Kyler Murray leads game-winning drive in return from ACL injury as Cardinals beat Falcons 25-23

By DAVID BRANDT – AP Sports Writer

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 going backwardsavoiding multiple defenders while running to his left before returning to his right and sprinting up the field for a spectacular 13-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal.

It has been 11 months since Murray was able to pull one of the jaw-dropping moves. It didn’t take long for him to prove that he still has it.

“Honestly, I thought they had a pretty good container,” 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 key plays on the game-winning drive, providing reminders of why he was the No. 1 overall pick. contract before the 2022 season.

The 13-yard scramble on third-and-10 — after avoiding multiple sack attempts — helped keep Arizona’s game-winning drive alive. Murray then hit tight end Trey McBride on a 33-yard pass that set up the short field goal.

“He made plays with his feet, he made plays with his arm,” Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. “There is clearly a lot of energy and belief within our team. That is why he is who he is. The man couldn’t be happier.”

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, it felt good to get this offense going 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 left on Desmond Ridder’s 9-yard run to the left corner of the end zone. Atlanta’s 2-point conversion failed, allowing the Cardinals to play for the 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 quarterfinals after Heinicke injured his hamstring.

Heinicke was 8 of 15 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown. Wheeler was 4 of 6 for 39 yards.

Atlanta (4-6) has lost three straight, and six of its past eight, entering the bye week.

“We are frustrated – anyone would be when you come up short,” said Falcons coach Arthur Smith. “We have to solve the problems we had and find a way to get back on the winning 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, handballing Conner before keeping the ball himself and running 6 yards into the end zone, cutting the Falcons back. 14-12 lead at half time.

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 December 12, 2022, against the New England Patriots. The Cardinals have filled in a few quarterbacks in the meantime, 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 Arizona and Murray are clearly a different team 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 coming back, we’re playing at home. We were juiced up and excited.

“We wanted to play well 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 a Murray pass off the mark midway through 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 their last three games by a combined 10 points.

Among the six inactives were fellow starting left tackle DJ Humphries (ankle) and running back Emari Demercado (toe). … Conner (knee) returned after missing the past four games on injured reserve. … Atlanta receiver Drake London (groin) is back after missing one game. … Heinicke was hurt 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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