The Arizona Cardinals have clearly established themselves as a playoff contender in the NFC heading into their bye week — all thanks to the play of Kyler Murray. Not only is Murray becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but it may be time to evaluate his place in the MVP conversation. 

Yes, Murray, who is coming off his second NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors this season — the first Cardinals player to accomplish that feat since Kurt Warner in 2009 — has been that good. The Cardinals quarterback completed 34 of 48 passes for 360 yards throwing for three touchdowns and one interception in Arizona’s thrilling 37-34 overtime win over the previously undefeated Seattle Seahawks. Murray also rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown in the win, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for at least 50 yards and a touchdown in a single game. 

Since the Cardinals were down 10 points in the fourth quarter, Murray became the first quarterback since Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLIX to throw for three touchdown passes and eliminate a 10-point deficit against Wilson and the Seahawks. The comeback was Murray’s coming-of-age moment, as he went 7 of 9 for 58 yards in the Cardinals’ final two possessions in regulation while rushing for 33 yards on three carries. He completed all three of his passes — not counting spikes — in overtime for 23 yards, which led to the game-winning 48-yard field goal in overtime by Zane Gonzalez. 

Arizona sits 5-2 in the loaded NFC West, in prime position to reach the playoffs for the first time in five years. Murray’s excellent play has pulled the Cardinals to new heights, giving Arizona its first true franchise quarterback in decades. As the Cardinals head into their bye week, let’s take a look at Murray’s MVP candidacy in this week’s “By The Numbers.” 

First, we’ll dive into Murray’s rushing numbers:

Most QB rushing yards (2020)

  1. Kyler Murray, 437
  2. Lamar Jackson, 346
  3. Daniel Jones, 296
  4. Cam Newton, 244
  5. Russell Wilson, 237

Most QB rushing TDs (2020)

  1. Kyler Murray, 7
  2. Cam Newton, 5
  3. Carson Wentz, 5
  4. Josh Allen, 3
  5. Joe Burrow, 3
  6. Dak Prescott, 3

Most rushing TDs (2020)

  1. Kyler Murray, 7
  2. Dalvin Cook, 7
  3. Todd Gurley, 7
  4. Derrick Henry, 7

QB Yards per rush (2020)

  1. Daniel Jones, 9.55
  2. Russell Wilson, 8.17
  3. Lamar Jackson, 6.92
  4. Kyler Murray, 6.72
  5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 5.40

*Minimum 25 carries

Murray hasn’t delivered the rushing yards numbers Jackson had in 2019 (when set the record with 1,206), but he’s tracking toward some historic numbers of his own. He’s on pace to rush for 999 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 62.4 yards and a touchdown per game. The 16 rushing touchdowns would be a record for a quarterback, breaking Newton’s mark of 14 in 2011. Murray has recorded a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown in six of the seven games he’s played in this season, the only player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. 

While Murray’s running totals are impressive, his passing numbers aren’t up amongst the top of the NFL charts. Murray ranks in the middle of the pack in completion percentage (66.8%), just outside the top 10 in passing yards (1,847), top 10 in passing touchdowns (13), the top 20 in yards per attempt (7.3) and the top 25 in passer rating (93.8). 

The impact Murray has on the Cardinals is where his MVP candidacy comes in. Let’s take a look at total offense and see where Murray ranks amongst the league leaders: 

Total yards (all players)

  1. Kyler Murray, 2,246
  2. Josh Allen, 2,140
  3. Deshaun Watson, 2,126
  4. Matt Ryan, 2,100
  5. Russell Wilson, 2,011*

*Wilson has played just 6 games

Games with a pass TD and rush TD 

  1. Kyler Murray, 6 
  2. Carson Wentz, 4
  3. Josh Allen, 3
  4. Patrick Mahomes, 2 
  5. Jared Goff, 2 
  6. Lamar Jackson, 2

Murray is also one of just eight quarterbacks with two fourth-quarter comebacks and two game-winning drives this season, while the Cardinals have already matched their win total from last season (5). Arizona has not had a winning season or reached the postseason in five years.

Murray has accounted for 76.6% of his team’s offense, which is second in the NFL behind Wilson. Murray is also the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era with at least 10 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns through the first six games of a season.

Wilson is the favorite for MVP honors — and rightly so — but Murray did beat Wilson in his head-to-head matchup and has beaten the two over-.500 teams he played in the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers (both in the loaded NFC West). Arizona could have a case for a 7-0 start if not for bad losses to the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, the only two games the offense did not eclipse 400 yards. The Cardinals’ success runs through Murray, as do their NFC West title hopes. 

Finally, we’ll take a look at Murray’s impressive start to his career. He already has the Cardinals franchise record for touchdown passes in his first two seasons (33) and games with a touchdown pass in his first two seasons (12). Murray is also the fastest player in NFL history to reach 30 pass touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns (22 games), beating Josh Allen’s mark by six games. 

Total yards through first 23 career games

  1. Patrick Mahomes, 7,593
  2. Kurt Warner, 6,498
  3. Cam Newton, 6,389
  4. Kyler Murray, 6,203
  5. Deshaun Watson, 6,184

QB rushing yards through first 23 career games

  1. Lamar Jackson, 1,271
  2. Robert Griffin III, 1,072
  3. Michael Vick, 1,066
  4. Josh Allen, 1,018
  5. Cam Newton, 1,016
  6. Kyler Murray, 981

Clearly, Murray’s value in the NFL through his first 23 games is in his total offensive numbers, following Jackson in redefining the quarterback position. The passing numbers are coming as Murray continues to develop his game, especially since he already is one of the top scoring threats in the league with 44 touchdowns through 23 career games.

Murray is a unique quarterback, one that is going to be a problem in the NFL for years to come. As he goes, so do the Cardinals as they continue to elevate into the upper echelon of the NFC. 

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