Los Angeles Rams

49ers will have hands full with Kyler Murray for foreseeable future

kylermurrayap.jpg
AP

49ers will have hands full with Kyler Murray for foreseeable future

The 49ers got off to a winning start to the 2019 NFL season Sunday with a 31-17 road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately for San Francisco, nobody in the NFC West lost.

The LA Rams went into Carolina and earned a tough 30-27 win over the Panthers, and the Seahawks managed to hold on and beat the Cincinnati Bengals 21-20 in Seattle. Both of those results were somewhat expected, as the NFC West squads were favored in both matchups.

That can't be said for the Arizona Cardinals, who were underdogs at home against the Detroit Lions. They didn't win, but they didn't lose either, as Arizona erased an 18-point second-half deficit to stun Detroit on the way to a 27-27 tie.

While the Cardinals never got a chance to attempt a game-winning kick in overtime, they wouldn't have even reached that point if not for the heroics of their rookie quarterback.

Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, looked somewhat overmatched in the preseason, and that remained the case Sunday as Detroit built a 17-3 lead in the first half, over which he completed just 6 of 16 passes for 41 yards and zero touchdowns with one interception. The second half -- and especially the fourth quarter -- presented a different story.

After the Lions increased their lead to 24-6 just 13 seconds into the fourth quarter, Murray began to work his magic. His deft touch was on display, as he found running back David Johnson down the seam for the first touchdown pass of his career.

That cut the Cardinals' deficit to 24-16, and in the final minute of regulation, Murray pulled Arizona even to send the game into OT.

With first-and-goal at the Lions' 4-yard line, Murray rolled out to his right and found none other than the immortal Larry Fitzgerald for a touchdown to pull the Cardinals within two. 

Then, on the two-point conversion, Murray connected with Christian Kirk for the game-tying score.

Arizona got the ball to start overtime, and on the second play, Murray showed off his arm strength, finding Fitzgerald deep down the left side to set up a go-ahead field goal.

On each of those plays, you can see aspects of Murray's skill set that made him so appealing to Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals. Murray's athleticism is off the charts, he has great arm strength and accuracy, and as Week 1 showed, he also has a flair for the dramatic.

[RELATED: What we learned about 49ers in season-opening win over Bucs]

The 49ers' defense played a key role in their season-opening win, but moving forward, it sure looks like they'll have their hands full with Murray for many years to come.

Watch ex-49er Dekoda Watson make kid’s day with impromptu blocking lesson

Watch ex-49er Dekoda Watson make kid’s day with impromptu blocking lesson

"How you gonna block me?" 

In this case, former 49ers linebacker Dekoda Watson was being sincere. He was asking someone in a Rams uniform, just much smaller and younger than he's used to. 

Watson, now with the Broncos, asked a group of a Rams youth football team who on the team plays offensive line. One lucky player stepped up to the challenge. 

"There you go!" Watson encouraged the kid while youngster attempted to block the 245-pound linebacker.

[RELATED: 49ers RB Wilson makes 53-man roster decisions ever harder]

No matter what this young tyke does with football, he'll never forget stepping on a NFL field and going toe-to-toe with a pro. 

Watson, 31, spent the past two season with the 49ers where he suited up in 18 games.

Arden Key seeking advice from all sources to set up, finish Raiders sacks

Arden Key seeking advice from all sources to set up, finish Raiders sacks

Arden Key ran straight at Rams offensive tackle Bobby Evans, broke inside and then quickly popped back out. The Raiders edge rusher caught his man off balance, and then he looped right around him for an easy sack during Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Rams at the Coliseum.

Key’s pass-rush was expertly executed, from setup to sack, and celebrated appropriately by the second-year pass rusher.

Evans never stood a chance on that play, and it was Andrew Whitworth’s fault.

Key asked the three-time All-Pro for some advice after Rams-Raiders joint practices in Napa days before the game, and then used it against Whitworth’s teammate.

Whitworth helped Key specifically because, as we all know, Tiger blood runs deep.

“I sought him out,” Key said after the Raiders 14-3 win in the preseason opener. “That’s LSU family right there.”

Whitworth’s main point during these post-practice interactions: Key can tip his pitches.

“We talked the two days we were playing up in Napa and practicing with them,” Key said. “They were telling me something about my rush moves, about how I’m giving it up early. Run at him, and then last second, just do your move.”

That sure looks like what the LSU alumni are discussing here.

Now take a look at Key’s sack. Doesn't it look like he’s following Whitworth’s instructions?

Key always has had the talent and athleticism to be a high-end pass rusher. He just needs proper instruction to get there. He got it in a small dose from Whitworth. Defensive line coach Brenston Buckner has provided steady servings of insight to develop this athletic freak.

Key had to do some physical work this offseason, gaining the strength and size required for opponents to respect power moves. That has helped him apply what others are teaching.

“I got a little stronger, which helps with the bull rush, and now that’s my [baseline] move,” Key said. “So much of the credit goes to ‘Buck.’ I’m really starting to use my hands now. Last year, I didn’t use hands at all. I was using my shoulder and a lot of forearm. If I can use my hands to keep guys off me, I can make moves and use my bend and length and things of that sort.”

Key essentially was on his own last year. He thought Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin would mentor him, but Mack got dealt and Irvin got cut around midseason. He was playing more than he should’ve and giving maximum effort, without many positive results.

“Being a rookie, everything was fast and I put pressure on … all the rookies put pressure on themselves because we were part of Gruden’s first draft class,” Key said. “Things just didn’t go as planned, and we put pressure on ourselves. Now, it’s not a lot of pressure.”

We know all about last year's missed sacks. Key has moved on from that, focused not only on making plays in front of him but creating them as well. He seeks out professional knowledge from all sources, coaches, teammates and opponents alike.

[RELATED: What AB reportedly said to Carr upon return to Raiders camp]

Buckner has said Key at times got beat before the snap, with opponents aware of exactly what he was going to do. Now Key sees several routes to the same backfield, with several variations based on how an opponent reacts

“I have learned more about how to set people up this offseason, using the bull rush as a foundation,” Key said. “You do that enough times, and then you change it up at an important times. That’s when I can get around the edge or bust inside, because he’s thinking one thing and I’m doing another.”