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Electric Kyler Murray Runs Cardinals To WFT Victory

Quarterback stars again as team starts 2-0 with 30-15 win

Quarterback Kyler Murray is congratulated by Larry Fitzgerald (left) and Justin Pugh after running for a 21-yard touchdown Sunday against Washington at State Farm Stadium.
Quarterback Kyler Murray is congratulated by Larry Fitzgerald (left) and Justin Pugh after running for a 21-yard touchdown Sunday against Washington at State Farm Stadium.

A year ago, Kyler Murray didn't run the ball as much as many thought he might.

The quarterback was just learning the league, after all, there were questions about him absorbing too much punishment if he did run, and frankly, Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged, "that was a part of his game he was feeling out."

Now when Murray takes off, he's giving his team all the feels.

The second-year quarterback dazzled once again with his feet Sunday at State Farm Stadium, racing for highlight-worthy 14- and 21-yard touchdowns (and having a 7-yard TD run called back) to lead the Cardinals to a 30-15 win over the Washington Football Team and the Cards' first 2-0 start since 2015.

"He does that to us in practice," linebacker De'Vondre Campbell said. "It's cool seeing it translate to the game."

It's all about comfort, Murray said. As he understands the game – which he was learning as a rookie – and understands where his teammates will be, then when it's a designed run or even a scramble, "it's more comfortable for me to make something happen," he said.

Murray also delivered a pair of beautiful bombs to Andy Isabella and Christian Kirk, a touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, and another 286 yards through the air. The defense shut Washington (1-1) out in the first half and sacked Dwayne Haskins four times. Special teams came up with a turnover for a second straight game, setting up a touchdown.

And yes, Kingsbury wasn't happy about the penalties – 11 more this week, undercutting multiple drives. Murray and Hopkins insisted the offense can be much better. The defense hoped for a stronger finish after two fourth-quarter WFT touchdowns.

But 2-0 matters, especially for a team that had wallowed well below .500 the last couple of seasons.

"We put in the work and we get the results out," Hopkins said. "There was never a doubt in our mind we'd start like this."

Having Murray scamper around the field leaving defenders in his dust doesn't hurt. The only shame is the lack of fans, who would've exploded watching the QB find his way to the end zone time after time. Murray had 67 yards on eight carries, becoming the first Cardinals QB to have two TD runs of at least 14 yards in a game since Hall of Famer Charley Trippi did in in 1951.

"It's an extension of the run game, and really our offense in general," Murray said of his rushing game. "When I can break the pocket or read, and score, that's the dynamic we have in this offense because I'm able to move. It's a blessing to be able to move fast."

The Cardinals ended up with another 160 yards rushing, with Kenyan Drake adding 86 on 20 carries.

The funny thing was, after 30 points and 438 total yards, there was still some frustration, good-natured as it might be after a win.

"We're not as sharp as we'd like to be," Kingsbury said, again noting the penalties.

"We left a lot out there," Murray said. "I think it's pretty evident to see."

Added Hopkins, "we've got a very high ceiling. … For us to be able to put up 30 points against a good NFL defense is pretty good, but there's a lot of room left for us to improve."

If the defense can continue its upswing, the offense has some room for error. The first half shutout was the first time the Cards did that since blanking the Giants in the home finale in 2017. While the WFT did score late, it proved moot (and the Cards also stopped two two-point conversions, dulling some of the Washington hope.)

"We understood we were going against a confident team that came back from 17-0 last week," Campbell said. "They weren't going to give up. And I think we took care of business."

Campbell was a star, with a team-high 10 tackles, two for loss, and two passes defended as he continues to show why he was an important free-agent signing (and why rookie Isaiah Simmons might have trouble getting on the field early in the season.)

Kingsbury acknowledged the team had a lull after halftime, noting the lack of fans made a difference. He added that coaches and players were "going through the motions."

But with a 20-3 lead, the Cardinals figured out enough, marching on a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended on second-and-20 at the Washington 21, when Murray made mincemeat out of the defense as he found the end zone and ended the game, essentially.

"Kyler is definitely a special guy with the ball in his hands," said Hopkins, who had eight catches for another 68 yards.

That's what the Lions must deal with next week when they visit State Farm Stadium – and it's hard not to see that the next three opponents on the Cards' schedule (including the Panthers and Jets on the road) are a combined 0-6.

Those teams will be looking at a Cardinals' offense in progress. And a quarterback that can provide the thrill of the run game. At least for most people.

"I'm always just saying, 'Get down, get down, get down,' " Kingsbury said. "I can't even enjoy it, honestly."

Images from the Week 2 contest at State Farm Stadium