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Glimpsing The Future, And Bengals Aftermath

That's what Kyler Murray can look like. What he should look like as he grows in this league, and as he gets more pieces around him.

Murray played smart Sunday as the Cardinals got their first win. He was sacked just once. He didn't turn the ball over. He was fantastic with his feet. He caught a pass. He was smart -- coach Kliff Kingsbury said his two favorite Murray plays Sunday were actually passes Murray threw away, one on a screen, one on a naked bootleg as the Cards went up-tempo -- and again, this is all a learning curve the quarterback is negotiating every week.

There are frustrating issues. The red-zone -- for which Kingsbury again blamed himself for not calling better plays -- hasn't gotten better. The Cardinals converted only 1-of-6 tries. Now, they weren't trying to get a TD on the last one as they set up the field goal. And they got only one clean chance at one before halftime (although I'm sure Kingsbury would like the call back for a wide receiver screen to Larry Fitzgerald that seemed covered before the snap). But you aren't going to win many games kicking field goals.

Also, the defense can't give up that lead at the end. Duh. And the Bengals, truthfully, are a bad team.

But ... and yes, the but matters. The Cardinals piled up 514 yards, only the second time the team had 500 yards of offense in the past 11 years (the 2015 team did it against the Rams in St. Louis). The 266 yards rushing were the most for the team since the Cards had 268 in St. Louis in 2011, the day Beanie Wells erupted for 228 by himself. The Cardinals averaged 7.0 yards a rush and 7.2 yards per play.

This is the direction the offense, and Murray, needs to go.

-- Tramaine Brock left the game with a shoulder injury, and then the Bengals passed their way to two touchdowns to tie the game. Is Brock that big of a difference maker? Probably not. But without Patrick Peterson (he misses one more game before returning) and Robert Alford and then Brock, you are getting down to the nub of your depth chart.

-- That finish was too bad, because between the woeful finish and a horrible opening drive, the defense stepped up and played well. The Bengals couldn't run. That fourth-and-1 stop of QB Andy Dalton (pictured below) was impressive.

-- It got lost in everything else, but new wide receiver Pharoh Cooper had a heck of a game. He made a fantastic 24-yard diving catch to set up a field goal (oh, that red zone inefficiency) and looked good on returns. Had a couple called back on penalties that might've been ticky-tack. Cooper can help.

-- It was amazing the Cards did all that without Christian Kirk. Maybe the Cardinals bought him some time to get healthy.

-- Murray and Trent Sherfield weren't on the same page a couple of times, but Sherfield made an important special-team tackle on a punt late in the game, one of those plays that looked like it might be a game-saver (except the Cardinals ended up giving up the 43-yard bomb to tie it.)

-- Tight end Tyler Eifert had two catches, for 14 yards. So that's one plus. No tight end craziness.

-- Zane Gonzalez lost a chance to try a 54-yard field goal into the closed end of the stadium after a Rodney Gunter false start prior to the snap. Gonzalez said he was feeling good on that end of the field and wished he could've had the chance to kick it. I know he missed one, but I think Gonzalez has kicked well. He's not going to make every one, and if that's expected, you'll never have a kicker that is satisfactory. What the Cards need is more touchdowns, so that every field goal doesn't become the end all be all.

-- Knowing David Johnson piled up all those yards with a bad back ... yeesh. That catch on the sideline was amazing.

-- Cardinals had 12 more penatlies for 96 yards. Too many. Again.

-- Finally, there was the throwback-to-Fitz-passback-to-Murray. "In practice (Bengals lineman) Carlos Dunlap doesn't rush you," Fitz said with a smile. "But Kyler needs to pick his feet up, man." Murray was tripped up after a five-yard game. Kingsbury said he thought Murray could've scored. Murray just smiled and shook his head. It was a cool play. And one you can enjoy after a win.

Time to go home.

Stoning Bengals QB Andy Dalton on fourth down.
Stoning Bengals QB Andy Dalton on fourth down.

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