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Adversity Hits With Kick-6, But Cardinals Overcome To Beat Jaguars

After missed field goal returned for touchdown, Murphy pick-6 spurs 31-19 win

Running back James Conner celebrates one of his two touchdowns in a 31-19 win over the Jaguars Sunday in Jacksonville.
Running back James Conner celebrates one of his two touchdowns in a 31-19 win over the Jaguars Sunday in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The Cardinals know they will deal with moments that will hurt more than others, in what A.J. Green called the "roller coaster of the NFL."

For instance, Jamal Agnew grabbing a 68-yard field goal attempt just short of the crossbar and weaving his way for an 109-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half Sunday to give the lowly Jaguars a lead on the Cardinals.

"There was no panic," coach Kliff Kingsbury, after his team rallied to win at TIAA Stadium, 31-19, to begin a season 3-0 for the first time since 2015. "That was about as big a moment of adversity as you can face on an NFL field.

"Guys didn't blink."

The Cards were down, 13-7, after Matt Prater's near-record miss. They were down, 19-10, late in the third quarter. But their offense came alive for a TD drive and then cornerback Byron Murphy delivered a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown, and suddenly, all was well.

Because the Cardinals won. Always because, in the end, they won.

"The last two years, we would've lost that game for sure," quarterback Kyler Murray said.

Of course, that's not quite all that matters. There was pressure to beat the Jaguars (0-3), who have now lost 18 straight games. Already down starting right tackle Kelvin Beachum, the Cards also lost starting guards Justin Pugh and Justin Murray during the game with back injuries.

Murray threw a bad interception trying to make a play, but he still made things happen – both Green and Christian Kirk also surpassed 100 yards receiving – and while the Cardinals didn't have a great day running the ball, they did get two rushing touchdowns from James Conner and another from Murray.

Perhaps if Agnew hadn't gotten his play, things would've been different. The Cardinals were simply trying to score at the end of the half like they did the week before. Prater and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers were comfortable with a long try, and so Prater had a chance to beat his own NFL-record of 64 yards (broken, coincidentally, by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker a little later Sunday with a game-winning 66-yarder in Detroit.)

"We're going to be aggressive," Kingsbury said. "(Matt) felt good about it in pregame and it unfortunately worked out the way it did. You have to give (Agnew) credit, that was a tremendous run, tremendous play. We had a shot to get him down and we didn't do it."

Murray admitted with a smile his first thought was, "Why are we kicking?"

"I'm sure everyone was a little flustered" after the score, Murray added.

But the Jaguars are a bad team for a reason. They did ride running back James Robinson to a touchdown in the third quarter to build that nine-point lead. But Conner became more of the offense before scoring his first TD, and then Murphy showed up.

The Cardinals never really were hurt by rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence (22-for34, 219 yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions), in part thanks to Murphy. His first pick came in the red zone early in the game to prevent at least a field goal, but the second changed the game.

The Jags tried a flea-flicker, but defensive lineman J.J. Watt got heavy pressure and forced Lawrence to throw off his back foot. Murphy – who had been burned by a flea-flicker in Tennessee – was ready to pounce.

"That's always my goal, to make a play for the defense," Murphy said. "I'm trying to go out there and dance and have fun. Once I was able to make a play, I felt the energy keep coming."

Kingsbury called the offense "disjointed." Kirk and Green had nice days; DeAndre Hopkins only had three catches for 21 yards playing with a ribs injury. The defense had the one drive where it struggled against the run, but held up mostly.

Murray again talked about being frustrated after a win, like the previous week against the Vikings. But he seemed in better spirits about it, wearing an open Hawaiian shirt over a T-shirt like he was headed not for the charter flight home but one of Jacksonville's nearby beaches.

The Cardinals have a big NFC West game against the Rams in Los Angeles next week. And there are still spots to fix. But the Cards will carry an undefeated record there as the battle for the division gets real.

"We're three-and-oh," Green said. "That's all that matters, man."