The Cardinals’ offense had barely produced for three quarters. They were down to their last 12 minutes, trailing 23-7 and facing a second straight blowout.
“Had to take over,” Murray said. “That was my mindset, was to take over. Whatever it took to win, though, that was the mindset.”
And take over, he did.
As he has so many times throughout the first three years of his career, he put the Cardinals on his back, carrying them to their first win of the season, 29-23 -- with a big assist from the defense in overtime. In the process Murray & Co. completed an epic comeback from being down 20 at halftime -- it was the Cardinals’ largest comeback in 23 years and the fifth largest in team history. Murray reminded everyone why he was worth the $230.5 million contract he signed in August.
“That’s Kyler being Kyler,” left guard Justin Pugh said. “I've seen it for four years now. He makes magical plays happen and that was crazy.”
Murray led Arizona on touchdown drives of 54 and 73 yards, capping both with successful 2-point conversions in the final 12:07. It was during those 2-point tries, though, that Murray showed why he’s one of the league's most unique talents. On the first, to cut the Raiders’ lead down to eight, Murray showcased his legs, scrambling a total of 84.9 yards in 20.8 seconds before getting into the end zone.
On the second 2-point conversion, Murray showed he can be as good a pocket passer as a runner, throwing a dart to wide receiver A.J. Green to tie the game at 23 with no time left on the clock.
That doesn't mean Murray was pleased with the unit's performance.
“At some point, enough is enough,” Murray said. “It's not about the toughness and how hard we play. That's never a question. It's just about executing. Playing faster, getting our tempo going.”
The fourth quarter was a byproduct of Murray’s experience. He knows the offense inside and out, and he knows what the players around him can and can’t do.
“I just tried to get the guys in position to make plays,” Murray said. “The clock’s running down, a lot of times it's loud in there. A lot of those times, I gotta pull something out of my ass and call a play and make it work.”
But Arizona needed Murray to win the game because of how poorly it played in the first half.
The Cardinals gained just 86 yards in the first half and had the ball for just 11:48.
The offense looked lifeless, and it led to another double-digit halftime deficit a week after trailing the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7 at the half.
“That feeling going in the half where nothing's going right, I feel like we felt that plenty of times, at least since I've been here,” Murray said. “Rhythmic offense, we're an offense that likes to get going, run at our tempo, run at our pace, and when we're not moving like that, it gets stagnant, it gets stale. We're going three-and-out and stuff like that, or we're getting first downs and then punting.
“It's an ugly feeling.”
The Cardinals couldn’t have played worse in the first half, coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
“We needed to call a better game,” Kingsbury said. “I did, protection wise. I thought we had some things to chip and edge, but Crosby -- Maxx -- is an insane talent and rusher, and when he was juiced up early, I called some bad plays that were tough to protect, and when you're getting sacked on first and second down for 10, 12 yards, you’re going to be off schedule. So, I thought that was kind of the main problem.”
Starting faster would eliminate the need for Murray Magic to become a weekly thing. The proof came in the second half when Arizona found the tempo, speed and balance it was looking for in the first half. Murray watched the Raiders slowly get worn down. Their pass rush, which had effectively flushed Murray from the pocket in the first half, slowed down.
The Cardinals saw who they can be, a week and a half into the season, all thanks to Murray.
“I'd love to see it from the start every week,” Kingsbury said. “I think that's the ability and talent that he has, and I got to do a better job getting our offense to a quicker start. There's no doubt but we've seen him do that before and he can make it go when he wants to.”