It was a first half of football to forget for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.
Arizona left the first quarter of its wild-card matchup against the Rams trailing 7-0 with negative yardage, and things only got worse in the second quarter. The worst part: Rather than take a safety in the end zone with his team already down 14-0, Murray flipped the ball up to try to avoid the sack but wound up throwing a pick-six.
The next drive, Rondale Moore saved Murray from a second interception in a bizarre exchange with a defender, only for Murray to respond with another pick on a screen pass three plays later. The Cardinals went into halftime trailing 21-0 and then fell behind 28-0 early in the third quarter.
The first quarter was bad enough for the Cardinals. Arizona went three-and-out on its first drive, moving just 4 yards, and the next two drives went backward: minus-1 yard and minus-11 yards. The Cardinals finished the quarter with minus-8 yards of offense.
It only got worse from there. After another three-and-out on their first drive in the second quarter, the Cardinals got the ball back at their 1 after a 43-yard punt by John Hekker. James Conner rushed for 3 yards, and then Murray appeared to connect with A.J. Green for a 22-yard gain, but after conflicting video reviews, the pass was ruled incomplete.
On third down, Murray was about to be sacked in the end zone by linebacker Troy Reeder, prompting him to attempt to get the ball out to Moore. Instead, David Long swooped in to intercept the pass and return it in for a 3-yard pick-six. According to Stathead , it was the shortest pick-six in the Super Bowl era in the playoffs.
Neither Peyton nor Eli Manning could believe the play.
The Cardinals finally picked up their first first down on the next drive, when Conner rushed 11 yards. Two plays later, Murray threw to Moore, who tipped the ball to Long. Before Long could secure the ball, Moore caught the carom for a reception.
Arizona reached the 50-yard line for the first time in the game on a 10-yard Chase Edmonds rush but moved back on the next play. Then Murray threw the ball past the 50 for the first time in the game, only to have the screen pass intercepted by Marquise Copeland after it deflected off Conner’s fingertips.
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For Arizona fans looking for a glimmer of second-half hope, well, there wasn’t much. Murray had just 28 yards on 7-for-17 passing in the first half, and he was sacked twice and intercepted twice. Arizona had only three first downs to Los Angeles’ nine in the half. The Cardinals possessed the ball for just 10:45.
Needless to say, the first playoff game in the Murray-Kliff Kingsbury era has not gone according to plan.
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