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Kyler Murray Magic Turns 69 Into 13 During Crucial Cardinals Scramble

Quarterback's escape improv was about more than just a first down

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray runs upfield during his dramatic 13-yard scramble Sunday on the team's game-winning field goal drive against the Falcons.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray runs upfield during his dramatic 13-yard scramble Sunday on the team's game-winning field goal drive against the Falcons.

Paris Johnson Jr. saw Kyler Murray reversing field and coming back his way, and in that moment, the Cardinals rookie right tackle needed to make a choice.

Falcons safety Richie Grant was closest to the Cardinals' scrambling quarterback, and Johnson had an angle as both Murray and Grant moved toward him. But Johnson also knew that he couldn't afford to be flagged for a blindside block.

"I ran at (Grant) and I started to scream," Johnson said Monday, recounting the play in which Murray gained 13 yards and a crucial first down in the Cardinals' comeback 25-23 win. "As I got closer I screamed louder. I wanted him to think I would just crazily knock him out."

Murray’s return Sunday was the story. There were moments to remember: Murray's first touchdown, a six-yard read-option keeper in which he was untouched in a carbon copy of so many such TD runs pre-injury; the beautiful sideline completion for 28 yards to best friend Hollywood Brown (and even the near-TD bomb to Brown); the gutsy late 33-yard heave to tight end Trey McBride to all but seal the win.

But if there was a play that will be burned to the brain, it was Murray's scramble on third-and-10 that officially gained 13 yards but covered 68.9 while Murray bobbed and weaved, according to Next Gen Stats.

Similar plays Murray had pulled off before. Not after Murray had torn his right ACL, however, in a play that more than anything announced for Murray, John Wick-ian style, "Yeah, I think I'm back."

"I didn't see anything downfield, and honestly I thought they had a pretty good containment," Murray said. "But God blessed me with the ability to do things like that."

While Johnson screamed Grant's way, he only tapped the safety on the shoulder as he ran by, creating enough space for Murray to get away. Guard Will Hernandez executed a similar screen-without-touching to prevent linebacker Kaden Ellis from getting involved. Falcons linebacker Bud Dupree – who also had been run ragged by Murray in Murray's crazy 2021 scramble completion against the Titans – couldn't catch up. Falcons defensive lineman Calais Campbell had an angle but no chance to close before Murray sped by.

Murray then easily split linebacker Nate Landman – who had picked off Murray earlier in the game – and cornerback A.J. Terrell as he crossed the line to gain and dove forward before he could be tackled.

Next Gen Stats had Murray running at 20.17 miles an hour, his fastest speed on a play since Week 16, 2021.

"I knew I was probably like 20 yards back or 15 yards back from the line of scrimmage," Murray said. "I knew it was third-and-10 so you do the math. At that point, if I've got to take a hit, I've got to take a hit, but we've got to win the game.

"When you're running like that everything is kind of blurry. For me it was just 'Do whatever is necessary to win.'"

The play was crucial, and without it, the Cardinals likely don't win. It didn't quite have the drama of Murray's famous 21-second two-point conversion in 2022 against the Raiders, but the fact the Cardinals were getting such highlights so soon after the quarterback's return provided gravity to the moment.

Besides, not all of Murray's current teammates had seen such theatrics before.

"For me that stuff is fun," Johnson said.

Linebacker BJ Ojulari was sitting on the bench but had a clear view of Murray's magic, which helped cement Ojulari's ability to stay on the sideline the balance of the game.

"You see him turn on the jets and going for 30, 40 and I'm like, 'Yeah, that's No. 1,'" Ojulari said with a laugh.

"It's almost surreal."

As Murray scooted upfield across the numbers Sunday, there was one other notable echo. The path the quarterback took on the field was eerily close to the scramble he had on the third play against the Patriots in December, the one on which Murray hurt his knee.

This time, Murray bounced up and emphatically signaled for a first down.

"Superman. He's Superman," running back James Conner said. "He's making magic happen, converting big third downs when we need them. He did his thing."

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