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What We Learned From Week 13 in the N.F.L.

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A rested Kyler Murray dazzled against the Bears, the Chargers went for broke to beat the Bengals, and the Lions finally won one.
Kyler Murray dazzles in his own unpredictable way. Sure, there are other N.F.L. quarterbacks who thrill. Lamar Jackson’s runs tempt defenses to forget the threat of his arm. Patrick Mahomes fuses multiple sports in his interpretation of the position. Josh Allen and Justin Herbert’s accuracy on shockingly long throws invigorate. But no one zigs and zags and zigs again with such mesmerizing abandon as Murray, the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback. His mostly flawless performance on Sunday in a 33-22 win against the Chicago Bears, in which he had two passing touchdowns and two running touchdowns, provided Week 13’s clearest takeaway: The urge to hurry Murray, a 5-foot-10,207-pound turbine, back onto the field from an ankle injury that had kept him out after Week 8 had to be overwhelming for the Cardinals. This is the same team that started 5-2 in 2020 only to free-fall to 8-8 and miss the playoffs. With Murray, Arizona had a seven-game win streak to start the season. Without him, the team was 2-1, losing to the Carolina Panthers and playing the reeling Seattle Seahawks a bit too close on the road. Perhaps no head coach’s seat was hotter than Kliff Kingsbury’s entering the season, and in a cutthroat division, the N.F.C. West, sitting Murray through November could have started a second-half spiral that pointed fingers at the coach. But the Cardinals (10-2) resisted rushing Murray back, and while other quarterbacks battle pinkie toe injuries (Aaron Rodgers), pinkie finger injuries (Joe Burrow) and everything in between, Murray looked reinvigorated in his return. There was no rust. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins was also back from a hamstring injury, and he and Murray wasted no time reconnecting. On fourth-and-2, four minutes into the game, Murray laced a 20-yard strike to Hopkins in stride for a touchdown catch. As a runner, Murray did not appear to nurse his ankle. On third-and-goal on the very next drive, with Bears defensive end Robert Quinn breathing down his neck, Murray took off for a 9-yard touchdown run. This score was quintessential Murray, too, freezing the Bears (4-8) with a pump fake and a stutter step on that ankle to get to the pylon. In the second half, Murray’s third-and-1 scramble for 14 yards — again taking off with no qualms — led to a field goal that gave the Cardinals a 24-7 lead. And the Cardinals put the Bears away with 6 minutes 23 seconds left on Murray’s second touchdown run. He brilliantly held his mesh point on a run fake until the last moment to freeze defensive end Trevis Gipson before pulling the ball and whip-snapping into the end zone.

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