Cardinals hit rock bottom, but Kyler Murray’s imminent return brings hope of a silver lining

By DAVID BRANDT – AP Sports Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — There’s only one comforting takeaway for the Arizona Cardinals after one of the ugliest offensive performances in recent memory.

Help – we hope – on the way.

Two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Kyler Murray could return for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons after missing about 11 months with a torn ACL he suffered last season against the New England Patriots. The 26-year-old Murray was designated to return from the physically unable to perform list on Oct. 18, giving the Cardinals 21 days to elevate him to the active roster.

“Kyler is continuing to step up – he’ll take the (first team) reps and if the week goes well he’ll start on Sunday,” first-year coach Jonathan Gannon said. “We’re happy where he is at the moment and we’ll see how the week goes.”

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Gannon was excited about Murray’s progress, even though the fourth-year looks like a fifth-year on the practice field. One thing is certain: life has not gone well for Arizona without Murray. The Cardinals are 1-13 since his injury.

The latest debacle came on Sunday in a 27-0 loss to the Browns that dropped the Cardinals to 1-8 this season. They have lost six straight.

Rookie Clayton Tune got his first start and had a rough afternoon, finishing 11 of 20 passing for 58 yards and two interceptions. The Cardinals finished with just 58 yards of total offense, averaging 1.2 yards per play and going 1 of 12 on third down conversions.

Tune didn’t play very well, but he didn’t help much either.

“We couldn’t run it, we couldn’t guard it, we couldn’t throw it,” Gannon said. “So a lot of things need to be cleaned up.”

Tune said: “You just have to be positive and get up to work every day with the same attitude. You have to be the same person, day in and day out, no matter what is going on. I think that’s the mindset we all need to take. Show up willing to work, get better, learn from our mistakes and be the same people day in and day out.”

Protection. Reasonably, the Cardinals defense played okay against the Browns. Arizona gave up 326 total yards and Cleveland made it work for its points despite being put in tough situations time and time again. Two-time All-Pro safety Budda Baker is back to playing at a high level after missing several games early this season with a hamstring injury, finishing with 10 tackles on Sunday.

Offense. Even when Murray returns, the Cardinals will likely have problems. The team’s top two backs – James Conner and Emari Demercado – missed Sunday’s game with injuries and it is unclear if either will return against the Falcons.

Murray. He hasn’t played in nearly a year, but he’s proven over the past 14 games that there’s nothing like having a star quarterback on the roster. Now the Cardinals have eight games to get used to Murray in the new offense and prepare for 2024.

desire Sunday’s debacle certainly wasn’t all his fault, but it looks like the fifth-round pick needs more season before he starts another game.

The Cardinals lost two offensive linemen – DJ Humphries and Will Hernandez – to leg injuries during the Browns game. ,,, Rookie WR Michael Wilson was inactive with a shoulder injury. … Conner is eligible to return from injured reserve this week. Gannon left the door open for all four of them to play against the Falcons.

15.7 – Average margin of victory for the Cardinals during their current six-game losing streak.

The Cardinals return home to face the Atlanta Falcons, who also had some quarterback drama with Taylor Heinicke replacing Desmond Ridder as the starter.


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