SEATTLE -- Heading into Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback Kyler Murray was "really close" to playing for the first time since he sprained his left ankle on Oct. 28. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy still practiced all week just in case he was needed.
McCoy was needed -- for the third straight game -- and the result was one of the best performances of his career, leading Arizona to a 23-13 win. McCoy completed 79.5% of his 44 attempts for 328 yards -- the third most of his career -- and two touchdowns. Most importantly, the 35-year-old McCoy has gone 2-1 in place of Murray, with both wins coming against NFC West rivals.
"He was tremendous," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Sunday.
"Well, to be honest, it's just my responsibility," McCoy said. "That's how I see it. I came here to be a part of this team and this group, and when your number is called, that's my role."
Sunday's performance proved McCoy can rebound, too, after last week's dismal blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers. That loss marinated inside McCoy, and he and Kingsbury put together a "great plan" that included a lot of quick throws and run-pass options.
McCoy played with the poise and patience of a quarterback who's in his 12th season and showed off a complete repertoire of skills. He scrambled when needed, at times looking like Murray, and completed passes on the move, like he did in the fourth quarter when he covered 33.99 yards after scrambling to his right and then backtracking to his left before completing a pass to tight end Zach Ertz.
Any -- and all -- of McCoy's scrambles weren't surprises to his teammates. Wide receiver A.J. Green said they see it every day in practice.
"People underestimate how athletic he is," Green said.
McCoy also made big-time throws from the pocket, like the 31-yard pass to Green on third-and-5 in the second quarter. Kingsbury gave McCoy the same freedoms at the line of scrimmage as he does Murray. And now, even without Murray for three games, Arizona has a league-best 9-2 record and a 4-0 mark in the NFC West heading into their bye.
"To be in his role, come in and get two division road wins, against those teams like he did and play as efficiently as he did, you can't ask for anything more," Kingsbury said. "His leadership all week, the way he carries himself, it was awesome. All those guys, you can see how they play. They have a ton of confidence when he comes in that game."
McCoy has been doing everything for the Cardinals on and off the field. At one point during Sunday's game, one of right tackle Kelvin Beachum's shoes came untied. McCoy jumped down to tie it. Last week, McCoy saw outside linebacker Chandler Jones working on his moves and approached him. He told Jones he wasn't sure if he should say anything but told the three-time Pro Bowler that he was a "closer" and needed to stop thinking, just play and go get sacks.
McCoy was right. Jones took the advice to heart and had two sacks Sunday.
"I feel like it takes a lot for someone -- I just met Colt this year -- for someone to step out and have those words of encouragement to someone you know but you really don't know," Jones said. "It means a lot."
Whether it's with his words or his play, McCoy has embodied what a quarterback should be -- and winning didn't hurt, either.
"Colt's a great leader, first and foremost," Ertz said. "He's been in the league a long time and understands the locker room, he understands what guys want to do. And he's seen all the looks. There's nothing a defense can do that that guy hasn't seen before, whether he was playing, whether he's been studying film over his past -- however many years he's been in the league, he's seen it.
"He's always confident, he's always calm. Nothing's going to rattle him. So, the past ... three weeks have been fun with him, just being able to see what he can do. I think everyone knew what a great mentor he'd be for Kyler, but he's a great football player, and people should never take that for granted."