Cardinals rookie blames himself
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kyler Murray was quick to shoulder the responsibility for Arizona’s 23-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday after the rookie quarterback threw a season-high three interceptions.
Two of those interceptions ended promising drives and were a big reason the Cardinals lost their sixth straight game and fell to 3-9-1 for the season.
“A game we should have won. If I don’t throw two interceptions, we probably win that game,” Murray said.
“They got two takeaways in the red zone that was really the difference in the game,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
Murray created some momentum in the second quarter when he led a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to tie the score at 10. Then the Cardinals were on the move with their first possession of the second half. A lead was there for the taking. But Murray turned over the ball.
On second-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 31, Murray’s pass toward running back Chase Edmonds went directly into the arms of the Steelers’ Joe Haden for an interception. The Steelers drove 73 yards for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead.
Murray and the Cardinals got the ball back with two minutes left in the third quarter, and the rookie took the offense 69 yards to the Steelers 6 in position for a score. On fourth-and-2, the Cardinals elected to go for the first down, and Murray appeared to have room to run for it as he rolled to his right. But his pass into the end zone was intercepted by T.J. Watt for a touchback, and Murray threw his hands up in exasperation.
“They just dropped down in zone. Really at that point the play’s kind of dead, but just trying to make a play,” Murray said. “Thinking back to it I probably should have ran it. It’s 2 yards. Could have gotten the first down or scored. Trying to do too much.”
The Cardinals defense gave Murray another possession after a fumble recovery of a botched punt. This time, Murray led a touchdown drive — three plays that ended with his 24-yard scoring pass to David Johnson.
But the Steelers bled the clock with their next possession and got a field goal with 1:42 left for a 23-17 lead. Murray and the Cardinals had one last chance. Instead, Murray was sacked on back-to-back plays, and on the second one fumbled the ball in open space. He recovered for no gain, but two plays later — deep in his own territory facing fourth-and-22 — Murray forced a pass over the middle that Haden picked off for his second interception.
“You can’t take sacks and we know that he is trying to make a play and there is that middle ground you’ve got to find,” Kingsbury said, “but we can’t move backwards in that situation.”
Murray has 16 touchdown passes on the season, with nine interceptions. He’s thrown five in his last four games after going five in a row without a pass being picked off.
“As long as I’m on a football field I feel in control. Two interceptions, it doesn’t spook me or anything like that. So I’m fine,” Murray said. “It’s just a little frustrating, the fact that I put us in that position. I feel like if we’d have just taken the points or I didn’t turn the ball over we would’ve been fine. We would have won the game and everybody would be happy right now.”
Murray wasn’t the only rookie to struggle on Sunday for Arizona. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. was victimized in coverage and called for two pass interference calls in the second half on separate Steelers scoring drives. Diontae Johnson caught a short touchdown pass from Devlin Hodges late in the third quarter, with Murphy in coverage and a moment too late in trying to knock away the ball as it neared the Steelers rookie in the end zone.
“It happened, so I have to go out there and play the next play,” Murphy said of his interference penalties. “I felt the second one was questionable, but the first one definitely. I have to play better defense on my part.”