The Cardinals’ Comeback Victory Should Inspire Optimism About Their Offensive Potential

There were multiple comeback victories last week, but nobody needed it more than the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona pulled off a 16-point fourth-quarter comeback over the Las Vegas Raiders, led by star quarterback Kyler Murray who came to life and engineered back-to-back touchdown drives to force overtime. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. sealed the game with a scoop and score off a Hunter Renfrow fumble.

The Cardinals realistically saved their season with the come-from-behind win, but that doesn’t mean everything is fixed. There are still plenty of issues that need to be repaired for this team to contend for a playoff spot. Nevertheless, the last 20 minutes of the game provided a glimpse of how explosive the offense can be for the rest of the season.

Kyler Murray re-establishes himself as a long-shot MVP candidate

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray runs with the ball.
Kyler Murray during the Arizona Cardinals’ victory over the Raiders. | Michael Owens/Getty Images

Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense looked dead in the water through the first six quarters of the season. They got steamrolled at home against the Kansas City Chiefs and trailed 20-0 at halftime to the Las Vegas Raiders.

The second half was a different story, as Murray was practically unguardable. He threw for 188 yards, rushed for another 28, and scored two touchdowns while also connecting on a pair of two-point conversions.

Murray made one eye-opening play after another, which catapulted his team to another level they hadn’t reached yet this season. Everything came easy to him, and he started to do what he does best: make something out of nothing. Just consider, for example, this clip of the Cardinals’ fourth-quarter two-point conversion, which Ari Meirov shared on Twitter.

Given the situation, not many quarterbacks in the league could have led his team to victory. Murray justified the $230 million contract he signed this offseason but also re-introduced himself into the MVP conversation.

He’s currently tied for the seventh-best odds at winning the award, per FanDuel Sportsbook. While his numbers aren’t where they need to be in contention, his lethal, dual-threat ability makes him one of the trickiest quarterbacks to defend.

If the Cardinals want to turn their season around, Murray and company need to look more like they did in the second half against the Raiders and less like they did in the first six quarters of the campaign.

The Cardinals’ skill position players will need to step up until DeAndre Hopkins returns

The Cardinals passing attack has been rather pedestrian without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona acquired Marquise Brown this offseason in exchange for a first-round pick, but the 25-year-old receiver hasn’t looked right since reuniting with his former college quarterback.

While Brown is leading the team in targets (17), he’s second in receptions (10) and yards (111). Greg Dortch, a 2019 undrafted wideout, became Murray’s most reliable target in the first two games, catching 11 of 13 targets for 118 yards and a touchdown.

Brown is coming off his best season with the Baltimore Ravens, which saw him catch 91 passes for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. He is more than capable of playing as a No. 1 receiver in the meantime but has yet to demonstrate that through the first two weeks.

The Cardinals are also facing some key injuries that will require the next-man-up mentality. Rondale Moore is expected to be sidelined for another two to three weeks with a hamstring injury, while starting running back James Conner is hampered by a severe ankle injury suffered against the Raiders.

Arizona has faced massive deficits in both of its first two games this season, and pulling off miraculous comebacks cannot become a habit with injuries starting to stack up.

The Cardinals need to build off the offense’s explosion against the Raiders

In the second half and overtime, the Cardinals amassed 325 yards of offense while averaging 5.5 yards per play. For reference, Arizona only managed 353 yards in the 90 games minutes prior to this offensive explosion. That level of success is right in line with the offense’s production from 2021. 

If the Cardinals can carry over any of the second half magic into the rest of the season, then they will be producing at an elite level before DeAndre Hopkins even makes his season debut.

There are only four games remaining before the All-Pro wideout returns from his six-game suspension. The Cardinals host the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles two of the next three weeks. The other matchups are against the struggling Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks. If Arizona can defeat both of the ‘weaker’ teams and steal a win against either the Rams or the Eagles, they will be in great shape with a relatively soft schedule.

Stats courtesy Pro-Football-Reference

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