Kyler Murray had struggled in his four games against the Rams in his short career.
But Murray is a different quarterback in 2021. A better quarterback. And it showed in attempt No. 5 against the Rams Sunday.
In the 37-20 blowout victory, Murray passed the test with flying colors. Murray completed 24-of-32 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, falling just shy of becoming the third quarterback in history with 80 percent completion in three straight games. Murray outperformed Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, another early MVP candidate this year that appeared out of sync with his receivers on Sunday.
Against a defense led by pass-rusher Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Murray finished with his second-highest passer rating this season.
"We have to continue to prove it," Murray said." I'm not too worried about what other people think. I think the guys in the locker room understand what we're doing, what we're capable of, and where we can take it."
Center Rodney Hudson said the quarterback's play and demeanor this season is rubbing off on his teammates.
"He's playing well," Hudson said. "It's his presence and the level of calmness he shows. I think all that brings a certain energy to the huddle when your quarterback is feeling good and playing the way he's playing. It makes our job easier."
The Cardinals are now first place in the toughest division in football. Murray, who led the Cardinals to over 30 points and 400 yards of offense for the fourth time in four total games this season (a franchise-record), is reason No. 1.
Outside of box-score stats, Murray looks more comfortable in coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense in Year Three. It showed Sunday.
Exhibit A happened early in the second quarter when Murray escaped a near-sack from Donald by running right and completing a first-down pass to Chase Edmonds. Exhibit B occurred a few plays later when the Rams sent the blitz on third-and-16. Murray scrambled left out of another near-sack – this time by Kenny Young – by using a stop-and-go hesitation to freeze the linebacker on his way to a crucial 18-yard scramble.
Kingsbury said that decision-making is one of the areas Murray has improved the most.
"Yeah, that was big-time," Kingsbury said. "He continues to impress me with that – knowing when to take off and when the party's over and throw it away, and then knowing where his outlets are and his shutdowns—some big time third downs. We were off on third down last week, and he came back and was dynamic on third down with his feet and his arm."
Rams coach Sean McVay said Murray's unique talents make him difficult to prepare to defend.
"It's hard to emulate the speed he plays with, the athleticism, the feel, the instincts," McVay said. "And that was on display today. That's why he's playing at such a high level. You got to give him credit."
And give Murray his first win against the Rams.