Through practice and instinct, quarterback finds ways to stay untouched Darren Urban
The play that caught Justin Pugh's attention was Kyler Murray's touchdown run off a scramble.
After dodging Richard Sherman's diving tackle attempt, the quarterback slowed as he moved toward Jimmie Ward, who was closing in on Murray - only to have Murray change direction and speed away from Ward as he glided into the end zone untouched.
"There's not many guys who can accelerate like he can, but with the savvy he's starting to develop, he's going to be a problem," said Pugh, Murray's left guard.
What doesn't seem like it'll be a problem: Murray getting hit. And potentially hurt.
So much was said about Murray's stature and his ability to absorb NFL punishment when he was drafted by the Cardinals. Yet perhaps it was never considered - what if there isn't punishment to absorb?
"He has learned self-preservation on a level I've never seen on a football field," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
In San Francisco Sunday, Murray was open to hits on 53 plays: He had 11 rush attempts (actually 13, but the final two were kneeldowns to end the game), 40 pass attempts and was sacked twice. Of those 53 plays, he was actually hit by a defender only four times. Twice the 49ers were flagged for late hits after a Murray slide, but neither looked like they inflicted any real punishment (and Washington coach Ron Rivera said on his conference call he thought both flags were not penalties.)
Two other times he was tackled by his undershirt or jersey with no real harm, including one of the sacks. (The other sack was in name only after Murray slid short of the line of scrimmage.)
On one of the two hits that seemed the hardest - Nick Bosa delivering both after Murray had released a pass - Murray seemed to sidestep his way out of any serious harm. The other, Bosa took Murray to the ground.
The quick passes the Cardinals often employ help keep Murray untouched. But it's the way Murray maneuvers in tighter quarters that is the impressive part of the equation, with a few times with tacklers all around against the 49ers where he managed to get down to the ground without incident.
"Obviously no quarterback likes to get hit," Murray said. "When I am running, I'm trying to evade people and try and get as much yardage as I possibly can (and) also diagnose if there is a possibility I can take it all the way. There is a lot that goes through my mind when I take off. But it is instinctual (too), it's not like I'm sitting there thinking about all this in my head, making me play slow."
He also smartly doesn't let his competitive spirit cloud his judgment. He said there wasn't one time he felt the need to fight for any extra yards Sunday that would have compromised staying clean on a play.
"The best compliment I can give Kyler in his running ability is he knows how to not take hits," running back Chase Edmonds said. "I think he had 13 carries and I think he got tackled one time Sunday. If he is going to continue toting the ball 13 times and only hit one time, it's no problem at all."
News came from Washington Wednesday that Murray's former college teammate and last year's Panthers foil from Scottsdale - quarterback Kyle Allen - was serving as the Murray stand-in on the WFT scout team this week.
It's fair to say Allen will have a difficult time replicating what Murray might actually show the Washington Football Team.
"He gives me anxiety," Rivera said.
Normally, a quarterback exposing himself that much would give both head coaches anxiety. But Kingsbury has no worries about his QB after watching him sidestep trouble for a season plus one game.
"The way he can feel things, get down, protect himself, is really unique, but it's been practiced his entire football career and he takes pride in that," Kingsbury said. "He knows how valuable he's been to his team over his football career and he can't take any extra hits."