TEMPE, Ariz. — Kyler Murray's made his transition to the NFL look fairly easy through most of the season, mixing big plays with smart decisions that have kept the Arizona Cardinals competitive despite obvious holes in the roster.
He's still a rookie, though. On Sunday, he looked like it.
The 22-year-old quarterback threw a season-high three interceptions in Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. All of them came in the second half, two were in Steelers territory, and one was particularly painful.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury showed a lot of faith in Murray during the fourth quarter, going for a touchdown instead of the field goal with the Cardinals trailing 20-10 and facing fourth-and-2 at the Steelers 6. Murray took the snap, scrambled to the right and fired a pass into the end zone that went directly into the hands of Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt.
The Cardinals never totally recovered and Murray knows it.
“It's just a little frustrating that I put us in that position," Murray said. “I feel like if we would've just took the points or I didn't turn the ball over, we would have been fine, we would have won the game, and everyone would be happy right now."
The Cardinals (3-9-1) have lost six games in a row after Sunday's loss. Arizona has one more home game remaining on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns before finishing with road games against the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.
“You have to stay engaged and focused on the things that you can control individually," Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “If everyone is doing that collectively, you'll be able to dig your way out of the rut that we're in."
Murray completed 20 of 30 passes against the Steelers for 194 yards, two touchdowns and the three interceptions. He was also sacked five times.
“The interceptions were fixable plays, two of them on fourth down,” Kingsbury said. “Those happen you're trying to make a play and not take a sack on fourth down."
The Cardinals made some improvements on defence, even if the performance was against a Steelers offence that hasn't been particularly productive. Pittsburgh finished with 275 total yards.
Arizona has given up at least 21 points in every game this season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Arizona's running game has had 75 yards or less in four of the past six games. The Cardinals have lots of options, but haven't settled on a main option among David Johnson, Chase Edmonds and Kenyan Drake.
Drake led the team with 37 yards on 11 carries against the Steelers.
Johnson: The veteran running back had been nearly nonexistent in the offence over the past few weeks after returning from an ankle injury. But he had a big moment Sunday with a 24-yard touchdown catch that pulled the Cardinals within 20-17 in the fourth quarter.
“It felt good to get involved and get in the end zone," Johnson said. “But at the end of the day we still lost, so it doesn't feel too good after."
CB Byron Murphy Jr.. Murphy has had a good rookie season, especially considering he's had to play so much because of Patrick Peterson's six-game suspension and Robert Alford's season-ending injury. But he had two pass interference in the second half on Sunday that extended drives.
Kingsbury said the Cardinals didn't have many major injuries on Sunday.
11 — Murray has been sacked 11 times over the past two games, six against the Rams and five against the Steelers. Murray has the quickness to avoid pressure in the pocket, but Kingsbury said the rookie has been a little indecisive over the past few weeks.
Murray needs to regain his confidence, the running game needs to be more productive and the defence has to build on its decent performance against the Steelers. If those things don't happen, the Cardinals are in danger of ending the season on a nine-game skid.
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