Kyler Murray turns it over four times, as Cardinals lose season finale to Rams
LOS ANGELES — Kyler Murray has been tested all season, openly admitting that he is not used to losing. On Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals quarterback took the field well ahead of kickoff for another test, this one for his hamstring.
Murray, who had been limited in practice this week, did indeed start for the Cardinals, becoming the first rookie quarterback in franchise history to start all 16 games. He ended the season on a loss, as the Cardinals fell 31-24 to the Rams in Los Angeles, bringing their season to a 5-10-1 close.
He was a true game-time decision, as the Cardinals planned to play him if he was able to go in order to squeeze out some final, valuable reps. Some of those reps will serve more as teaching moments.
Murray struggled at times, sometimes seeming more hesitant and turning it over four times. He was charged with two lost fumbles and threw two interceptions. Wide receiver Damiere Byrd also was charged with a fumble on the final play of the game, where the Cardinals tried to make something work with just two seconds left.
"I always say, if I didn’t turn the ball over, I feel like we would’ve won the game just because we were moving the ball and those were kind of crucial turnovers," Murray said. "I’ve just got to learn from it, move on and we’ll get better from it."
Still, the fact that he played was significant to the team.
"I thought it was his best game by far, considering he was playing at what percent he was playing, and to be able to go on the road and still do his thing and keep your team in it, make a bunch of plays, that's the most proud of him I've been all season," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
The rookie quarterback finished with 325 passing yards, going 26 of 42 with two touchdowns and those two interceptions. Both times, Larry Fitzgerald was the intended receiver. Fitzgerald will take some time this off season to decide if he will return for a 17th season.
Though Murray was glad to play, he was somewhat limited.
"I couldn’t really get out of the pocket and move like that. For me, honestly, I think it helped me out, just standing in there and going through reads and progressions," Murray said. "I think it’s a teaching lesson, a learning lesson for me. I’m kind of glad. Everything happens for a reason. I thought we played well today despite two turnovers that cost us."
The Cardinals led just once, capitalizing on a botched fake punt by the Rams in the first quarter. They needed just two plays, with Murray connecting with tight end Dan Arnold for a 23-yard touchdown to take a 7-3 lead.
The two teams entered the fourth quarter tied, at 17-all. Los Angeles then scored twice, the second touchdown coming off of Murray's second interception of the day. Running back Kenyan Drake scored with 3:53 remaining for the Cardinals to pull back within one touchdown.
Backup quarterback Brett Hundley briefly played in the fourth quarter, when Murray hit his funny bone and lost some feeling in his fingers. He returned for the final drive, when the Cardinals got the ball back with a minute to play. They moved just 26 yards. There was no Hail Mary to end it, but Murray did not think that was due to his fingers.
“No, I couldn’t move," he said. It’s tough just because I knew I was going to have to roll out and get into it and I was just kind of limited.”
REPORT CARD: Team struggles to put it all together in finale
Linebacker Chandler Jones entered the day in pursuit of the single-season sack record, but was unable to tack on to his 19. Jones was able to get to Rams quarterback Jared Goff in other ways, tipping two of his passes. Still, Goff finished 29 of 45, with 319 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I knew they’d have a plan," Kingsbury said of Jones. "(Head Coach) Sean (McVay) and his offensive staff, they do a great job. They weren’t going to let him wreck the game, but he still had a tackle-for-loss, deflected three or four balls. He made his impact like he has the entire year. They had a great scheme to try to not allow him to get home.”
““We knew they were gonna put everybody that had a Ram uniform in front of him to try to slow him down,” cornerback Patrick Peterson added.
While the Cardinals were disappointed with the loss, they generally seemed to put it in the context of a season that improved as a whole from 2018. Fitzgerald noted that it was a more fun season. Peterson talked about building upon this for next year. Murray also started to look ahead.
"I think the growth we’ve shown from start to finish is what I’m most proud of," Murray said. "I know the guys are proud of it. It’s year one for us, a lot of guys have bought into the system. For us to come out here, play hard and not give up each and every game, to be honest. So going into next season, I think we’ll be pretty dangerous."
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