TEMPE, Ariz. — After the Arizona Cardinals lost a game they should’ve won to the New England Patriots last November, quarterback Kyler Murray said what he had to say as Arizona’s leader and face of the Cardinals’ franchise.
He deflected and praised.
“I don’t think I have to run for us to be successful,” Murray said after the three-point loss in which he threw for 170 yards and ran for 31, 15 of which came on one play.
What wasn’t known then was that Murray had suffered his second shoulder injury of the season the week before in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, causing him to be more protective of his body. And that made him more cautious as a runner.
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Murray knew he had to run for the Cardinals to win. He knew if he couldn’t run, the Cardinals offense would slog through the rest of the season. He was right and knows now that things need to change.
“Honestly, the way I see it is my legs should be a luxury,” Murray said during Arizona’s June minicamp. “And it kind of wasn’t like that last year. It was kind of me having to run for us in a sense and once my shoulder was banged up, or whatever, and I wasn’t trying to put myself out there and take those hits and stuff like that, we kind of hit a lull.”
Murray first injured his shoulder during a Week 9 loss to the Miami Dolphins. He reinjured it 11 days later against the Seahawks.
Those two losses kickstarted a nosedive for Arizona, which lost three in a row and four of five, and would’ve lost five in a row had it not been for the Hail Mary from Murray to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
With the aid of six months of hindsight, Murray looks back at the second half of last season, in which Arizona went 3-6 and missed the playoffs, as a blessing in disguise.
“Honestly, I think it was good for us,” Murray said. “I think it was a lesson for us that we can’t be one dimensional. We just got to be better in all areas, all aspects of the game and do the little things right because, like I told you last year, we started off hot and towards the end, we were losing games we shouldn’t have lost and I think that’s a sign of inconsistency and not doing everything right on and off the field. So, like I said, it’s a lesson for us. I think we’ll be better for it.”
Murray’s production dipped in those final nine games. He went from rushing for 62.4 yards per game in the first seven to 42.1 in the last nine, and from throwing for 263.9 yards per game to 236.
“Anybody can look and see kind of where that shifted a bit, style of play and production, things of that nature,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “That’s part of playing in this league and I thought he did a nice job of pushing through. He was uncomfortable a bunch throughout the season and still went out there and gave it everything you had to try and win games.
“Hopefully, we can keep him healthy and stay on the right track but he learned some valuable lessons through that.”