A few years ago I was talking to then-Cardinals assistant coach Freddie Kitchens for a story about Larry Fitzgerald's amazing playoff run in 2008 when the subject of the Super Bowl came up. The last offensive play for the Cardinals, the one where Kurt Warner got stripped, came as the Cards tried to execute a Hail Mary to Fitz. And Kitchens insisted that Fitz was going so well at the time – and had Troy Polamalu boxed out with his backside – that had Warner gotten the throw off, Fitz would've pulled off the miracle.
I bring this up not to open up old wounds. But it is what went through my head Sunday after DeAndre Hopkins – another guy that just gives you all kinds of confidence that he'll catch it in situations where you likely have no business feeling that way – made his incredible game-winning Hail Mary snag against the Bills.
"Anytime they throw the ball and he's around it, you get nervous," Bills receiver Cole Beasley said after the game. "And that's why."
A week after Hopkins drew more pass interference flags (4) than official targets (3), he has a 100-yard game and that finish. And let's be honest, it masks some things – the Cardinals struggled in the first half converting in the red zone and in the second half, the offense had a couple of chances to drain out the clock and didn't, and it sure looked like that would translate into a loss.
But it wasn't a loss. It's a win. And yes, it's a short week, but you're going into a crowd-less Seattle game and the Seahawks are struggling themselves. One play changes everything.
-- There are things to fix on both sides of the ball. But one thing that cannot necessarily be fixed is personnel shortages on a short week. COVID means any one you are missing now has to be replaced with someone already around, either on the 53 or on the practice squad.
With Corey Peters, he can't be replaced period, and the vibe isn't a good one after he was carted off with a knee injury. Peters is steady in the middle of the defense. What's more, he's an important spokesman for the team, a veteran leader in the locker room, and a calming influence. If he is out for significant time, that's brutal. And raises the importance of getting Jordan Phillips back from the hamstring injury.
-- Next Gen Stats gave Hopkins a 16.9 percent chance of making that catch, given the circumstances. I have to say, I know Nuk is great and all, but man, that seems high in that situation.
-- Also from Next Gen Stats, the Cardinals had an 8 percent chance to win the game with 11 seconds left and it jumped to 99 percent after the catch, and the jump of 91 percent. That's a big jump but all I can think is: In what universe did the Cards really have an 8 percent chance to win 43 yards from the end zone needing a Hail Mary. (I never really was good at math.)
-- Kenyan Drake had a rough start. He went the wrong way on a play that ended in a seven-yard Murray loss. He false started. He lost a fumble. But he ran hard and well, and gained 100 yards, and if he plays like that going forward, the Cardinals – with Murray and Chase Edmonds – are going to have an epic running game.
-- It'd be nice if the opposing kicker missed 50-plus yard field goals against the Cardinals once in a while, but Jason Sanders and Tyler Bass the last two weeks have made it look like old-school extra points. Bass made a 58-yarder right before halftime that was no doubt.
-- Patrick Peterson could've had three interceptions Sunday. He had one that was important, and it's kind of fun to see Peterson have the chance at the ball as much as he has after all those years where QBs wouldn't throw anywhere near him. Next up: DK Metcalf.
-- With all the conversation focusing on the Hopkins catch, Kliff Kingsbury's decision on the next-to-last possession to throw three passes – two incompletions and a sack – instead of grinding clock was pushed to the background. Kingsbury said the sequence was by design. I'm guessing the subject will come up again.
"We wanted to be aggressive in that situation," Kingsbury said. "Trying to get the ball to Hop on some one-on-ones. Got to give Buffalo credit there."
-- Murray became the first QB since 1956 to rush for a TD in five straight games. He has 10 rushing touchdowns in nine games, and it's hard to imagine not making a serious push at Cam Newton's NFL record of 14 in a season.
-- Gotta love the yellow cleats Murray wore with the red-on-red uniforms. That looked pretty good.
"I've been wearing the whites all season," Murray said. "I had to pick the right time to pull those out. We won in them. I couldn't lose in the yellow cleats."
-- Everyone wanting Isaiah Simmons to be thrown into the mix might get their wish, because if De'Vondre Campbell isn't ready with a calf injury on the short week, it'll be Simmons time. He made some plays Sunday, and you can see flashes of what he can be. And I do think inside linebacker is the place to put him.
-- We will let D-Hop get the last word for this amazing afternoon/evening.
"I try not to panic. I never panic when the ball is in the air," Hopkins said. "I stay calm. Being calm, going up, and doing what I do. With my hands, I know if I get my hands on the ball, I'm coming down with it."