Patrick Mahomes won the NFL MVP award in his second season in 2018. Lamar Jackson won the NFL MVP award in his second season in 2019.
Is Kyler Murray about to keep that second-year trend rolling in 2020? The question is by no means premature after Murray’s Cardinals improved to 2-0 with a 30-15 victory over Washington in Week 2.
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Murray is trending on Sunday just as much as those last two MVPs. He added two more rushing touchdowns on quarterback draws, giving him three TDs for the season, and both runs went viral. They were part of a day in which he had eight carries for 67 yards to go along with 26-of-38 passing for 286 yards, with a TD and an interception.
While Mahomes and Jackson continue to dominate in the AFC, Murray is shining in the NFC spotlight. And, hey, Murray is the only one of those three to win the Rookie of the Year.
Murray’s rushing yardage is the style part of his game. He leads all NFL quarterbacks with 21 attempts for 158 yards through two games. That’s up there with Browns running back Nick Chubb, who entered Sunday as the league’s rushing leader with 184 yards. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury has done a good job to this point of not relying too much on Murray’s legs, but he will be tempted more and more knowing Murray averages 7.5 yards per carry.
Murray’s passing, meanwhile, will be the substance in a potential MVP run. He hit 16 of 20 attempts for 189 yards, with a TD and an INT, in the first half Sunday to help the Cardinals build a 20-0 lead.
In the third quarter, Murray led a touchdown drive that was keyed by a third-down conversion to DeAndre Hopkins for 25 yards and a fourth-down conversion to Larry Fitzgerald for 12 yards. Washington rallied in the fourth quarter to cut the margin to 27-15, but Murray led another scoring drive that put the game away. He got help on that drive from Kenyan Drake, who finished with 20 carries for 86 yards.
Arizona didn’t try to run out the clock. It went for another score, which it got with a field goal with 30 seconds remaining. Kingsbury’s super-aggressive approach on offense is based on increased faith in Murray.
Murray proved that his Week 1 show against the defending NFC champion 49ers — who were hit hard by injuries in Week 2 — was not a fluke. The Cardinals are one of five 2-0 teams in the NFC along with the Packers, Bears, Rams and Seahawks. The Saints can join that group, too.
Arizona might be the most surprising team, but again, it is not a fluke.
The Cardinals’ schedule is set up to keep them in the conversation, too. Arizona’s next three opponents — the Lions, Panthers and Jets — are a combined 0-6 through two weeks. There is a major opportunity to create a monster matchup with the Cowboys in prime time on Oct. 19.
The Cowboys might be the most exciting team in the NFL, but through two weeks Murray looks like the most exciting player.
The kind of player who can keep Arizona in the NFC West race and keep himself in the MVP race with Mahomes and Jackson.
Who can argue with that trend right now?