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Cardinals, Kyler Murray Will Find Way To Throw Deep

Long pass attempts limited against 49ers

The Cardinals finished with more than 400 yards of offense against the 49ers, so they did things right much of the time. Kyler Murray didn't have a giant passing game, but of his 11 non-kneeldown rushing attempts, all but two were scrambles on passing plays, so that must be factored into how one sees the Cardinals when they drop back.

But it wasn't hard to see that the Cardinals did not throw the ball down the field much, something that will be interesting to watch as the weeks unfold. The 49ers made sure much of the day the secondary was going to be guarding deep downfield, making it tougher to stretch things out.

"They played a lot of two-high safety looks, and we tried to be efficient as the game went on," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We started slowly, and we're always looking for chances to push down the field. But we want to get first downs and do what's working. (Sunday) wasn't one of those games, and hopefully those opportunities arise. We'll continue to try and be an efficient offense and take what the defense gives us."

Murray ended up throwing just six passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air:

Table inside Article
Down-Distance WR Targeted Air Yards Result
3rd-n-7 Kirk 17 Incomplete
2nd-n-8 Kirk 26 Incomplete
1st-n-10 Hopkins 15 Caught on sideline, +15
3rd-n-6 Hopkins 19 Incomplete
2nd-n-11 Kirk 38 Defensive PI
1st-n-10 Kirk 27 Incomplete (open, bad pass)

Last season, Football Outsiders had Murray as the best deep thrower in the league, on throws of at least 21 yards. Pro Football Focus, going on throws of at least 20 yards, had Murray sixth-best in the league. Either way, K1 has the talent to make it work. He figures to get better as the season goes -- the last deep throw to a wide-open Kirk should have been complete for a big gain, and Murray knew it -- but first, the Cards want to be smart about the choice to go deep in the first place.

Now they play Washington, who has Ron Rivera as head coach. The same Rivera who was the head coach for the Carolina Panthers last season, who also used the two-high safety look to confound the Cardinals' offense and Murray in his third game as a pro. Kingsbury and Murray figure to be ready for Rivera more this time around (and they must also account for a very good WFT pass rush, which will also make it harder to take the time to go down the field.)

At some point, though, the deep passes will be there, and the Cards, with Kirk and Hopkins and maybe even a little Larry Fitzgerald mixed in, hope to strike.

"We try to take advantage of some things (but) obviously we won the (first) game which is all that matters," Hopkins said. "I'm sure we'll take more shots and get the thing going down the field. But the name of the game is winning, however we have to do that. I'm pretty sure Kliff is going to call the right plays."

QB Kyler Murray throws a bomb during a game in San Francisco in 2020