Kyler Murray was the guy who was going to have a big game Monday night. His coach said it, and when Murray was told about what Kliff Kingsbury had said, Murray agreed.
Afterward, when the Cardinals QB was asked to assess his performance, he wasn't happy with himself. "You know how I am," Murray said, and indeed, among the things that are plain with the third-year signal-caller is that losses and poor performances weigh heavy. He agreed with J.J. Watt's take that the season ended up as a failure, because simply, "I play to win the Super Bowl."
Murray wasn't in the mood to talk about the future. That comes with a little bit of space, space that was not there in the bowels of SoFi Stadium after what was a crushing loss. There will be a lot to talk about. The Cardinals clearly missed DeAndre Hopkins, but Hop's absence alone doesn't explain the troubles the offense had with consistency the second half of the season.
There will be much to analyze and talk about in the coming weeks and months. But the topic of Murray and keeping his MVP-potential play – which was there for a chunk of each of the last two seasons – remaining level throughout the season will be high on the list.
-- It was hard to tell if James Conner – who we learned on the ESPN broadcast declined to take a painkiller for his injured ribs – was at full strength because the Cardinals just didn't have the ball enough, especially in the first half, to use much of anyone. But Conner – who scored one last touchdown – had a hell of a season. He was fantastic and I hope he returns.
-- Murray was asked about the (very) bad interception he threw from the end zone trying to avoid a safety. It was ugly, although the game was ugly.
"At that point, being sacked, it would be a safety," Murray said. "I was just trying to get it out of the end zone. The guy happened to be there to pick it off. It was a tough situation."
-- Kicker Matt Prater drilled a 55-yard field goal in the game and while it was ultimately meaningless, it was another example of what a weapon he can be. Would've been interesting to see how Prater's season – which was good, make no mistake – would have been had he not gone through games without his regular long snapper and holder.
-- The trick play early – the Kyler throw to Christian Kirk, who then threw back to Conner with blockers – would've worked. Kirk's throw was just forward enough. It was a penalty. But that play, and then the A.J. Green pass that didn't count because he was drilled and lost it (having the catch overturned on replay) short-circuited any chance of making it much of a game. (Although I don't know if it would've made a difference anyway.)
-- It got feisty. Budda Baker got hurt (hopefully he'll be OK; he tweeted as much) and Cam Akers, apparently not understanding how badly Baker was down, looked like he taunted Baker after the hit. Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum and Rams edge rusher Leonard Floyd had words starting in the first half and in the second half, it boiled over when Beachum went hard after Floyd on a post-play block following the Cards' two-point conversion. And D.J. Humphries and Aaron Donald got into it, with Donald knocking Hump's helmet off and then appearing to effort to choke Humphries. It earned a flag.
-- Larry Fitzgerald got through the entire NFL season without officially saying he was retired, and he dodged it again Monday night when he was a guest of Peyton and Eli Manning on the 'Manningcast' simulcast the brothers do during "Monday Night Football."
Fitz was posed a question early about playing and he joked he couldn't get open at this point even if Peyton was covering him. Later, Eli said he should come back as a tight end. Fitz said, "I've been eating a little bit too much." Peyton then brought up the letterman's jacket Fitz was wearing.
"This is a gift from the Cardinals for (playing) 17 years," Fitzgerald said. "They wanted to give me a letter jacket. My accolades (patches) should be here in a couple weeks."
So no, he still won't say the "R" word. But like the 2021 season for the Cardinals, Fitz is done.
-- Kind of like this post is done. We're talking off, it's late, and there is an offseason ahead to break stuff down. That's enough for tonight.