Ready to celebrate their eighth win of the season, the Bills left the desert in disbelief after Hopkins pulled down Murray’s 43-yard pass with 2 seconds left to give the Cardinals an improbable 32-30 victory on Sunday.
“It was like a Mike Tyson haymaker,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. “It hurt.”
After going up 23-9 in the third quarter, Buffalo (7-3) let Murray and the Cardinals roar back to take a three-point lead. The Bills seemingly had the game in hand when Josh Allen hit Stefon Diggs on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left.
Turned out, they left too much time for Murray and Arizona (6-3).
Starting their own 25-yard line, the Cardinals picked off small chunks of yards to reach Buffalo’s 43-yard line. The clock wound down quickly as they did it, though, leaving enough time for perhaps two more plays.
With 11 seconds left, Murray appeared as if he was going to try hitting a quick throw to give the Cardinals time for one last shot at the end zone.
A big Buffalo rush up the middle changed those plans.
Murray had hurt the Bills with his legs all afternoon, extending plays, rushing for 61 yards and two touchdowns. With much bigger defenders bearing down, the 5-foot-10 quarterback wheeled to the left, dodged Bills defensive end Mario Addison’s tackle attempt and headed toward the sideline.
Murray won the 2018 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and his speed and arm strength have translated just fine to the NFL.
After using his legs to get free against the Bills, Murray squared up just before reaching the sideline and winged a pass over an outstretched arm just before hitting the ground. The ball sailed into the desert air, arching toward Hopkins, Arizona’s go-to receiver after he was traded from Houston in the offseason and signed to a long-term contract extension.
Buffalo safety Micah Hyde set up behind Hopkins. cornerback Tre’Davious White in front and Poyer collapsed in late.
Amid a sea of three white jerseys and six arms, Hopkins got his massive mitts — measured 10 inches at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine — on the ball, pulled it to his body and completed the catch as he went to the ground.
“As coaches, you always wonder what you could have done differently,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “At the end of the day, they had two special players make a special play.”
Hyde was on the Green Bay sideline when Aaron Rodgers completed a tying Hail Mary against Arizona in a 2016 playoff game.
That ended in defeat when the Cardinals won in overtime.
This one did, too, and may have been tougher to take.
“I’ve kind of been on both sides of the spectrum here in Arizona,” said Hyde, who played for the Packers from 2013-16. “And this one doesn’t feel good.”
The Hail Mary is one of the most difficult plays in football to pull off. Over the past 10 seasons, just 9.7% of NFL Hail Mary tries were completed, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Between Murray’s legs and arm and Hopkins’ hands, the Cardinals had pulled it off, the NFL’s first go-ahead Hail Mary since Rodgers found Richard Rodgers to beat Detroit in 2015 — the same season he completed the Hail Mary against the Cardinals.
It was the latest go-ahead pass from the Cardinals since Josh McCown hit Nate Poole on a 28-yard touchdown as time expired against Minnesota in 2003.
The Cardinals swarmed Hopkins in joy after the catch. The Bills sat stunned in defeat.
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