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After winning their first 2 games of the season with victories over San Diego and Tennessee, the Texans reeled off 6 straight losses (to Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis, Kansas City and Indy). The Cards had beaten Atlanta to reach .500 (4 & 4) before heading into their Bye Week. But they face a Houston team that's better than their record indicates (one announcer referred to them as "the best 2 & 6 team in professional football), and couldn't afford to take the Texans lightly..
Cards Hang On to Edge Texans
The Bottom Line:
True The Cards followed a familiar pattern, albeit with one major variation. Instead of stinking up the joint in the 1Q and dominating in the 2H to win the game (or at least come close), this time the Cardinals opened the game with a huge defensive play that earned them a 7 - 0 first quarter advantage only to squander it in the second quarter before taking over the game in the 2H and hanging on to barely beat the Texans. (There will be nay-sayers who'll claim that the Cards wilted in the fourth quarter, but in reality, they fell victim to one miscue (a fumble by Mendenhall on their 5-yard line with a 10 point lead and under 5:00 left on the clock) and one "tip your hat to a Hall of Fame play" (when Andre Johnson stole the ball from Patrick Peterson and dragged both feet inside the end zone) for a TD that narrowed the Cardinal lead to 3-points. Take away those two plays and the Cardinals totally dominated the second half. (Of course, you can't take away the two plays - they happened and they almost beat us. But, then too, we came away with a victory that makes us 5 & 4. How about that)!
Houston received and returned the KO to their own 15. On the first play from scrimmage, Abraham sacked Keenum for a 7-yard loss and stripped away the ball, which was scooped up by Shaughnessy and returned the final 6-yards for a Cardinal TD. (How 'bout that)! Cards 7 - Texans 0.
KO was returned to the Houston 28. A delay of game call contributed to a Houston 3 & out. Lechler's 53-yard punt was returned by Peterson (who lost ground trying to backtrack wide) to the Cardinal 13.Cards were held to 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Cardinal 49. Short passes to G Jones (+19) and Posey (+12) helped set up a 7-yard scoring pass from Keenum to Johnson.Cards 7 - Texans 7.
TB on the KO. Completions to Roberts (for +19) and Floyd (+11) helped bring the Cards into Houston territory (at their 41) but the drive stalled and Zastudil's punt was downed by T Williams at the Houston 1-yard line. Texans went 3 & out. Peterson returned the punt 8 yards to the Cardinal 42. A completion to Floyd and an 8-yarder to Roberts moved the ball to the Houston 29 as the quarter ended. First Quarter Score: Cardinals 7 - Texans 7.
False start flag on Winston. A 15-yard completion to Ballard moved us to the Houston 12, where Palmer hit Housler for a TD.Cardinals 14 - Texans 7.
TB on the KO. Houston's first four plays gained +14, +18, +6 and +12 yards. After an imcompletion, they reeled off 4 more consecutive gains of +7, +14, +7 and the final 2-yard gain, a TD completion from Keenum to R Griffin. Cardinals 14 - Texans 14.
An illegal block in the back flag on Jaron Brown on the subsequent KO bottled us up on our own 4 yard line. On the second play from scrimmage Palmer's deep pass intended for Housler was picked off by Swearinger. Houston ball at the Cardinal 45. They managed to move to our 30, where the Texans settled for a 48-yard Bullock FG to take the lead. Texans 17 - Cardinals 14.
TB on the KO. Another false start flag on Winston and an offensive pass interference call on Fitz forced the Cards to punt from their own 42. Zastudil's 57-yard punt went O-O-B at the Houston one-yard line. 3:28 left on the clock. Under tremendous pressure, Keenum intentionally grounded the ball twice (but was only called on it once), but Houston was forced to punt from their own 27. Lechler punted 62 yards to the Cardinal 11. Peterson returned it 22 yards to the Cardinal 33. Three plays later (with 0:43 on the ticker), Palmer was sacked for a 7-yard loss by Watt who then recovered Carson's fumble. Bullock's 40-yard FG attempt 4 plays later was blocked by Justin Bethel to end the quarter. (We wouldn't know till later how important that FG block would turn out to be). Halftime Score: Texans 17 - Cardinals 14.
Cards received. TB on the KO. Cards held to 3 & out. Penalty on the punt pushed Houston back to its own 16 and a penalty forced them into a 3 & out. Lechler's 55-yard punt was returned by PP21 to the Cardinal 41. Cards started out with three straight plays out of the Wildcat, with Ellington taking the direct snap and either handing off or faking to Peterson. Drive stalled at the Houston 16, where Feely tied up the game with a 35-yard FG. Texans 17 - Cardinals 17.
G Jones returned the KO to his own 22. On the first play from scrimmage, Abraham sacked Keenum for minus-10 to set upa 3 & out. Lechler's 60-yard punt was returned 14-yards by Peterson. Cards started off from their own 38. A diving catch deep over the middle by Housler gained 26-yards to the Houston 5, but the Cards couldn't push it in and had to settle for Feely's 21-yard FG one KO play before the end of the quarter. Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 20 - Texans 17.
After Jones returned the KO to the Houston 23, they managed to punch it out to their own 42 before Rucker and 3 other Cardinals sacked Keenum for an impressive minus-23 yards. Lechler punted from his own 19. Punt was for 65 yards & returned by PP21 to the Cardinal 33. 4 of the first 6 plays from scrimmage were runs by Mendenhall or Taylor (with a couple of short completions for +9 and +11) mixed in. A 19-yard TD completion to Roberts (who got behind coverage down the right side-line) opened up a 10-point Cardinal lead. Cardinals 27 - Texans 17.
6:42 still left to hang onto a 10-point lead. KO was returned to the Houston 17. They managed to get to their own 39 before Lechler was forced to punt - this one for 56 yards where it was downed at the Cardinal 5-yard line with 4:46 left to run out the clock. (Memo to File - When Palmer has the ball inside his own 10-yard line, be very very afraid). But this time it wasn't Palmer - a very conservative running play up the middle resulted in a Mendenhall fumble (Watts again)! One play later, Keenum hit Johnson (who out-leaped and stole the ball from Peterson while keeping both feet in the end zone) for a 5-yard score.Cardinals 27 - Texans 24.
Yechh! Three-point game with 4:34 still left to play.Arenas ran the KO back to his own 18. Six plays used up the remaining 2 Houston time outs and 2:23 worth of clock-time. Zastudil's 36-yard punt was fair caught at the Houston 17. 2:06 left to play. After an initial 11-yard completion to Hopkins, the Cards put pressure on Keenum and the string ran out when he threw an incompletion on a 4th & 3 at his own 35. Two knees later, the game was history. (It shouldn't have been that close, but we'll take it).Final Score: Cardinals 27 - Texans 24.
We don't have the first-half/second half splits, but I believe we held the Texans to something like 28 yards on the ground for the 3rd quarter and much of the 4th quarter.
Cards held Keenum to 22 completions in 43 attempts for 201 yards, but he threw 3 TD passes and no picks.
Palmer went 20 for 32 for 241 yards, 2 TD's and an interception.
Mendenhall carried the ball 13 times (for 42 yards). Ellington carried 11 times for 55-yards.
Roberts was our leading receiver with 5 catches and a TD. Housler was second with 4 grabs (including one for a TD). Fitz was held to 3 catches.
Run to Pass ratio was 32 (pass) to 27 (run) (Two Palmer runs for his life don't count).
We lost 3 turnovers (an interception and fumbles by Mendy and Carson).
Palmer was only sacked once. (He was "Watts'd"). Our defense racked up 3 sacks and 3 tackles for losses. Abraham was credited with 2 sacks (It could very easily have been 3). Rucker was given one.
DWash led the team in tackles with 8 followed by Dansby and Mathieu with 7 apiece.
Third Down Efficiency was back down to 3 of 10.
We gained 97 net-yards rushing.
Lechler's punting average was a misleading 48.3 YPP - but check out the play by play log; he was consistently booming them for 55 - 60 yards.
Time of Possession was pretty close: Cards 31:08; Houston 28:52.
Typical Cardinal football game, with outstanding defense and ST's to allow the offense to just be relatively "ordinary."
The OL and other blockers only allowed one sack.
Justin Bethel does it again.
Ellington still averaged 5.0 YPC
We held Houston to 76 running yards and 3.6 YPC (well below Tate's usual average). Even when a Houston RB would find a hole to run through, we seldom if ever allowed him to break anything wide open in the secondary.
Impressive group-work on the pass rush.
Housler finally had close-to a break out game. And welcome to the TE club, Ballard.
We did a nice job of using the run to tire out Watt and divert undue attention from Palmer.
The Dark Side
Rashard "Butter Fingers" Mendenhall.
As good as PP21 can be, he tends to lose as many jump ball battles as he wins and, frankly, is the beneficiary of the consistent pressure we put on opposing QB's to make them throw early or erratically. (We love him, but do feel some of his press-clippings are overhyped. He still has a way to go before he can come close to being the next Deon Sanders).
The good news is that Palmer is consistent. The bad news is that he'll still consistently put the game at risk when he comes under pressure and can't operate "by the book."
It's one thing to get beaten like a drum by an All Pro like Watt, but there's no reason why Winston can't avoid false-start penalties (especially when he's not before a loud enemy crowd).
We did what we had to do and are now 5 & 4. Niners are only one game ahead of us (& we get to play them one more time).
Next up a road game, but it's against the Jaguars and definitely winnable (just so long as we don't take them likely - thank goodness they won their first game and we don't have to worry about being "those guys" who were responsible for breaking their losing streak). We're at that point in the season where we're beginning to play more consistently in all facets and can better understand (& trade on) our own strengths and weaknesses. If we play to our strengths and work to improve our weaknesses, we should have close to fair country chance of winning 5 of our remaining 7 games and winding up 10 & 6. (It will take hard work and a little luck, but we've now got a realistic shot).