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Kyler Murray Was Made For The Scramble Drill

Quarterback, Cardinals have made broken plays pay off often

QB Kyler Murray launches his 77-yard touchdown bomb to Rondale Moore during the Cardinals' win over the Vikings last weekend.
QB Kyler Murray launches his 77-yard touchdown bomb to Rondale Moore during the Cardinals' win over the Vikings last weekend.

The magic is tangible, both in the highlight videos and on the scoreboard.

Kyler Murray dances. He dips. He scurries. Sometimes he turns his back completely to the end zone to which he is trying to attack or heaves an accurate throw completely across his body moving left. More often than not, it collective breaks the back of the opposing defense, turning a should-be-sack into a plus-play for the Cardinals.

"Look at K1," tight end Maxx Williams said. "Look at what he's doing right now. Just out there making plays, running around. It's fun. I don't know if you guys are enjoying watching it but I'm loving it. I'm on the field running around, watching him in awe sometimes, 'How did you make that play?' "

There is a certain calm to the chaos, forged by Murray's years of playing just this way. And there is also a certain order to the chaos, specific areas each receiver is supposed to go to if the play breaks down, techniques they are supposes to use to separate from a defender and get open.

"It's not as helter skelter as it appears," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

It's also necessary in the current NFL, with mobile quarterbacks allowing for what Kingsbury calls the most difficult play to defend – the off-schedule scramble. A team shouldn't be doing it all the time – "I don't think you want to live like that," Kingsbury said – but "it can be a weapon," the coach added.

In just two games, the examples are already numerous. The first touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins in Tennessee. The completely crazy-Kyler-runs-43-yards-back-and-forth-behind-the-line-of-scrimmage before finding Moore for an 18-yard gain. The first TD pass to Hopkins against Minnesota. The 77-yard TD bomb to Moore.

"It's a huge part of the game," Murray said. "It's tough to score in the red zone, let alone score at all. Sometimes stuff breaks down, and you've got to be able to make plays. That's why we practice it."

The Cardinals rep it at least once per practice, going over where each area each player is supposed to be and how to get loose.

"It's a point of emphasis for us and somewhere when I think we can get even better," wide receiver Christian Kirk said. "When Kyler starts to break the pocket, our sense of urgency has to kick in."

Murray is among very few who can do it at the level he does – both because of his unreal elusiveness but also because his baseball background has primed his body and arm to be able to throw going left (like the Moore TD, or the Hail Murray last season) with plenty of power.

It's a skill and talent Murray has honed over his life of playing, and he said it's work that won't end.

Of course, if a play is made through a scramble drill, it means somewhere along the way, the play called broke down. Murray noted the Moore touchdown in particular as one he would've preferred come off as planned, even with the fantastic results otherwise.

"They only brought four and technically the way we draw it up, I shouldn't have to do that," Murray said. "But stuff happens. The end is a touchdown and everybody is happy. We are all pissed, the fact it had to happen, but then good things happened. You have to take the good with the bad."

Practicing isn't the only key to making the scramble plays work. Murray must stay healthy and mobile, able to escape from defenders who still know angles well enough that even the speedy Murray has been tracked down by a 290-pounder at times.

Murray, however, has gotten better at these plays through his two-plus seasons, able to keep his eyes downfield where perhaps he would've run more often.

Sure, they might not be in the playbook per se, but the results are often enough.

"I have zero pride when it comes to playcalling," Kingsbury said with a smile. "I'll high-five them and take the win and keep going. I can think of the most beautiful play I've ever drawn up, and if they make it work, I'm good with it."