Sat, 28 Nov 2020

Cardinals, Kyler Murray Avoiding Sacks Much Better In 2020

Arizona Cardinals
27 Oct 2020, 18:03 GMT+10

Notes: Hopkins TD play lifted from Ohio State; Joseph's OT play calls shine Darren Urban

Kyler Murray wasn't sacked Sunday night.

He was barely touched even, with the Seahawks not even registering an official QB hit.

For all the successes the Cardinals have begun to see on the offensive side of the ball, their quarterback's smarts in the pocket - as well as his pass protection - have been at the heart of the progress.

Murray has talked about how much more comfortable he is in the pocket, and the ability to not take losses has added up in a positive way.

"I feel like the game has slowed down for him," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "You look at the sack numbers as opposed to this time last year and the lost yardage from sacks, it's incredible how much we've reduced it. Our offensive linemen too. I think he's picking the right moments when to take off, (and) checked it down a bunch."

Through seven games, Murray has been sacked nine times for 38 lost yards. Last season through seven games, Murray had been sacked 23 times for a loss of 154 yards.

Sunday night was the first time since 2007, when Kurt Warner attempted 52 passes in a December game, in which the Cardinals didn't allow a sack with at least 45 pass attempts. Murray threw 48 passes against the Seahawks.

The Cardinals are third in the NFL in lowest sack percentage (3.4) and second in sack yardage (38). According to Next Gen Stats, Murray is the least pressured quarterback in the NFL all season, at only 10.3 percent.

It helped in Murray's excellent outing, in which he accounted for 427 yards and four tocuhdowns, leading the Cardinals to a 10-point rally in the final three minutes and twice had them in scoring position in overtime.

"His poise was really impressive," Kingsbury said. "Never got too high or too low, controlled his emotions and stayed in the moment. We were laughing on the sideline, saying 'It's just another Big 12 football game out here.' "

NEW PLAY

Murray's touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, the one during which TV cameras captured Murray breaking into a smile as he was about to deliver the bomb, was some trickery from the Cardinals and Kingsbury.

Murray and the offense were all looking at the Cards' sideline at the snap, a planned bit of subterfuge to surprise the Seattle defense.

"We stole it from Ohio State," Kingsbury said. "They ran it against Michigan. Looking to the side like you're getting a play and try to catch them off guard. Ohio State had it wide open and the kid dropped it. I like the play. It unsettles the DBs and our guys did a great job of executing it. Obviously, it was a great throw and a great catch by Hop, but even if we don't hit it, we kind of freak them out the remainder of the game."

VANCE JOSEPH DIALS IT UP

The Cardinals didn't have a great defensive game against the powerful Seahawks offense, but even after allowing 572 yards and 200 yards rushing, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph's group stopped Seattle when it had to. The Seahawks had 27 points at halftime, and scored just seven over the second half and a 10-minute overtime session.

No series of plays was more crucial than the last set of downs. Twice Joseph came with Cover Zero - an all-out blitz with no safeties - to force incompletions. After the penalty-negated DK Metcalf touchdown screen (on which holding was properly called), Joseph again showed Cover Zero, only to drop players at the snap. The confusion led to Isaiah Simmons' interception.

"I thought that was a brilliant sequence of calls by Vance," Kingsbury said. "Went Zero blitz, zero blitz and then it looked like he lined up in it again and bailed his guys out.

"In a crucial situation, VJ had some great calls."

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