The Arizona Cardinals got exactly what they needed out of their franchise quarterback on Sunday as Kyler Murray, in his first game this season, delivered a game-winning drive to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 25-23.
After Desmond Ridder, who replaced the injured Taylor Heinecke late in the game, rushed for a touchdown that gave the Falcons a one-point lead, Murray was tasked with bringing his team downfield for the win.
Murray, who recovered from his torn ACL that he suffered around this time last season, was up for the challenge.
The signature play of the drive came on 3rd-and-10 from the Arizona 42-yard line as Murray scrambled outside the pocket to elude the Falcons defense. Twisting and turning his body, Murray clearly showed that his knee was more than fine as he escaped pressure and rushed for 13 yards to pick up the first down.
Another key play was Murray finding tight end Trey McBride for a 33-yard strike that set up the game-winning field goal by Matt Prater. McBride was smart to come back to the underthrown Murray ball, hauling it in for his eighth catch of the day, giving him 131 yards for a game high.
Running back James Conner was smart to slide on two carries as the Falcons wasted time-outs. From there, Prater’s 23-yard chip shot went through the uprights, and head coach Jonathan Gannon and his crew were elated that Murray’s return led to their second win of the season.
Murray finished the game with 249 yards through the air on 19-for-32, though he didn’t have a passing touchdown and threw one interception. However, Murray did score the Cardinals’ first touchdown of the game in the second quarter when he decided to tuck it on a read-option that involved Conner, and he waltzed into the end zone to make it a 14-12 game.
Murray, all smiles, celebrated with his teammates who rushed him because they knew how much it meant that he could get that feeling again after his grueling rehab.
But the Falcons never made it easy on Murray in this one. They found the end zone first with Scotty Miller catching a two-yard pass from Heinecke. Falcons fans also had to love the next drive leading to a Bijan Robinson touchdown run from five yards out to make it 14-6.
The Cardinals, though, used a good defensive second half to keep themselves in the game. They also had a great punt return from Greg Dortch that set up a Clayton Tune “tush push” from the one-yard line that gave them a five-point lead.
Before Heinecke got hurt, he was just 8-for-15 for 55 yards and a touchdown while Robinson totaled 95 yards on 22 carries.
Arizona will look to keep the good vibes going with Murray at the helm next week when they travel to Houston to face the Texans. Meanwhile, the Falcons have an NFC South matchup with the New Orleans Saints following their bye week.