Cardinals QB Kyler Murray Still No. 1 in Nashville


Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray is pushed out of bounds by Tennessee’s Amani Hooker during the Cardinals’ 38-13 season-opening victory over the Titans on Sunday, September 12, 2021, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kyler Murray was No. 1 in Nashville again.

Returning to the city where the Arizona Cardinals made him the top pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Murray had one of the best games of his young career Sunday, September 12, throwing for 289 yards and four touchdowns, and rushing for 20 yards and another TD in Arizona’s 38-13 road rout of the Tennessee Titans.

It was the first time Murray has thrown for four touchdowns in his NFL career. He also became the first Cardinals player with four passing TDs and a rushing TD since Charley Johnson in 1962.

Murray’s strong 2021 debut even caught LeBron James’ attention. The Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted about the the QB’s fourth touchdown: “Kyler Murray on 1 today!!!”

Murray tossed two touchdowns each to receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk. His final TD pass of the day was was a masterpiece, as Murray, throwing off his back off, lobbed a 26-yard bomb into the end zone to Kirk, whose over-the-shoulder catch was equally spectacular.

Kirk said the Cardinals have been working on that play in practice, and his over-the-shoulder catches had his teammates calling him “Willie Mays.”

“It was kind of my nickname all week because I made the same catch in practice,” he told Cardinals sideline reporter Paul Calvisi after the game. “Everybody was saying, ‘That was a Willie Mays catch’ in practice all week, and then I came out here and was able to re-create it basically on the same play, same throw.”

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Murray saw what he liked from the Titans’ defense and changed to the play.

“We got the coverage we wanted, he bought time, slid the protection and made a heckuva throw,” Kingsbury said.

Kirk said he knew he had a touchdown as soon as Murray released the ball.

“Once I saw it come out of his hand and it was kind of behind my eyes, I just knew I had to turn and look straight up into the sky and it was going to float down,” he said. “With Kyler, what he’s able to do and how accurate he is, I just had to keep running and wait for it to come down.”

‘Mega Watt’ Run Fools Titans

Murray also impressed with his legs, buying time and making defenders miss throughout the Week 1 win. His final rushing total doesn’t reflect how effective he was against the Titans, as penalties nullified a pair of big runs.

With about five minutes left in the third quarter and the ball at the Titans’ 2-yard-line, the Cardinals lined up in what Kingsbury called the “Mega Watt” package, with defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Leki Fotu in the backfield to Murray’s left and running back James Conner behind the the QB.

Murray faked the handoff to Conner, sprinted to the right and raced untouched into the end zone. It was a “decorative” formation, Kingsbury said, with Watt and Fotu attracting attention on the left side and allowing Murray to run to the right.

With the touchdown, Murray now has 16 rushing TDs in his Cardinals career, tying Jim Hart for the most in franchise history.

Earlier in the game, Murray unleashed a series of video game-like moves to escape five Titans defenders and scrambling more than 40 yards behind the line of scrimmage before finding rookie receiver Rondale Moore for an 18-yard completion.

Murray, who completed 21-of-32 passes, really made only one mistake in the Week 1 win — an ill-advised pass to tight end Demetrius Harris in the third quarter that was picked off by Titans safety Kevin Byard.

Murray made up for the turnover on the Cardinals’ next drive with the pretty touchdown pass to Kirk. He finished the day with a 120.9 passer rating.

“I’m just glad we handled business,” Murray said after the game.