Kyler Murray Bounces Back As Cardinals Fall To Vikings

QB Kyler Murray looks for wide receiver KeeSean Johnson in the first half against the Vikings.
QB Kyler Murray looks for wide receiver KeeSean Johnson in the first half against the Vikings.

MINNEAPOLIS – In the grand scheme of things, Kyler Murray knew the first-team offense’s putrid performance last week against the Raiders didn’t mean much.

However, the Cardinals’ quarterback still didn’t like the taste it left in his mouth for nine days. Murray and the offense bounced back on Saturday afternoon against the Vikings, moving the ball consistently in a 20-9 loss.

Murray, who won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Broncos, finished the game 14-of-21 passing for 137 yards. While the Cardinals didn’t score a touchdown under his direction, they struck for three Zane Gonzalez field goals.

“Knowing we’re not playing next week, nobody wants to come out here today and lay an egg,” Murray said. “We didn’t put the ball in the end zone, but we sustained drives this week and I think we were more consistent. Everybody felt better about the way we played.”

Murray showed off impressive deep ball accuracy with a 33-yard pass to Damiere Byrd early in the game, and followed that up with two nice completions to KeeSean Johnson -- the first a back-shoulder laser for 19 yards and the second a 29-yard thread-the-needle throw between two converging defenders.

“He made quick decisions,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We had some things we’d like to have back, but it’s all about progress. Each week we want to get better, and playing against a very good defense that showed multiple looks, I thought he handled himself fairly well.”

A week after getting called for a pair of false start penalties, Murray used a silent count instead of a clap to snap the ball and didn’t have any issues. However, backup quarterback Brett Hundley was called for two false starts because his fake clap was again deemed too abrupt.

“I didn’t get much of an explanation on that and really didn’t seek one,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll work through multiple cadences and do different things. … It’s still a work in progress.”

Johnson finished the game with seven catches for 85 yards. Byrd had two receptions for 51 yards and added a 28-yard punt return as he looks to secure a roster spot.

“I think any time you make some plays in preseason it’s going to help,” Byrd said.

The Cardinals’ first-team defense was gashed for an 85-yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook early in the game, exacerbating concerns about its ability to stop the run when the regular season begins.

Otherwise, the group was solid. In its first significant action together, the cornerback trio of Tramaine Brock, Chris Jones and Byron Murphy held up nicely, as Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins finished 3-of-13 for 35 yards.

“Outside of that (touchdown run), that first group really played physical and made some nice stops,” Kingsbury said. “You just can’t, obviously, have that happen in this league.”

That will be it for the starters this preseason, as Kingsbury is expected to rely on backups in Denver.

Murray feels good about where the Cardinals stand with only a couple more weeks until the regular season.

“I think everybody’s gained confidence about what’s going on, as a whole,” Murray said. “You build that through practice, working hard. Obviously we haven’t played a real game yet, but it’s going to get real here pretty soon. We’ll see what everybody’s about.”

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