Simmons forces fumble returned for game-winning score by Byron MurphyDarren Urban
LAS VEGAS - The $240 million quarterback played like it when he needed to.
And the linebacker who had been benched came on to make the play that ultimately won the game.
The Cardinals are now 1-1 on the young season after an improbable - darn close to impossible, except that it happened - 29-23 overtime win over the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium Sunday. There was ugly for much of the game, but in the end, it couldn't have looked more beautiful.
"There were so many do or die plays, I lost count," coach Kliff Kingsbury said, still looking out of breath from either the emotion of the comeback or the celebration in the locker room after, so loud it permeated the concrete wall.
"That feeling, going into the half where nothing is going right, we've felt that plenty of times since I've been here," quarterback Kyler Murray said.
"It's an ugly feeling. But the grit, the resiliency of this group ... the issue with this group is never about playing hard. It's about executing."
It ended with Isaiah Simmons, who barely played much of the game as defensive coordinator Vance Joseph tweaked his lineup and decided it wasn't going include the guy who was charged with calling defensive signals in Week 1.
In overtime, it was Simmons punching out of the ball from Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow that allowed cornerback Byron Murphy to return the ball 59 yards for the game-winning points.
"Everything was happening so fast," said Murphy, who scooped it up with his left hand. "I just wanted to grab the ball and go.
"Everything was a blur. 'I got to get to the end zone and end this game.' "
The defense, which had been run over their first six quarters, was excellent in the second half Sunday, after the Cardinals found themselves in a 20-0 hole.
But it all started with Kyler Murray, who was magnificent in putting the team on his back, running around more than he had in a long time, scrambling to make the Raiders pass rush look foolish and making every play that was needed.
"I had to take over," Murray said. "That was my mindset."
Two two-point conversions? Yes. Running in a touchdown on fourth-and-goal on the final play of regulation, just to give the Cardinals chance? Yes. Murray's statistics won't get him into the Pro Bowl - 31-of-49, 277 yards, a touchdown and an interception, with 28 yards rushing and a TD - but to watch the game was to know who the most valuable player on the field was.
"The numbers might not be great," Kingsbury said, "but we don't care about numbers."
It was 23-7 halfway through the third quarter and the Raiders (0-2) looked like they would ease to a win. The Cardinals were doing little right. Then, they were.
The defense, understandably maligned after six quarters of the season, made the first stand. They got a three-and-out in their first effort of the second half, and the Raiders only had 66 yards in the second half and overtime.
"We started playing a lot better. That's what changed," said defensive end J.J. Watt, who had his first sack in his first game back from a calf injury. "A game like this tells you a lot about yourself. It tells you a lot about the guys in the room."
That wasn't just Simmons. Or Murray, whose incredible play on the first two-point conversion had Murray covering 85 yards to buy time and lasted almost 21 seconds. Or Murphy, who helped hold star Raiders receiver Davante Adams to two catches for 12 yards.
It was veteran wide receiver A.J. Green, who couldn't hang on to a couple of key receptions late on the game-tying drive, only to make sure he grabbed the two-point conversion from Murray to send it to overtime.
"I was not letting that one go," Green said with a chuckle.
The Rams visit next week, themselves 1-1 and needing a late interception to hold off the Falcons on Sunday. They will see a Cardinals' team that could have felt a certain way had the game in Sin City played out like it was.
Instead, the script was flipped in a way that the Cardinals felt long after the game was decided.
"That was a special game," linebacker Dennis Gardeck said. "That was a special win for us. That's why you play the game.
"This breathes incredible life into us. We found out who we are, and there is some power in knowing what we are capable of."