Murray, Hopkins enjoy career days in Cards’ win

  • Covered the Cardinals since 2012
  • Graduate of Indiana University
  • Member of Pro Football Writers of America

When Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray wasn’t hitting wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — who set a career high with 14 receptions Sunday — he was carrying his team to a 24-20 road win against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium with career highs of his own.

The second-year quarterback finished with 91 yards rushing on a career-high 13 carries, including a 22-yard touchdown run that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game with 6:38 left in the fourth quarter. Murray had 100 yards rushing, which would have been a career high, until two kneel-downs on the game’s final two plays set him back.

Murray’s previous career high was 93 yards rushing, which he set in Week 5 last season at the Cincinnati Bengals. Murray used his speed and quickness all day on a mixture of short and long runs. In addition to the 22-yard scramble, Murray had runs of 25, 15 and 11 yards, as well as two for 8 yards and one for 9.

After the game, Murray joked that he isn’t counting those negative yards. But Murray’s runs weren’t part of the game plan, he said. Instead, they were a product of openings in front of him, the result of 49ers defenders getting out of their lanes and getting tired. All of Murray’s rushing yards were gained against boxes of six or fewer players, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

“I just take what they give me,” Murray said.

“That’s when the offseason work, the conditioning, all that stuff, that’s when it kicks in. For me, just doing whatever it takes to win. Those plays weren’t meant for me to take off and stuff like that, but whatever I got to do to get the win, I’m gonna do.”

In his debut with the Cardinals, Hopkins had 14 catches for 151 yards, including a 33-yard catch late in the fourth quarter that set up a winning touchdown run by Kenyan Drake. Hopkins’ previous career high was 12 catches in Week 17 of the 2018 season as a member of the Houston Texans, but the four-time Pro Bowler wasn’t surprised he debuted with such a productive day.

“I wasn’t because I sacrifice and I put in a lot of work every day, from what I eat to how I take care of my body and my preparation, I know that I’m going to go out and when my number’s called, I’m going to catch the ball,” Hopkins said.

With his game Sunday, Hopkins became the first player in NFL history with at least 14 catches and 100 receiving yards in a team debut, as well as the second player in NFL history with 14 catches in a debut, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. His 14 catches also tied him with Anquan Boldin for the second most in a game in Cardinals history.

“I didn’t know he was going to go for that many catches,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “but he got hot, and Kyler and him got in a rhythm, and just excited he’s a part of our organization.”

Sunday was the Cardinals’ first September win since Sept. 17, 2017, at the Indianapolis Colts, a span of almost three years. It was also Arizona’s first Week 1 win since 2015

“It’s a big-time game, first one of the season, against the NFC champions, your best players got to play at their best and I think that’s just what’s got to be,” Murray said. “In big games you got to rise to the occasion and play well. We started off slow, but everybody stayed through it, stuck with it, fought through adversity and we came out on top.”

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