Gannon-Murray partnership looks promising early, even as losses pile up for Cardinals

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon is starting to get an appreciation for Kyler Murray's desire to win.

Following Sunday's 21-16 loss to the Houston Texans, the two watched video together on the plane ride home to Phoenix, and Gannon said his quarterback was “wearing me out” with questions and observations. After they landed, Gannon was driving back to his house when his phone rang.

It was Murray. He wanted to talk more football.

“He's got fire in his gut,” Gannon said. “And that's cool.”

The Cardinals (2-9) are 1-1 since Murray's return from a torn ACL in his right knee that sidelined him for nearly a year. The two games have shown how much a healthy Murray means to the franchise, but the quarterback's return isn't a panacea for all of the team's issues.

Arizona has lost seven of its past eight.

The Cardinals had plenty of good moments on Sunday, including a 48-yard touchdown throw from Murray to Rondale Moore on the opening drive. The Cardinals also showed fight in the second half, playing better defense after the break to nearly climb out of a 21-10 hole.

The Cardinals failed to convert on three fourth-down attempts in the fourth quarter when down 21-16, cementing the loss. Murray completed 20 of 30 passes for 214 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 51 yards.

“That’s a playoff football team,” Gannon said about the Texans. "And we go nose-to-nose, but they made more plays than us. That comes in the details. Coaches have got to be on that during the week, and that goes into playmaking, and that’s what wins games.

"They made a couple more plays than we did, and that’s why we lost.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The Cardinals continue to be good at running the ball. James Conner had 62 yards rushing on 14 carries and Murray complemented him. Arizona's 126 yards rushing per game ranks ninth in the NFL.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Some of the pre-snap penalties that plagued the Cardinals for the previous four years during the Kliff Kingsbury era have returned over the past few weeks.

Murray and Gannon said that's part of the adjustment period as the quarterback acclimates to coordinator Drew Petzing's new terminology and scheme.

“Guys getting back to the huddle, me communicating better — I think just everybody can be better,” Murray said. “Like I said, it was loud out there so it was kind of tough, but we’ve just got to be better. A little more urgency and things like that in and out huddle. It starts with me.”

STOCK UP

WR Greg Dortch had a big day against the Texans with six catches for 76 yards. It was the second straight week he made his presence felt. Against the Falcons, he had a 49-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that helped set up a touchdown drive.

STOCK DOWN

Fourth-down play-calling and execution. The Cardinals had three chances on fourth down to extend drives in the fourth quarter, but fell short on all of them. One was a completed pass to Dortch that fell just short of the first-down mark. The next was a slightly underthrown ball to tight end Trey McBride. The last was a heave in the final minute to Marquise Brown that fell incomplete.

Said Gannon: “When you make those calls, you have to live with them.”

INJURIES

LB Kyzir White (biceps) is going on injured reserve and will miss at least the next four games. DL Leki Fotu (hand) and CB Antonio Hamilton (groin) also left Sunday's game while WR Michael Wilson (shoulder) was inactive. Gannon said Fotu, Hamilton and Wilson were all being evaluated.

KEY NUMBER

86 — The Cardinals gave up 86 total yards in the second half against C.J. Stroud and the Texans, giving the team a chance to rally.

NEXT STEPS

The Cardinals return home for an NFC West matchup against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl