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After getting lit up by the Rams, the Colts had come back to beat the Titans 30 - 27 after trailing 14 - 0 in the first quarter in a Thursday night contest which gave them 3-day midweek preparation advantage over the Cardinals (who followed up a narrow win over the Texans with a decisive away victory over the Jaguars). We viewed this as one of those "identity games" - Were we good enough athletically to compete with a team like the 7 & 3 Colts? Were we ready? If there ever was a game where the Cardinals needed to bring their "A" game 100% of the time, it was this one.
7 & 4 would sure look a whole lot better than 6 & 5.
Cards Paste 40-Burger on Colts.
The Bottom Line:
The Cardinals came out of the tunnel in Glendale with all guns blazing, opened up a commanding early lead and didn't take their foot off the pedal until they could see half the 4th quarter in their rear view mirror. Carson Palmer was on fire. Mendy was white-hot. Floyd once again was lights-out. The O-Line played near flawless football and gave Palmer time to do a multiplicity of things. The defense throttled Indy runners, Richardson and Brown, put unrelenting pressure on Andrew Luck and covered his top receiving options (Hilton and Fleener) like tight-fitting girdles. If there was one thing worth nit-picking about, it was the number of penalties chalked up by the Cards on both sides of the ball. (Fortunately, the Cardinals played so well that they could shrug off those penalties like a hound dog sheds water, but they can't expect to do this every week - those penalties will come back to bite them in the butt in the future). But - to answer the identity question posed earlier - "Yes, we're good enough to run with the Big Dawgs. Yes, we can put good teams away with the season on the line." But still to be answeredis: "Can we do it again next week and the following weeks? Can play at this high level consistently enough to overcome a hellacious remaining schedule that includes the Eagles and our 3 division rivals? Right now, in the aftermath of a big win, the Cards are receiving a lot of love from the national media. Let's hope we can keep winning so that we can enjoy that love for more than a day or two.
Cards received. Touchback on the KO. Palmer mixed runs and short passes to set up a 4-yard TD completion to Fitzgerald. we found out early we could run the ball. Five plays in the opening drive were running plays for +3, +15, +4, +3 and +12). Key play was a 20-yard Palmer-to-Housler hookup deep over the middle. Cards 7 - Colts 0.
TB on the KO. Cards held Colts to 3 & out. Punt returned (sans flag on J Brown) to the Card 24. Completiions to Mendenhall (24-yards), a pass interference call and a 13-yard run by Ellington moved the Cards to the Colt 10-where Feely's 28-yard FG attempt was blocked. Colts took over on their 20 and moved to the Cardinal 9-yard line in 8 plays (including a defensive holding call on Dansby and a P.I. flag on Peterson) before the drive stalled and Vinatieri was good from 27-yards. Cards 7 - Colts 3.
Touchback on the KO. A couple of Mendenhall runs (for +8 and +13) ended the quarter. . First Quarter Score: Cards 7 - Colts 3.
A double reverse during which Fitz gained +4 and a 29-yard completion to Floyd helped set up a 26 yard scoring pass - Palmer to Fitz. Cardinals 14 - Colts 3.
Touchback on KO. Cardsheld Colts to 3 & out. Punt (sans flag on Cason) gave Cards the ball at their own 32. Cards made it to the Colt 22, where Palmer was sacked by Mathis and settled for a 48-yard Feely FG. Cardinals 17 - Colts 3.
Touchback on the KO. On the second play from scrimmage, Lucks short pass for Fleener was tipped and picked off by Karlos "Sure Hands" Dansby, who ran it in (untouched by human hands) for a 22-yar score. Cardinals 24 - Colts 3.
KO was returned to the Colt 16. Card defense again held them to 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Cardinal 33. A sack by Jean-Francois (who then overcelebrated given the Colts' 21 point deficit) helped stall the Cardinals at the the Colt 47. Punt was returned to the Colt 12. Once again: 3 & out. Peterson returned the punt to his 49 with 1:49 left til halftime. Palmer dinked and dunked us to the Colt 32, where Feely was good from 50-yards out with 0:03 on the clock. Halftime Score: Cardinals 27 - Colts 3.
(A 24-point lead opening up the 2H is nice). KO was returned to the Colt 24. Luck moved to the Cardinal 36 in 9 plays where he failed to convert on 4th & 6 (Ah the benefits of playing with a lead)! Palmer mounted an 11-play drive capped by a pretty 5-yard slant-right TD run by Mendenhall. Cardinals 34 - Colts 3.
Colts returned the KO to their own 31 and went 3 & out (again). Peterson returned the punt to the Card 29. They reached the Colt 45 where Palmer was sacked by Jean-Francois (no dance this time) to end the quarter (with a 31 point lead!!!) Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 34 - Colts 3
Zastudil's punt was downed at the Indy 16 where Luck launched is only TD drive - it took 11-plays and used up 4:22 worth of clock. He hot Fleener deep for a 17-yard TD. Two-point conversion was good. Cardinals 34 - Colts 11.
Onside kick appeared to be recovered by the Colts but turned out to be touched before the required 10-yards. Cards took over at the Colt 39. A penalty on Dray nullfied a 6-yard Mendenhall TD run. Feely's 21-yard FG was good. Cardinals 37 - Colts 11
TB on the KO Colts failed to convert a 4th & 1 at their own 40. Cards took over with 5:57 left to play and managed to get to the Colt 7 before Feely kicked his final FG. Cardinals 40 - Colts 11
2:17 left. Colts ran Herron up the middle 4 straight times to end the game. Final Score: Cardinals 40 - Colts 11
Penalties were our single-most downer - (We had 9 - mostly in the 1H; they had 6).
Cards held Colt rushers to 80 yards on 15 carries.
Palmer completed 70.0% of his passes for 314 yards and 2 TD's. He had no interceptions (for the 2nd straight outing).
Mendenhall gained 54 yards on 13 carries and scored one TD. Ellington racked up 50 yards on 10 carries.
Palmer spread the ball around to 10 receivers, with Floyd leading the pack with 7 grabs for 104 yards followed by Fitz 95 catches for 52 yards and 2 Td's)., Housler and Fitz each had 6 grabs (with Floyd racking up 193 yards).
- Run to Pass ratio was 41 (pass) to 30 (run).
Turnovers - Cards were only +1 (the Dansby TD pick). There were no fumbles recovered or other interceptions made.
We sacked Luck once (shared by Campbell and Dockett). Palmer was sacked three times (twice by Francois, once by Marthis).
Dansby led Cardinal taclers with 5, followed by 5 other dudes (including Powers and Mathieu) who chalked up 4.
Third Down Efficiency We were 7 for 14 (50%). Colts were 5 for 13 (38%).
We dominated Time of Possession (again) 36:49 to 23:11.
We dominated a division leader who had had huge games against really good teams like Denver.
With few exceptions, Palmer was laser-accurate (especially on deep patterns and fades), completing 70+% of his passes )again) and had zero turnovers.
Mendenhall had holes to run thru and showed surprising speed to the edge. His best performance to date. Ellington continues to be consistently good at what he does
Floyd and Housler repeated their previous weeks' high level of performance.Fitz's 2 TD catches were works of art.
OL generally gave Palmer a clean pocket again.
Dansby finally hung onto one (& took it to the house).
Although the sack total doesn't reflect it, our defense (usually rushing just 4) kept Luck under consistent pressure.
Powers is covering tighter, defending better and not getting flagged for interference as much.
We trounced a very good football team and are 7 & 4, Baby!
The Dark Side
Too many early penalties - we got away with 9 this week, but that number of flags will cost us a future game.
We slacked off a wee bit 2/3 of the way thru the final quarter.
This morning on Mike & Mike, Greenberg, Golic and Jaws showed the Cards some love (i.e. "surprise team of the NFL", "didn't know they were that good", "playing really good football on both sides of the ball" yada yada. The fastest way out of the playoffs is to believe all this in its entirety. Sports guys tend to overreact "the day after." (We weren't as bad as we looked early in the year and we won't be as good as we looked vs. Indy until we show we can play at that high a level consistently).
It's nice to savor a big win over a very good team, but a bit unnerving realizing we face Philly...in the winter...at 1 pm ET (brunch time in AZ). In other words, we have to go right back out there and prove we're that good for another straight week. I think the trick will be to heed the coach's advice and avoid thinking too far ahead of ourselves. (i.e. don't worry about StL or Seattle or SF just yet, because if we don't beat Philly, the rest of those games are likely to be moot
. Just enjoy yesterday's win, focus on the next game and enjoy playing winning football.