The New England Patriots have had trouble with mobile quarterbacks both this season, and in years past.
That wasn’t the case Sunday as New England welcomed Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray to Gillette Stadium, eventually pulling out a surprising 20-17 victory in Week 12.
One week after the Patriots were shredded by Houston Texans signal-caller Deshaun Watson, and two weeks after facing run-first QB Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens, New England suffocated Murray.
Murray recorded just 31 rushing yards on five carries. This is the same quarterback who’s had as many as 14 rushing attempts and as many as 106 yards on the ground this season. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick entered Sunday averaging 62 rushing yards per game, double what New England allowed.
Well, what did the Patriots do to limit him?
“Yeah, I mean, they were just, obviously those zone-read opportunities, they were just playing me,” the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year told reporters postgame. “(They) made me hand it off. I mean, it is what it is. My read is to hand it off if they play me, and that’s what I had to do.”
The Patriots’ game plan was a method for success.
Murray’s six carries were the third fewest on the season while his 31 rushing yards tied for the third fewest of his season, as well. The Cardinals lost both games in which he had less against the Seattle Seahawks (five rushes, 15 yards) and Detroit Lions (five rushes, 29 yards).
“I don’t think I have to run for us to be successful. I’m very confident in our running backs. It just, it is what it is,” Murray said. “They (Patriots) chose to take me out of it, I got to hand the ball off. I can’t control the ball after that, I got to hand the ball off.”
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury noted how Murray was clearly the Patriots’ No. 1 focus, too.
“They definitely were keyed in on him running it,” Kingsbury told reporters after the loss. “(I) thought (Murray) made good decisions when to run it, was efficient in that, so I’d say that would be about it.”
The win moves the Patriots to 5-6, one week after their playoff hopes were almost certainly in the dust. It also drops the Cardinals to 6-5 in a loaded NFC West.