Kyler Murray sharp in brief debut as Cards edge Chargers
By JOSE M. ROMERO
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Kyler Murray wanted to take his team on a scoring drive Thursday night, and even checked twice with his coach to see if he could play beyond one possession.
Arizona didn't take any chances with their prized rookie quarterback, but Murray completed nearly all of his passes and showed the mobility that made him the top overall draft pick, going 6 for 7 for 44 yards in 10 plays during the Cardinals' first offensive series of the game.
Then he put on a headset, took off his pads and watched the Cardinals' 17-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in the preseason opener for both teams.
"I was just going out there and being myself, like always. Trusting in my abilities," Murray said. "I wanted to score. I wanted to go back in. I was definitely itching for more."
The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, starting his first NFL drive at the Cardinals 2 after a fumble recovery by linebacker Jordan Hicks, picked up three first downs, with his longest completion a 14-yard short pass to running back David Johnson.
Murray didn't have an official carry, but worked out of the shotgun and rolled out several times.
"He made quick decisions, that's what we're looking for. Operated well and took care of the football," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said, adding that the starters, including Murray, are likely to play longer in the next preseason game.
Murray escaped pressure from the Chargers' Chris Peace on one play and completed a pass along the sideline to rookie KeeSean Johnson, but it was ruled incomplete because of a penalty.
"When we got the strip I was like `Good,'" Murray said. "At the same time I was like `Of course I get the ball at the 2.' My mindset was to go and score and unfortunately we didn't."
The Cardinals eventually did. Trent Sherfield, who had 19 catches a season ago after making the team as an undrafted free agent, hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Brett Hundley 29 seconds before halftime to tie the score at 7.
Hundley was 10 of 14 for 104 yards.
Zane Gonzalez made a 55-yard field goal and Wes Hills ran 7 yards for a touchdown in the second half, and the Cardinals held on in Kingsbury's NFL debut. Easton Stick, the third quarterback for the Chargers, scored on a 31-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers, with starting quarterback Philip Rivers held out, scored first with 13:42 left in the second quarter and both team's regular starters already done for the evening. Justin Jackson ran 4 yards for a touchdown.
Tyrod Taylor started in place of Rivers and was 6 of 6 for 72 yards.
"I thought the offense was really efficient with Tyrod," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. "He is a luxury to have on this football team. He is a starter in this league so it didn't surprise me at all for him to move the ball down the field."
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler got the start with star Melvin Gordon holding out in a contract dispute, and rushed for 40 yards on five carries. He also fumbled near the goal line in the first quarter.
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson started and was in for the first defensive series. He's suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancers.
COLE MOVES AROUND
The Chargers were whistled for 10 penalties, including four on one play, a punt in the second quarter. "That was disappointing to me, was the penalties, because that goes back to technique work," Lynn said.
Cardinals: Rookie cornerback Byron Murphy, a second-round draft pick, did not play and had his leg in a boot. Kingsbury called it a soft tissue injury in a foot and said Murphy could practice in the days to come. ... WR Kevin White didn't play due to a hamstring injury. ... WR Andy Isabella is expected back in the coming week after missing the game with a knee injury.
Chargers: vs. New Orleans on Sunday, Aug. 18.
Cardinals: vs. Oakland next Thursday night.
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Updated August 9, 2019