NFC West Reporter
Kyler Murray took off down the field on a 3-yard scramble and moved to evade a defender when his right knee wobbled, causing him to hit the turf.
The Cardinals QB would eventually need to be carted off the field after the third offensive play of the game Monday night against the Patriots. With a towel over his head, an emotional Murray sobbed on his way to the locker room. He paused to take the towel off for a quick acknowledgment to the fans.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed on Tuesday that Murray suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, ending his season while also putting a death knell in a nightmarish 2022 for Arizona. After a 27-13 loss to New England, the Cardinals are a 4-9 on the season.
“It’s been a difficult year obviously from the beginning,” Kingsbury said about Murray. “Not doing much in training camp with the wrist, and then he got COVID. Having a tough stretch offensively, not playing as well as we could. And then I really thought against the Chargers our rhythm was a little better. I was excited about these last five games. So to not be able to build off that is disappointing. And just tough for all parties involved.”
What’s next for Cardinals after Kyler Murray injury?
Joy Taylor thinks this is a perfect opportunity for the Cardinals to regroup and decide what their identity should be moving forward — with or without head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
It’s the first serious injury for Murray, who’s looking at a yearlong recovery after surgery to repair the ligament. Murray missed two games this year due to a hamstring injury and some time last season with an ankle sprain.
A two-time Pro Bowler, Murray had his worst year with the Cardinals this season. He finished 3-8 as the starter, completing 66.4% of his passes for 2,368 yards, with 14 touchdowns and seven picks.
A bye week did not help the Cardinals play any better at their home field, State Farm Stadium. The Cardinals are 1-12 in their past 13 homes games. Monday night’s loss to New England clinched this team’s first losing season since 2019.
Injuries certainly have been an issue for this beleaguered franchise. Along with Murray’s season-ending knee injury, tight end Zach Ertz also is done for the year with his own knee injury. The Cardinals have four starting offensive linemen on injured reserve.
Playmakers James Conner, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Rondale Moore have all missed time due to injuries. Arizona’s most effective defensive lineman, Zach Allen, suffered a hand injury against the Patriots that will keep him out of next week’s game on the road against the Denver Broncos.
But it hasn’t just been injuries creating adversity for the Cardinals. Top receiver DeAndre Hopkins missed the first six games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. The Cardinals lost two assistant coaches this season due to off-the-field incidents that resulted in legal action.
After Murray inked a lucrative contract extension just before the start of training camp, a leaked independent study clause created national headlines. The team later removed the addendum, calling it an unintended distraction.
On the field, the Cardinals have been sloppy and inconsistent. They’ve been hampered by slow starts, scoring a league-low 29 points in the opening quarter. Arizona is the second-most penalized team in the NFL.
“It’s been one of those years where it seems like every week something is popping up,” Kingsbury said. “We’ve got to continue to focus on the task at hand, and that’s to try and win the next game. But any time you lose your star quarterback and a teammate, a guy a lot of these guys have been here with for the last four years, it’s a challenge. But we’ve got great leadership in that locker room.”
Last offseason Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim both signed new contracts through the 2027 season. Murray’s five-year extension is worth $230 million, $190 million of which is guaranteed. These three are tied at the hip. Kingsbury must find a path forward that offers hope for the Cardinals over the next four games.
Conner is finally healthy and running the ball well. Kingsbury will get to see dynamic receivers in Hopkins and Brown play the rest of the season together. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy knows the system and efficiently runs the offense.
But for Arizona, it all starts with defending its home turf more aggressively. Kingsbury and the Cardinals have four games to reestablish who they are and build some momentum for 2023.
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Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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