On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals headed into the locker room trailing the Las Vegas Raiders with a score of 20-0. The offense looked horrible as Kyler Murray failed to throw for even 100 yards. Along with that, the defense could not hold the Raiders to a single stop as Las Vegas scored on every possession in the first half.
To make matters even worse, Arizona was coming off an ugly week one loss against the Chiefs where they fell 44-21. Altogether throughout the two first halves, the Cardinals trailed their opponents 43-7.
Fans were ready to fire the entire coaching staff as they looked ahead in the schedule. However, somehow the Cardinals were able to flip a switch and completely turn their entire narrative around. Arizona came home victorious in week three after finishing the largest comeback in franchise history since 1999.
Offense stepping up
It was not until 5 minutes remained in the third quarter that the Cardinals managed to put points on the board. Greg Dortch was the hero as he brought in a 5-yard touchdown pass to bring the game within two touchdowns. With the absence of DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore, Arizona was extremely short-handed in wide receivers. Greg Dortch was able to take advantage of this situation and finished both weeks one and two with over 50 receiving yards. This is a receiver that coming into 2022 only had three career receptions.
Along with Dortch, veteran Zach Ertz stepped up big time after a disappointing week one performance. The TE finished week two with 8 receptions for 75 yards. Many of these catches came on crucial 3rd & 4th down conversions to keep much-needed drives alive. Zach Ertz has not had more than eight receptions dating back to week 13 of 2019 when he played with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Kyler Murray show
However, none of this production would have been possible without Kyler Muray stepping up big time in the second half. The Cardinals offense in total only had 87 yards before halftime. They could not move the ball past the 50-yard line once and every possession seemed to end in a three and out. The play calling was questionable as Kliff Kingsbury seemed to be playing much more conservatively than usual. Murray threw a whopping nine passes for 54 yards in the first half.
It truly was a game of two halves as Murray ended up finishing with 31 completed passes for 277 yards. Even so, the stat sheet does not illustrate the miraculous plays that the Cardinals quarterback showed off. With a little over three minutes left in the 4th quarter, Kyler Murray completed a two-point conversion to make it a 23-15 game.
During the play, the 25-year-old showcased his youth by running almost 85-yards and taking the ball into the endzone himself.
Kyler Murray traveled 84.9 yards on his successful two-point conversion scramble, the most distance traveled by an offensive ball-carrier on a two-point conversion attempt in the NGS era (since 2016).#AZvsLV | @AZCardinals pic.twitter.com/tGeZvMgjdn
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 18, 2022
Fast forward to the final 30 seconds of the game and Kyler Murray showed why he received a $230.5 million contract extension. Trailing by eight with the clock running down, Arizona faced its final attempt to tie the game up. On a fourth and goal try, Murray juked out the defenders to take it in himself.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 18, 2022
Then, to top it all off, Kyler Murray tied the game up with a second two-point conversion. This time, he completed an almost impossible pass in extremely tight coverage to WR A.J. Green.
WE HAVE BONUS FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/aJ89FnaTLY
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 18, 2022
Altogether, these wild plays made Murray the first ever NFL player to have a passing and rushing touchdown along with a passing and rushing two-point conversion in the same game.
Defense wins championships
In week one, the Cardinal’s defense gave up 44 points to the Chiefs and this number still does not illustrate how bad it truly was. TE Travis Kelce picked apart the secondary bringing in 121 yards and a touchdown. Patrick Mahomes made it look effortless as he threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns, there was no answer.
Nothing seemed to change in the first half of week two. Derek Carr drove down the field every opportunity he got. The Raiders successfully scored on every drive, with two touchdowns and two field goals. However, just like the offense, Arizona’s defense completely flipped after halftime.
The Cardinals held star WR, Davante Adams, to only 2 receptions for 12 yards. This was the smallest number of receptions for Adams since week seven in the 2017 season.
This excellent defensive coverage held the Raiders to only a field goal in the second half plus overtime. Additionally, it was the defense that ultimately gave the Cardinals a week two victory.
Arizona forced two fumbles in overtime after the offense failed to score on the opening drive. It was the second fumble that resulted in a scoop and score to secure the comeback. CB Byron Murphy recovered the football and ran it back 59-yards making it the longest overtime fumble recovery for a TD in NFL history.
SCOOP & SCORE FOR THE WIN!
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 18, 2022
Murphy was also the cornerback who held 5-time pro bowler Davante Adams to only 14 yards.
In the end, if it was not for the second-half defensive effort, the Cardinals would be heading into week three 0-2.
Almost panic time
It is hard to describe how important this comeback victory was. Based on the last 15 NFL seasons, teams that start 0-2 have only a 12% chance of making the playoffs. Not only that, but the Cardinals face the Rams at home in week three. Arizona has yet to win this matchup inside State Farm Stadium since 2014.
Fans across the internet were ready to call it quits as soon as the second quarter was whistled to a close. Kyler Muray in particular was under tons of pressure considering he just signed a $230.5 million contract extension. Murray is now considered the Cardinal’s franchise quarterback, starting the year with two disastrous games would not have been a good look.
Adding to the intensity, Arizona has the second hardest schedule in the entire league. Every game is important to them considering wins will not come easily.
Yes, one win does not mean it is smooth sailing from here on out. However, the Cardinals now have the confidence and momentum needed to be a competitive team this year. This is a group that likes to start hot and end cold, beginning the season cold is a great receipt for disaster.
Week three against the defending Super Bowl champions is now an even bigger test. Will Arizona be able to carry over the momentum and secure their first home victory against the Rams in seven years?