The special playoff debut for Kyler Murray

Munich – The Arizona Cardinals 2021 season can actually be divided into two halves.

On the one hand there is the team that started the season with eight wins and one defeat and has long been considered the big favorite for the number one seed in the NFC. On the other hand, however, a much more mixed picture of the Cardinals emerged.

Since Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s team only managed three wins from eight games in the second half of the season, Arizona slipped to fifth place in the NFC and now has to go on Sunday (from 2:05 a.m. live on ProSieben and in the live stream on ran. de) compete in the wild card round in the difficult away game at the Los Angeles Rams.

Franchise quarterback Kyler Murray is symbolic of the changeable course of the season. The 24-year-old got started like the fire brigade and quickly became an early MVP favorite. In the second half of the season, however, he had significantly more problems than before.

Kyler Murray: Between MVP candidate and rookie mistakes

On paper, Murray’s numbers over the season read more than decent. In 14 games, the playmaker came to 3787 passing yards and a total of 29 touchdowns. Thanks to his skills as a runner, he contributed 423 rushing yards.

The problem: he scored 20 of his 29 touchdowns before the 21:24 loss to the Green Bay Packers in week eight, which marked something like the turning point in the so far flawless season for Murray and the Cardinals. Against a toxic Rams defense, Murray has to quickly find his way back to his form from the start of the season.

If the Cardinals want to be successful in the playoffs, Murray also has to get his interception problem under control. Murray threw the ball at the opponent ten times in the regular season. It doesn’t read badly at first, but it becomes a problem if several turnovers occur in one game.

In top games like those against the Packers or the Rams in week 14, Murray intercepted two hair-raising throws, so that both games were ultimately decided to the detriment of the Cardinals. Before the postseason, the question arises of how well Murray can handle the upcoming pressure.

Kliff Kingsbury: “Will make the best game of his career”

The encounter with the Rams is not only a debut for the quarterback, head coach Kingsbury will also lead his first playoff game from the sidelines after three years with the Cardinals. Because he wanted to have Murray with the number one pick in the draft when he took office in 2019, the two are united by their journey to the playoffs.

“He’s waiting, like I have been for three years,” Kingsbury said at a press conference on Wednesday. “He’s a guy who wants to play for something and he knows what’s at stake,” Murray praised his coach.

He did not shy away from putting even more pressure on the young playmaker: “This is his first attempt in the playoffs. I assume that he will deliver the best game of his career. I know that he will give everything, what he’s got, “says Kingsbury.

Murray has to do without his favorite playing station DeAndre Hopkins. The Cardinals have been missing the wide receiver for a few weeks – also one of the reasons why the offensive engine no longer ran as well as before in the second half of the season.

More than just a playoff game: is Murray playing for his future?

While Murray is likely to be active with the Cardinals for a few more years, it is not certain that the soon-to-be-30-year-old Hopkins will also play in Arizona during this period. For the young playmaker, the game is therefore the best opportunity to show that his skills as a quarterback do not depend on a specific receiver.

It seems impossible that the Cardinals would part with him in the event of a failed performance, but it is a good indicator for those responsible as to how much he could be worth to the team in the future. As with all first-round picks from 2019, Murray can negotiate his contract extension after the 4th or 5th year in the NFL from the coming season.

In view of the current trend in the NFL and the ever-increasing cap space, a record-breaking contract beckons him if he can confirm his performance from the start of the season. Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, who was able to lead his team into the postseason for the third year in a row, should be the yardstick here.

the Bills rewarded him last offseason with a six-year contract totaling $ 258 million. If Murray can already ensure a success in the playoffs this season, he could cement his claim to a similar contract – and possibly even surpass Allen’s salary.

But monster contract in the back of the head or not: there is a lot of pressure on Murray’s shoulders before the duel against the Rams, not least because of the praise of his coach – which makes the first playoff game a very special one.

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