Kyler Murray leads game-winning drive in return from ACL injury as Cardinals beat Falcons 25-23
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kyler Murray and his surgically repaired right knee were in trouble for a brief moment on the final drive of the fourth quarter.
The Arizona Cardinals quarterback bounced around in the pocket for a moment before retreating backward, evading multiple defenders while running to his left before reversing back to his right side and sprinting up the field for a spectacular 13-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal.
It’s been 11 months since Murray has been able to pull one of those jaw-dropping moves. It didn’t take him long to prove he’s still got it.
“Honestly, I thought they had a pretty good contain,” Murray said. “But God blessed me with the ability to do things like that.”
Murray threw for 249 yards and ran for a touchdown in his return from an ACL tear, Matt Prater made a game-winning 23-yard field goal as time expired and the Cardinals snapped a six-game losing streak by beating the Atlanta Falcons 25-23 on Sunday.
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The 26-year-old Murray made a pair of important plays on the game-winning drive, providing reminders of why he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 and also why the Cardinals (2-8) signed him to a $230.5 million contract before the 2022 season.
The 13-yard scramble on third-and-10 — after evading multiple sack attempts — helped keep Arizona’s game-winning drive alive. Then Murray hit tight end Trey McBride on a 33-yard pass that set up the short field goal.
“He made plays with his legs, he made plays with arm,” Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. “Obviously, a jolt of energy and belief within our team. That’s why he is who he is. Couldn’t be happier for the guy.”
Murray helped make it an easy field goal for Prater, who also connected from 56, 51 and 46 yards.
McBride finished with eight catches for 131 yards, James Conner ran for 73 yards and Murray completed 19 of 32 passes. Rookie BJ Ojulari had two sacks for the Cardinals. It was the first 100-yard receiving game for an Arizona tight end since 1989.
“It felt good to have Kyler back, felt good to get this offense moving a little bit, it was a lot of fun,” McBride said. “Kyler is a heckuva player.”
The Falcons pushed ahead 23-22 with 2:33 remaining on Desmond Ridder’s 9-yard run to the left corner of the end zone. Atlanta’s 2-point conversion failed, which allowed the Cardinals to play for a game-winning field goal.
The 24-year-old Ridder started the team’s first eight games of the season before losing his job to Taylor Heinicke, but was forced into the game in the fourth quarter after Heinicke hurt his hamstring.
Heinicke was 8 of 15 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown. Ridder was 4 of 6 for 39 yards.
Atlanta (4-6) has lost three straight, and six of its past eight, heading into a bye week.
“We’re frustrated — anybody would be when you come up short,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We have to fix what’s been our issues and find a way to get back in the win column.”
Murray — who hadn’t played a game in 335 days — scored his first touchdown of the season with 10 seconds left in the first half, faking a handoff to Conner before keeping the ball himself and running 6 yards into the end zone, cutting the Falcons lead to 14-12 entering halftime.
Backup quarterback Clayton Tune and the offensive line pushed the pile for a 1-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left in the third quarter that gave the Cardinals a 22-17 lead.
Murray — a two-time Pro Bowl selection — tore the ACL in his right knee on Dec. 12, 2022, against the New England Patriots. The Cardinals have had several fill-in quarterbacks in the interim, including Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley, David Blough, Joshua Dobbs and Tune.
None of them had much success. The Cardinals had a 1-13 record over that span.
But it’s clear Arizona is a different team with Murray on the field.
“The energy, the vibe, everything was good,” McBride said. “We were coming into this game with a lot of confidence. We knew this was a good game for us, Kyler’s coming back, we’re playing at home. We were juiced up and excited.
“We wanted to play good for him.”
Atlanta’s Bijan Robinson ran for a 5-yard touchdown late in the first half — completing a 13-play, 76-yard drive — to give the Falcons a 14-6 lead late in the second quarter. Robinson finished with 95 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Nate Landman intercepted an off-the-mark Murray pass in the middle of the third quarter, returning it 25 yards to the Arizona 14. The Falcons settled for a field goal on the ensuing drive to take a 17-15 advantage.
The Falcons have lost the past three games by a combined 10 points.
Cardinals starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle) and running back Emari Demercado (toe) were among six inactives. … Conner (knee) returned after missing the past four games while on injured reserve. … Atlanta receiver Drake London (groin) returned after missing one game. … Heinicke was hurt while trying to run for a first down early in the fourth.
Falcons: Host New Orleans on Nov. 26.
Cardinals: Travel to Houston next Sunday.
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