas of Kyler's game, most notably his leadership and maturity, but never wavered on whether he was a genuine franchise QB. But after a 1-5 finish to the season, a humiliating Wild Card loss, a tumultuous offseason capped off with a lucrative contract extension, followed by a pathetic effort in Week 1 and an even worse first half in Week 2, I thought Kyler might not be who I thought he was. And then Kyler Murray reminded me, you, everyone watching and everyone on the field who he was and what he is uniquely capable of and why the Cardinals are still in very good hands now and in the future at the quarterback position. The number of NFL QB's who could've engineered this kind of comeback with this kind of play making can be counted on one hand and for the first time in franchise history, the Cardinals have one of them.
1. The turning point of the game has already been forgotten
- Kyler's completion to Marquise Brown on 4th down at the Raiders goal line is the play that sparked this wildfire of a comeback. It wasn't the first touchdown, it wasn't the second touchdown, it was this play that was a perfectly thrown ball into coverage and a magically caught pass that stirred the first feeling that something special was possible. Of course Kyler's superhuman level of play on subsequent touchdowns and 2 point conversions were bigger in magnitude but let's not forget the critical fourth down conversion that started it all.
2. Byron Murphy's day was even better than you think.
- Murphy was the primary defender on Raiders all world WR Davante Adams. Adams was limited to just two catches for 12 yards after dominating the Chargers secondary in Week 1. As hard as it may be to believe, Murphy's scoop and score that sealed the game was somehow the second most impressive thing he did on the field.
3. The Raiders offense was more responsible for their collapse than the Cardinals defense.
- Not dismissing the incredible job done by the defense but it felt much more like the Raiders believing this game only lasted two quarters. If the Raiders offense was a Vegas show, its like the main actors took off at intermission and the understudies took over and everyone was hoping no one would notice. The Cardinals defense just did their job, the Raiders offense took care of the rest.
4. If we're handing out slices of credit pie, Kyler's piece is the biggest by far.
- Kyler's slice of the credit pie is about 90% of the pie. His play electrified everyone on the Cardinals sideline. His magic inspired the defense. His unwillingness to accept anything other than a win compelled the entire team to feel the same way. This was leadership. This was real, on field leadership, the kind we've wanted to see from Kyler all along and the kind the Cardinals desperately needed. It's also something the Cardinals are going to need to see more of in the near future.
5. Can one play save a player's season?
- We're about to find out with Isaiah Simmons. He was persona non grata in Week 2 after entering the season as the leader of the Cardinals defense. He barely played and when he did for 14 snaps on Sunday, he was not good. On snap 15 though, oh snap 15 things were different. His perfectly timed hit of Hunter Renfrow jarred the ball loose and saved the game. I have my doubts on whether Simmons can be a solution for the Cardinals defensive problems this season but at least for a week he was the ultimate solution.
6. The Cardinals had a real, immediate takeaway from the win.
- By beating the Raiders and avoiding and 0-2 start, the Cardinals keep the hope alive for a season reset in Week 7. Meaning, by getting to 1-1, the chances of getting through Week 6 when DeAndre Hopkins returns at a record of 3-3 or better went up considerably. If the Cardinals can keep their head above water until the return of DHop, there's a much better chance building on last year's playoff appearance.
7. James Conner's injury is a concern but not a major one.
- If Kyler is going to run the ball more and he should, the running back position largely takes care of itself. Conner is a machine around the goal line and his receiving skills have been heavily used but he can be replaced capably by Eno Benjamin and Darrell Williams assuming Kyler is treated as the primary ball carrier by defenses.
8. This was Kliff Kingsbury's worst game as a head coach.
- That may seem like a weird thing to say after one of his most important wins but Kingsbury is a big reason why this game ever felt out of reach in the first place. Consistent communication issues plaguing the offense, incredibly basic play calling and design, lethargy in a must win environment and wildly fluctuating player roles all combined to the single worst game of K2's NFL career. If it wasn't for this win, Kliff likely would've been on a seat that never cooled off.
9. Under the Radar Stars
- Greg Dortch, Jalen Thompson, the offensive line, Marco Wilson and AJ Green.
10. What's Next?
- vs. Los Angeles Rams. A game that should quickly tell us if what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas is a catchphrase or just the truth.