Despite his small stature, Kyler Murray had always been the hammer.
On Sunday against the Rams, he was the nail.
The rookie quarterback suffered the worst loss “in my life, probably,” as the Cardinals were outclassed from start to finish in a 34-7 defeat at State Farm Stadium. While the pass defense was the biggest culprit, the offense was no help.
Murray finished the game 19-of-34 passing for 163 yards. His only touchdown of the game came on a 15-yard scamper in garbage time, and he threw a pick-six to Rams safety Taylor Rapp to make the score 34-0 with 8:28 left in the third quarter.
“Everything just felt off,” Murray said.
The Cardinals are 3-8-1 on the season, so it’s not like Murray hadn’t lost before, but it was the first time this season the team was not within 10 points after intermission.
The day began ominously when Murray was sacked early by Rams defensive end Dante Fowler, and then in the next series by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald – who easily maneuvered past left guard Justin Pugh and made a beeline for the quarterback.
“I got Kyler hit early, and obviously going against ‘99’, you let him get in Kyler’s face, it’s not a good thing,” Pugh said. “I take the blame on that.”
From that point forward, Murray -- who was listed as questionable for the game with a hamstring injury but said it wasn't an issue -- seemed ultra-aware of Donald’s presence.
“I didn’t go a good job sitting in there and trusting it, maybe because of the pressure,” said Murray, who was sacked six times. “Next week I’ll be better. If I get hit, I get hit. I just have to stand in there. It’s part of it.”
Even though he only had the one interception, Murray had a few more close calls. He was late throwing a ball to running back Kenyan Drake and Rapp almost picked it early in the game. Rapp then had an interception negated due to a pass interference call on a teammate before the third time was finally the charm.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey also had one taken away due to a roughing the passer penalty. Murray noted that the Rams were jumping on the Cardinals’ quick-game routes, and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald felt like the pass-catchers did not do enough to help out their young signal-caller.
“There is nothing that gets a quarterback in a rhythm and groove like guys making plays,” Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t do enough of that for him today.”
The Cardinals’ first-team offense remained in the game until the final horn. It had some success in the fourth quarter, but Murray took little solace in that as the Rams clearly laid off the gas pedal.
“I’m not into saying, ‘Oh, we kind of got it going at the end,’ because they took out a couple of their guys,” Murray said.
Kingsbury did not want to substitute backup quarterback Brett Hundley for Murray because he felt like the playing time could pay dividends down the road for his young quarterback.
“Every one of these is going to be learning experiences,” Kingsbury said. “He needed to stay in and try to work through a tough situation. Get completions and settle in. The negative experiences, you have to learn from and get better from. This was certainly one of those.”
Images from the Week 13 matchup at State Farm Stadium