Cardinals hit rock bottom, but Kyler Murray’s imminent return brings hope of a silver lining

There is only one comforting takeaway for the Arizona Cardinals following one of the ugliest offensive performances in recent memory
Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Ford runs in front of Arizona Cardinals linebacker...
Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Ford (34) runs in front of Arizona Cardinals linebacker Cameron Thomas during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)(David Richard | AP)
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 8:39 PM MST
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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — There is only one comforting takeaway for the Arizona Cardinals following one of the ugliest offensive performances in recent memory.

Help — hopefully — is on the way.

Two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Kyler Murray could return for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons after missing roughly 11 months with a torn ACL that he suffered last season against the New England Patriots. The 26-year-old Murray was designated to return from the physically unable-to-perform list on Oct. 18, giving the Cardinals 21 days to elevate him to the active roster.

“Kyler’s going to continue to ramp up — he’ll take the (first team) reps, and if the week goes well, he’ll start on Sunday,” first-year coach Jonathan Gannon said. “Pleased where he’s at right now, and we’ll see how the week goes.”

Gannon has been coy about Murray's progress, though the fifth-year quarterback has looked like his normal self on the practice field. One thing is certain: Life for Arizona without Murray has not gone well. The Cardinals are 1-13 since he was injured.

The latest debacle came on Sunday in a 27-0 loss to the Browns that dropped to the Cardinals to 1-8 this season. They've lost six straight.

Rookie Clayton Tune got his first start and had a rough afternoon, finishing 11 of 20 passing for 58 yards and two interceptions. The Cardinals finished with just 58 yards of total offense, averaging 1.2 yards per play and going 1 of 12 on third-down conversions.

Tune didn't play particularly well, but he also didn't have much help.

“We couldn’t run it, we couldn’t protect, we couldn’t throw it," Gannon said. "So a lot of things need to get cleaned up.”

Said Tune: “You just have to stay positive and show up to work every day with the same attitude. You have to be the same guy, day in and day out, regardless of what’s going on. I think that’s the mindset we all have to take. Show up willing to work, get better, learn from our mistakes and be the same people day in and day out.”


Defense. Relatively speaking, the Cardinals' defense played OK against the Browns. Arizona gave up 326 total yards and made Cleveland work for its points despite repeatedly being put in tough situations. Two-time All-Pro safety Budda Baker is back playing at a high level after missing several games early this season with a hamstring injury, finishing with 10 tackles on Sunday.


Offense. Even when Murray returns, the Cardinals will probably have issues. The team's top two running backs — James Conner and Emari Demercado — missed Sunday's game with injuries and it's unclear if either will return against the Falcons.


Murray. He hasn't played in nearly a year, but the past 14 games have proven that there's nothing like having a star quarterback on the roster. Now the Cardinals have eight games to get Murray acclimated to the new offense and prepare for 2024.


Tune. Sunday's meltdown certainly wasn't all his fault, but it's apparent that the fifth-round pick needs some more seasoning before starting another game.


The Cardinals lost two offensive linemen — D.J. Humphries and Will Hernandez — to leg injuries during the Browns game. ,,, Rookie WR Michael Wilson was inactive with a shoulder injury. ... Conner is eligible to return from injured reserve this week. Gannon left the door open that all four could play against the Falcons.


15.7 — The average margin of defeat for the Cardinals during their current six-game losing streak.


The Cardinals return home to face the Atlanta Falcons, who have also had some quarterback drama with Desmond Ridder replaced as the starter by Taylor Heinicke.