Kyler. Freaking. Murray.
Deandre. Freaking. Hopkins.
Play of the Year. Game of the Year. What a show the Cardinals put on this week. I was listening to the game while driving home (of course I couldn't actually watch the end of the game), and when the announcers called Stefon Diggs's full extension TD on the left side of the endzone, my immediate thought was "welp, that's game". But, just a moment later, the idea of "what if?" crossed my brain space. 33 game-seconds later, Kyler Murray made an unbelievable throw, and D-Hop made an even more unbelievable catch. Let's break down the play step by step. Chris Hanold, you can look away now.
Pre Snap: The ball is placed on the right hash at the Bills 43 yard line. The Cardinals get set in a Trips Right formation. Deandre Hopkins is by himself on the left side, just below the numbers. Larry Fitzgerald is on the ball, tight to the offensive line on the right side. Then, Andy Isabella and Christian Kirk are off the ball, to the right of Fitz, in that order. Chase Edmonds is in the backfield, to the right of Kyler Murray, in a shotgun formation.
The Snap: Kyler Murray takes the snap from Mason Cole. Murray drops back. The Bills send four rushers and drop seven deep. Kirk, Andy, and Fitz are all running crossing routes at different levels, ranging from deep to short from outside-in. D-Hop is running straight for the end zone on the left side.
The Scramble: DJ Humphries, the Cardinals left tackle, gets driven back five yards by edge rusher Mario Addison. Murray feels the pressure and rolls left. Addison sheds DJ's block and pursues Murray. Kyler takes a quick hop step and evades the sack. He continues to role to the sideline. Ed Oliver and Quinton Jefferson, the Bills defensive tackles, close in on Murray. Kyler flips his hips away from the sideline, quickly sets his feet, and uncorks a deep pass to the left side of the end zone.
The Pass: The ball is launched from the 50 yard line. The ball flutters through the air and arcs to land about halfway through the end zone. Bills underrated safety Micah Hyde gets set behind D-Hop, while All Pro corner, Tre'davious White, steps in front of Hopkins. The other Bills safety, Jordan Poyer, begins to close in from the offensive right side of the play. Deandre takes two shuffle steps towards his left as he realizes he is in bad position to make a play on the ball. All three of Buffalo's defenders and D-Hop jump for the ball simultaneously.
The Catch: In a swarm of hands, Deandre secures the ball at the highpoint of his jump. Poyer swats at the ball and slams his body into the mosh of Hopkins, Hyde, and White. As three of the four players fall to the grass, Micah hits the ball with his right hand and grabs Deandre's back with his left, while Tre'Davious attempts to rip the ball out of Hopkins's hands. D-Hop maintains possession, turns the ball into his body, while just getting his right arm under the ball before it hits the turf. Poyer is left standing and turns around to see D-Hop on the ground, who has the ball in his hands. He trips over Hopkins as Andy Isabella runs over to celebrate and help Deandre off the ground. The officials signal a touchdown. Chase Edmonds and Fitz rush in to celebrate; mayhem ensues.
The Aftermath: The Cardinals knee the ball on a two-point play. If the Cardinals attempted an extra point, and it ended up being blocked and returned by the Bills, the game would be tied at 32 a piece. With 1 second left, the Cardinals take their chance and squib kick the ball on the following kickoff. Micah Hyde scoops up the ball at the Bills 24 yard line. He runs forward and to the left for two yards, then he underhands the ball over Cole Beasley's head. The ball bounces forward and rolls out at the 29 yard line. The Arizona Cardinals win and move to 6-3 on the season.
If you haven't seen the play yet, I hope that breaks it down for you. Now, do yourself a favor, and search Highlight Heaven's video titled: "Bills vs. Cardinals INSANE Final Minutes | NFL Week 10" on YouTube. For the rest of this article, and every win moving forward, I will be awarding the Offensive and Defensive MVPs, as well as and The Unsung Hero of the Game and The Play of the Game (I wonder what it will be this week).
Offensive MVP: Kyler Murray
Kyler does it again. In his fifth straight game with a passing and rushing TD (first player to achieve this feat), he showed everyone why he is the clearcut option to be the MVP. For what Kyler had to work with, he made a lot happen. The Bills defense is one of the best in the league from top to bottom, and they continued to put that on display this week. There were countless plays where the Cardinals receivers were covered and Kyler had to pull the ball down to gain yards. This, along with read options and QB designed runs, Kyler totaled 61 yards on 11 carries and 2 TDs, bringing him up to a whopping 10 TDs on the season, tied for Cam Newton's total from 2015 - and we're only 9 games into this season. In the passing game, Kyler hit 22 out of 32 passes for 245 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. The interception was somewhat his fault, but more so just physics being crazy. Kyler threw a low pass to Fitz, who snagged the pass, but due to pressure from the ground pushing into his arms, the ball popped out and straight into the arms of Jordan Poyer. It was Fitz's first drop since 2018 and the 30th of his career (35th according to Pro Football Focus).
Throughout the game, Murray did a great job of finding open receivers and squeezing the ball into tight windows, while knowing when to chuck the ball over a receiver's head when he felt pressured. Multiple times during the second half, I thought to myself, "when is Kyler going to make his MVP play?". In 2018, it was Patrick Mahomes's connection with Tyreek Hill on a 43.6 air-yard cross body pass (Next Gen Stats), while being chased by three Baltimore defenders, on 4th down, for a total of 47 scrimmage yards. In 2019, it was Lamar Jackson's spectacular 47 yard TD run, where he evaded four Bengal's defenders, two of which with one spin move, and sped away from the rest of the defense. Now, in 2020, it was Kyler Murray's last second, off balance, Hail Mary bomb to Deandre Hopkins, for 47 yards from snap to catch point, that may help confirm his MVP bid. See a pattern here?
*I did some additional research, MVPs from 2014-2019 (Rodgers, Newton, Ryan, Brady, Mahomes, and Lamar, respectively) all had a pass of 47 yards that helped lock in their MVP awards. JJ Watt, who should have won MVP in 2014, had a 47 yard fumble recovery TD as well.*
After Sunday's game, Murray is now on pace to finish with 4,222 passing yards and 30 passing TDs, along with 1,073 rushing yards and 18 TDs. If that's not an MVP résumé, then I don't know what is.
Defensive MVP: Isaiah Simmons
Thanks to an injury to De'Vondre Campbell (get well soon), we finally got to see Isaiah Simmons shine. In the second half, Simmons tallied 4 tackles, 2 for a loss, and a QB hit. On the QB hit, Simmons body checked Josh Allen towards the turf, but Allen got the ball off. Devin Singletary, the Bills starting running back, caught the ball in the flat about five yards behind the line of scrimmage. After taking down Allen about ten yards behind the play, Simmons got up, chased down Singletary, and tackled him for a loss of three. This was the best defensive play of the day, as the Bills were forced to punt and kill their offensive momentum. In addition, Simmons may have also had a pick if Patrick Peterson didn't step in front of a pass directed towards Dawson Knox, a Bills tight end. Pair these plays along with a gang sack including three other Cardinal defenders, and you get your Defensive MVP for Week 10. Simmons got the playing time he deserved and was able to showcase how disruptive he can be.
Unsung Hero: Budda Baker
Budda was all over the ball and made crucial stops in the pass and run game. He tallied 9 tackles and a pass deflection, while being around the football at the end of every play. There's not much else I can write about for Budda, but on film, he was exactly where he needed to be. If Budda makes a few more big plays over the next couple of weeks, he may just enter himself into the DPOY conversation.
Play of the Game: Murray to D-Hop for the Game Winner
Per Next Gen Stats, Kyler scrambled for 30.2 yards, and the ball traveled for 51.7 yards through the air. Outside of that, you can reference my full breakdown of the play at the top of the article. Play of the Year, end of discussion.
Photo: Arizona Sports
Game Stat Sources: Pro Football Reference, ESPN
Although the Cardinals are 1st in total yards per game and 7th in total points per game, they are not playing to their full potential. So far this season, per nflpenalties.com, they have committed 37 offensive penalties, just short of Buffalo who has the most with 38 offensive penalties (The Bills and Cardinals offenses had 6 and 4 offensive penalties in Week 10, respectively). On top of this, Chase Edmonds is finally starting to produce in our offense and Kenyan Drake seems to be back to full speed, minus a fumble that was a result of physics being ridiculous.
Kyler needs to be more accurate with the ball as well. Although his completion percentage is 9th out of the current 32 starting QBs, there are small inconsistencies that won't show up in the stat sheets. Multiple times in Sunday's game, and throughout the season, Kyler has thrown balls behind receivers causing them to fall. On other plays, he'll put passes high enough for the receiver to get it, but also killing any potential forward progress that could be made. If Murray can work on these small details and become more efficient with his passes, the Cardinals offense will begin to click more and create bigger plays.
On a nicer note, the Bills have a very good foundation for this season and their future. Josh Allen is legit, Stefon Diggs is a top 5 receiver in the NFL, their defense is top notch, and Tyler Bass may be the next Justin Tucker. The kid's career long before Sunday was 53; against the Cardinals, he hit from 54, 55, and 58, all in the first half. Bass has a leg and a bright future. Plus, the Bills fan base is one of the best in sports, as they have raised over $600,000 for the Oishei Children's Hospital in honor of Josh Allen's grandmother passing away. In the 2017 season, after Andy Dalton, the former Cincinnati Bengals QB, beat the Ravens to help the Bills clinch a playoff spot, Bills Mafia donated almost a quarter million dollars to Dalton's foundation. Keep on keeping on you table smashers.
Shoutout to Patrick Peterson for playing a solid game where he could've had three interceptions, but only came up with one. Larry Fitzgerald hit a big milestone, marking his 252nd consecutive game with at least one reception. The only game in his career where he didn't make a catch was against the Buffalo Bills back in 2004 during his rookie season. After an exciting Sunday, it's time to prepare off a short week, as we head to Seattle for a Thursday Night divisional rematch with the Seahawks.