AT&T Stadium is 41 miles from Murray’s hometown of Allen, Texas. He went 5-0 in high school there, including three straight state championships in Texas’ highest level of prep football; 1-0 in college, leading Oklahoma to a Big 12 championship; and 1-0 so far in the NFL.
“It was fun,” Murray said. “It brought back a lot of memories. It felt like I’d been playing there every Sunday, honestly. It was comfortable, felt good.”
Murray made another memory Monday. He threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 9-for-24 passing, including an 80-yard touchdown to wide receiver Christian Kirk, the second of two touchdown passes to Kirk, who had 164 yards and six touchdowns in three games at AT&T Stadium while at Texas A&M. Murray also hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 60-yard pass in the fourth quarter.
“It’s special. I’m not gonna lie,” Murray told ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game. “I tried to not make it about me all week ’cause it’s not about me. It’s about my team. And we came out here and got the job done against a good Cowboys team. But … coming back home, I think anybody wants to get a win when you come back home, so I’m happy we did.
It wasn’t just Murray — who said he knew of about 20 friends and family in the stands — who had a meaningful return to AT&T Stadium. The last time Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury coached in AT&T Stadium was his last game as head coach at Texas Tech, a 35-24 loss to Baylor on Nov. 24, 2018.
“I thought Kyler did a nice job,” Kingsbury said. “That’s not easy when that’s all everybody’s been talking about all week, and he’s probably had this one circled on his calendar since it came out. But I thought he handled himself well. We were close on a couple things early, had some close throws that I think we’ll make in the future. May have been a little too revved up, but I think throughout the game he continued to make plays with his feet that extended drives, and I was proud of the way he handled himself.
“For me, it was just exciting to see our team play on the Monday night stage, and the way they embraced it and the effort and energy was what was meaningful to me.”
Murray said he “felt a little off all night.”
“Just little detailed things that we gotta clean up, which lead to incompletions or timing deals,” he said. “I missed a throw to Hop [Hopkins], which shouldn’t happen, and then missed a throw to Larry [Fitzgerald], just a lot of stuff left out there, a lot of opportunities left out there. It could’ve been a lot better.”
When the Cardinals’ offense couldn’t find its rhythm early in the game, Murray took it upon himself to make something happen. He had runs of 15 and 10 yards before converting a fourth-and-1 with an 11-yard run. He finished with 74 rushing yards and a touchdown, which was his 10th rushing touchdown since the start of 2019, his rookie season. That puts him second among quarterbacks in that stretch, behind Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who has 12.
Monday marked the fifth time this season that Murray had a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown, the most in the first six games of a season in NFL history. It was also the sixth time since the start of last season that Murray had a passing TD and a rushing TD, second-most in that stretch.
Murray became the third player in league history with 30 passing TDs and 10 rushing touchdowns in the first 25 games of his career. He did so in 22 games, tying Daunte Culpepper for the QB quickest to reach the mark.
It got to a point Monday night that the Cardinals were seemingly able to do what they pleased on both sides of the ball.
Kirk had two catches for 86 yards and two TDs. Hopkins finished with 73 yards on two catches. Running back Kenyan Drake had 169 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
The Cardinals forced Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to fumble twice and scored on both possessions, which were on short fields. The first was caused by safety Budda Baker, who also had his first career interception and a sack, and was recovered by Jordan Phillips, who forced the second one, which was recovered by cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.
Outside linebacker Haason Reddick had two sacks in place of Chandler Jones, who was put on injured reserve last week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn biceps.
“They played great,” Murray said of the Cardinals’ defense. “Honestly, great’s not even the word. I don’t even have a word for it, but to hold them to three points for most of game with the weapons that they have over there, force three turnovers, it’s a testament to them, all the hard work they’ve been putting in.
“I deal with them every day in practice, and for them to come out here on Monday night and do what they did is a big deal.”