Kyler Murray's return was already a success, the quarterback throwing passes, scrambling when needed and scoring untouched rushing touchdowns like he had never left.
Like he had never torn his right ACL. Like it hadn't been 11 months since he last played in a game.
But then the Atlanta Falcons scored a go-ahead touchdown Sunday at State Farm Stadium with 2:33 left in the game to take a one-point lead, and the Cardinals franchise quarterback could only shake his head.
"Of course it sets up like this," Murray thought to himself, before – storybook-like – leading the Cardinals down the field for a game-winning field goal on the game's final play for a dramatic 25-23 win to snap a six-game losing streak.
"Happy to win," Murray said, still wearing his shoulder pads under his uniform. "After all that, that's all I was worried about was winning."
The Cardinals (2-8) look different when James Conner is playing running back, and Conner anchored a running game after a month on IR (73 yards on 16 carries.) They look different when second-year tight end Trey McBride looks like the second-round pick he was, having a career-best 131 yards on eight catches. They look different when the defense gives up a season-low 70 net passing yards.
The reality is it started with Murray's return. The NFL is a quarterback's league. And Murray showed, after his long layoff, why he is the Cardinals' quarterback.
"'1' coming back, made plays with his legs, made plays with his arm, the last two-minute … obviously a jolt of energy and belief within our team," Gannon said. "That's why he is who he is."
Murray finished 19-of-32 for 249 yards with an interception, thrown when he thought McBride would sit down in the middle of the field and McBride kept going (Murray took the blame, saying he hadn't worked on it with the tight end.) He lost a touchdown pass to Michael Wilson when Wilson was hauled down about three inches short of the goal-line.
But as long as Murray has been playing, statistics don't always provide the picture. He looked comfortable running the offense of coordinator Drew Petzing. There were some pre-snap communication issues that figure to come around, but the Cardinals also look at the final drive and see what they have.
Kicker Matt Prater had already converted a pair of 50-plus yard field goals, and with the Cardinals down by one, the Cardinals had confidence. Kyler wanted more.
"We knew the line to gain for a field goal where we were comfortable, (but) he said, 'I'm going to get it all the way down there' and he did," Gannon said.
At the Arizona 42, the Cardinals had a third-and-10 when the pass protection broke down. Kyler did Kyler things, spinning out and then around and covering some 60 yards to ultimately gain 13 and a crucial first down.
"I was on my guy at the line of scrimmage, and the guy started moving out so I knew Kyler was probably scrambling," center Hjalte Froholdt said. "Then Kyler started doing cartwheels and whatever and spins out, picks up speed and then gets the first down. It was phenomenal."
Said Murray, "It sounds cliché or not possible, but at the end of the day, if it comes down to being in my hands, I have to make something happen."
Two plays later, Murray took a shot to McBride on a one-on-one jump ball that McBride hauled in for a 33-yard gain.
"It felt good to have Kyler back, it felt good to get this offense moving," McBride said. "He's a guy who makes plays, he's a guy on third-and-long he runs around for 80 yards, he's a great player."
From there, the Cardinals ran the clock down, even as the Falcons (4-6) tried desperately to allow James Conner to run in a touchdown and give them a chance. Conner wasn't biting, and the time ticked down until Prater booted an easy 23-yard field goal at the gun.
"I knew, as long we could get the ball to half-field, I thought Prater could make it," said cornerback Antonio Hamilton, who had the two-point conversion tackle on the Falcons to keep it a one-point game.
That wasn't necessary. Murray made sure of that.
"Throughout the week I tried to stay calm, cool, collected, but as it got closer … the (expletive) in your chest starts to build up and I'm trying to calm it down," Murray said. "It was kind of inevitable."
Last week, Gannon tried to caution the public and Murray himself not to set expectations too high. Kyler was coming off a major layoff. Rust was going to be a factor.
"Maybe that's why he laughed at me," Gannon deadpanned.
Kyler Murray is back. And he changes what the Cardinals look like.
"It would have been a (expletive) night to come out here and lose," Murray said with a smile. "Kind of, 'All this build up for this?' I'm just happy for the team."