Kyler Murray, Cardinals Beat Chargers 17-13 in Rookie QB's Preseason Debut

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IAugust 9, 2019

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 08: Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of the NFL pre-season game at State Farm Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals officially belong to Kyler Murray after the rookie top overall pick made his first NFL start against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night at Arizona's home State Farm Stadium. 

Murray played one series in the Cardinals' 17-13 preseason Week 1 win, which also served as first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury's first victory in charge. 

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner's first drive as a Cardinal began at his own 2-yard line. He went 6-of-7 for 44 yards (averaging 6.3 yards per pass). The drive ended in a punt after Murray was sacked on third down.

Before Murray's night concluded, though, he showed off the athletic ability that made him a coveted prospect by evading a crashing pocket to make a play:

Murray's first completion went to Damiere Byrd, whom he has been connecting with throughout training camp. Once his night was done, the Oklahoma product told ESPN's Josh Weinfuss how he felt it went, calling it "smooth."

"I was anxious to get out there, move around and throw it a little bit," Murray said. "I really just tried to execute whatever coach called and I think we did that for the most part." He added: "I thought it was decent. I would've loved to go score, but we can't have penalties."

Tyrod Taylor started for Los Angeles, as 37-year-old eight-time Pro Bowler Philip Rivers was among a long list of Chargers starters to take the night off:

Taylor, who signed a two-year deal with L.A. in March, finished with 72 yards on 6-of-6 passing

As Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon has requested a trade through his agent amid his holdout, the Chargers used their first preseason game to test the rest of their backfield. Austin Ekeler began the contest with four carries on the opening drive, but the fourth carry resulted in a fumble near the goal line:

On the following L.A. drive, Ekeler ripped off a 16-yard run. But it was second-year back Justin Jackson who wrecked through several Cardinals defenders to punch it in from four yards out to help give the Chargers a 7-0 lead with 13:33 remaining in the second quarter. 

Earlier this week, Ekeler said to ESPN's Eric D. Williams that Jackson's game has "that razzle-dazzle, some hocus-pocus," while head coach Anthony Lynn foreshadowed how Jackson could step out from under Gordon's shadow.

"When you study Justin, he's been productive his whole life," Lynn said. "He's never really had the height, weight, speed thing going for him, but if you look at his production—it's there. High school, college and when I believe his NFL career is over, that it'll be there as well."

Ekeler and Jackson figure to be the two main backs in Gordon's absence. Even so, the Chargers utilized nine rushers, including Taylor, for 28 carries, 179 yards and two touchdowns collectively. 

Rookie Easton Stick, selected by the Chargers in the fifth round after his standout career at North Dakota State, came in at quarterback in the second half but impacted the game the most as a rusher, gashing Arizona's defense for a game-long 31-yard score.

The running game wasn't as much of a factor for the Cardinals, who totaled 25 carries for 83 yards collectively between eight rushers. Wes Hills helped extend Arizona's lead to 17-7 with a seven-yard TD rush to start the fourth quarter.

Brett Hundley, who rushed once for 14 yards, took over under center for Murray. The 26-year-old tied the game just before halftime when he found Trent Sherfield, a second-year receiver who went undrafted out of Vanderbilt:

Hundley finished with a clean line of 10-of-14 for 104 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

Defensively, linebacker Pete Robertson, Andre Branch and Pita Taumoepenu each recorded a sack for Arizona. Jordan Hicks also stood out for the Cardinals with four tackles and a fumble recovery. Meanwhile, Chargers fourth-round pick Drue Tranquill impressed in his first game with five tackles and an interception.

Among players inactive for Arizona were wide receiver Kevin White, cornerback Byron Murphy, linebacker Terrell Suggs, linebacker Chandler Jones and cornerback Patrick Peterson, who will start the season serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

Veteran All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald, entering his 16th season, had just one reception for one yard.

What's Next?

The Cardinals (1-0) have another Thursday night game at home next week—this time against the Oakland Raiders. The Chargers' (0-1) second preseason matchup is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 18, at home against the New Orleans Saints. 

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