Well, if you predicted that Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals would be the NFL’s final undefeated team through the 2021 NFL season’s first four weeks, you’re either lying, extremely lucky, or a time traveler.
If you traveled back in time, we apologize for the NFL’s taunting penalty rule. Hopefully they’ve changed that in your time. Oh, and fewer commercials.
While the traveler from 2062 begins coping with their life in 2021, we’ll get back on track and continue witnessing a breakout season from Murray and the Cardinals. For their sake, they should hope this 4-0 start doesn’t blow up in smoke like the last time this happened.
Kyler Murray has the Arizona Cardinals off to an impressive 4-0 start
The Cardinals appeared to be the NFC West division’s weak spot entering the 2021 season. The Los Angeles Rams upgraded their offense by acquiring quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the Seattle Seahawks still had Russell Wilson leading the way.
As for the San Francisco 49ers, we could forgive those who believed Trey Lance’s arrival and a healthy roster would lead to more victories in 2021. That only left the Cardinals, a team that won two of its final seven games last season after a 6-3 start.
Well, it shows you what we know. The Cardinals ended Week 4 leading the league in points per game (35) and yards per outing (440.5). Murray completed 76.1% of his passes across that span for 1,273 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions. If he stays healthy and plays all 17 games, he’s on pace to finish the season with 5,411 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, numbers which could very well be enough to capture the NFL MVP Award.
All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins totaled 17 catches, 225 yards, and three touchdowns in his first four games. Although it looks like he’s started the season slowly, consider that six Cardinals players had at least 15 catches in that stretch.
Murray’s impressive start helped the Cardinals began a season with four consecutive wins for the first time since 2012. How long ago was that fall? Murray was in high school, Hopkins was in his final season at Clemson, and Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury was Johnny Manziel’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.
Murray should hope his Cardinals finish the season better than that 2012 team
If that 2012 Cardinals team doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry. Something tells us you’re not alone.
Despite starting the season with four straight wins, Arizona lost 11 of the season’s final 12 games and finished last in the NFC West. As was customary, All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald served as one of the team’s few bright spots, hauling in 71 catches for 798 yards and four touchdowns.
Second-year cornerback Patrick Peterson intercepted seven passes, forced seven fumbles, and recovered another five. Linebacker Daryl Washington registered 134 tackles and nine sacks en route to earning Pro Bowl honors.
So what held the team back, you ask? Poor quarterback play and a mediocre offense contributed to the team recording three one-score losses during a nine-game losing streak. The less said about the team’s 7-6 loss to the New York Jets on Dec. 2, 2012, the better.
Arizona wisely hit the reset button after the season, hiring Bruce Arians as a head coach and trading for then-Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. That duo reached the playoffs twice in five seasons, so things at least worked out in that regard.
Murray and the Cardinals are in an excellent position entering a difficult stretch
If Murray hopes to avoid finishing this season at 5-12 (or worse, 5-11-1), he can at least sleep well knowing his offense is far superior to the one that the 2012 team fielded. We’ll also give Colt McCoy his credit as a competent backup quarterback.
The Cardinals are entering a seven-game stretch which includes two matchups with the 49ers, a trip to Seattle, and a showdown on Thursday Night Football with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Those six teams ended Week 4 with a combined 14-10 record.
It’s way too much to ask the Cardinals to enter their Week 12 bye with an unblemished 11-0 record. However, an 8-3 mark would go a long way in helping Murray reach the postseason for the first time as an NFL player.
Can someone find the time traveler? It might be worth knowing just how far these Cardinals go in the postseason.