When Kyler Murray climbs up into his pickup truck for his drive home from State Farm Stadium after a game, it's easy for the quarterback to get lost in his thoughts.
"Driving home after a win, that's definitely a better feeling than going home after a loss, when you think about the 'L' and everything that transpired," Murray said Thursday night after the Cardinals toppled the New Orleans Saints, 42-34. "This time, getting to reflect on it that it was a win … it's definitely a better feeling."
Murray's drive home is better because the Cardinals made their house a home again. Fittingly, the eight-game home losing streak that started heartbreakingly against the Packers on "Thursday Night Football" was ended also on a Thursday night.
It was also fitting that DeAndre Hopkins – the wide receiver playing for the first time after a six-game suspension – was in the middle of it all.
Hopkins had 10 catches for 103 yards on 14 targets, totaling more yards that the rest of the Cardinals' pass catchers combined (101).
"I spent a lot of time in the offseason preparing for this moment," Hopkins said. "Obviously I knew what I was up against, being out six games.
"Today was a success. The main goal is to win. If I had 10 catches for 10 yards, if we would've won the game I'd still be ecstatic."
It was the first time in Kliff Kingsbury's tenure that the Cardinals (3-4) scored at least 40 points in a game. Against the Saints, it was only possible because of two dynamic interception returns for touchdowns, one from 38 by cornerback Marco Wilson and one from 56 yards by linebacker Isaiah Simmons – both coming with less than two minutes to go in the first half.
The pick-6s allowed the Cardinals to play with a lead, a rare occurrence this season. But from there, the Saints (2-5) never could do anything but play catch-up.
"Those turned the game all the way around," defensive lineman Zach Allen said. "This is a win that checked a lot of boxes."
The Saints moved the ball. They had almost 500 yards. But quarterback Andy Dalton's four touchdown passes were offset by his three interceptions – the other being by cornerback Antonio Hamilton in the end zone to stall a long drive.
It was a game where the Cardinals, again, needed their offense. And it was there some of the time.
Running back Eno Benjamin, starting again for the injured James Conner, was excellent. He gained a career-high 92 yards on 12 carries. Rookie running back Keaontay Ingram scored his first career touchdown, and wide receiver Greg Dortch was reintroduced to the offense and scored on a TD catch.
But the Cards didn't explode offensively, gaining 326 yards – they gained 315 in Seattle last week in a 19-9 loss.
"Not to our standard obviously, but I thought we started well," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We've got to be able to finish in the red zone, but just some execution and stuff that we can't have happen -- burning timeouts, the ball on the ground, snaps and things of that nature. It's just got to get better."
That's why it helped to have Hopkins again. The veteran had promised he could drop right into a full game, and he was right. Not only did he have the 10 catches, but he drew three penalties and made sure to point out he was blocking on one of the rushing touchdowns.
"We know each other well," Hopkins said. "We had some mishaps today, but that is going to come."
In a conference where most teams are bunched around .500, the Cardinals remain hopeful with most of the season ahead. There is little question they needed to capture a win at home – "It came at a good time," Kingsbury said – and they have a minibye before their next game at NFC North leader Minnesota.
They'll have Hopkins going forward, though, a man who thanks to the short week still has yet to go through a real in-season practice.
"I feel great," Hopkins said. "I feel like I could've played another two quarters, another three quarters if I needed to.
"Today was a good day for my body."
For the Cardinals too, in their (finally) home sweet home.