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The Setup
Last week, Carson Palmer (nursing a "dead" nerve in his arm) returned to action and (aided by 4 turnovers) led the Cards to a 30 - 20 win over Washington. Meanwhile, Oakland's Derek Carr passed for a TD in each quarter but the Raidiz - who played the Chargers dead-even for 3 quarters - finally succumbed in a 31 - 28 squeaker. Oakland suffered their 11th consecutive loss to go 0 & 5 so far this season. The Cards are sitting on top of the NFC at 4 & 1. A win by the Raiders would get them off the proverbial schneid. "
A win by the Cards would represent one less loss that could otherwise keep us out of the playoffs at the end of the season.

The Lede
Cards run to victory with a 24 - 13 win over the Raiders.

The Bottom Line:
We traveled to The Land of Halloween Costumes and emerged victorious. Head Coach Bruce Arians built this week's offfensive game-plan around his running backs. (By my count, RB's Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor had 43 touches between them). The Cards built a 14 - 0 lead early in the second half, but - as they've done in the past - squandered most of that lead right before haltime (giving up a 55 yard home run to B Butler - who outran Rashad Johnson - and a a 24-yard interception by Woodson that set up a 29-yard field goal by Janikowski). Raiders trotted to the locker-room only down three-points (14 - 10) instead of fourteen (14 - 0).

Coach Arians is said to place significant value on locker room adjustments at halftime and seizing momentum and setting the tone for the remainder of the game. The Cards received but were unable to sustain a scoring drive- the Cards punted from their 46, and it was Oakland that scored first. On their first possession, Janikowski chalked up 3-points with a FG from 53-yards out making it a one point (14 - 13) game with 7:17 left in the third quarter.

But the Cards responded with an 8-play drive that was 100% Ellington until Cardinal RB took himself out of the game before the final play of the drive to give Stepfan Taylor a shot at a TD. (Taylor obliged with a tough tackle-busting 4-yard off-tackle TD-run to regain an 8 point (21 - 13) third-quarter lead). The defense then stiffened and held the Raiders at bay for the remainder of the game. The Cards iced the win with a 41-yard Catanzaro field goal on the final play of a 12-play (6:53 minute) drive (sustained by a 22-yard completion over the middle by Smoke Brown who - despite being blasted into oblivion by B Ross - hung onto the ball. The Raiders were down to their last 0:29 seconds. Nada. Game over.

Game Recap

1st Quarter
  • Raiders received. Carrie returned the KO to the Oakland 14 where he was upended by Bethel. Cards held Carr to 3 & out. Ginn muffed (but recovered) the punt. Cards started from their own 42 but only managed to reach the Raider 40 before failing to make it on 4th down. Raiders took over at their own 40. Card defense held them to 3 & out . Punt was downed at the Cardinal 12. Palmer then put together an 11-play TD drive, with Taylor scoring on a pass in the right flat where he somehow kept his knee from hitting the ground as he dove over the goal line. Other key play: Ellington turned a pass in the right flat into a 37-yard catch & run. Cards 7 - Oakland 0.

  • TB on the KO. Raiders managed to pick up a 1st down and reach their own 44 to end the quarter. 1st Quarter Score: Cards 7 - Oakland 0.

2nd Quarter
  • Cards stifled the Raider drive and King's punt was fair caught by Ginn at the Cardinal 14. Despite a 19-yard (short-left) catch & run by Smoke Brown, the Cards (crippled by a 12 yard-sack of Palmer) couldn't move past their own 31 and Butler's punt was returned (net a 10-yard penalty) to the 15-yard line. A 9-yard sack by Foote contributed to a Raider 3 & out. King's punt was downed at midfield. Four plays later, Palmer hit Michael Floyd on a deep pass down the left sideline. The Cardinal receiver outfought his Oakland defender and bulled his way into the end zone for a touchdown. (This is a point in the game where we had the opportunity to break this game wide open...but we didn't). Cardinals 14 - Oakland 0.

  • Carrie returned the KO to the Oakland 21. On the fifth play from scrimmage, B Butler got behind Rashan Johnson and beat him deep for 55 yards to set up a one-yard McFadden TD off right guard. Cardinals 14 - Raiders 7.

  • TB on the KO. 1:56 till halftime. One the third play of the series, Palmer's deep pass rebounded off the arms of Carlson and was picked off by Woodson who returned it 30-yards to the Cardinal 13. Janikowski' kicked a FG from 29-yards with 0:49 on the clock. End of scoring for the half. Our lead was cut to just 4-points. Cardinal 14 - Oakland 10.

First Half Score: Cards 14 - Oakland 10

3rd Quarter
  • We received. TB on the KO. Card drive stalled at their own 46. Butler's punt was returned to the Oakland 16. (Instead of posting a score on our opening 2H drive to regain the momentum, we gave the ball to Oakland who narrowed our lead even farther - Carr dinked and dunked his team (with no gain over 15 yards) down to the Cardinal 35 on a 9 play drive where Janikowski's big leg prevailed from 53-yards out. It was now a one-point contest. Cardinals 14 - Oakland 13.

  • TB on the KO. (Make or breaak time). This drive was all Ellington: Off right tackle for +7. Off leff tackle for +5. Defensive interference on a deep throw to Ellington. A short pass left to Ellington for +16. Ellington off right tackle for +4. Ellington off right tackle for +13. Then Ellington off left guard for +5. And, finally, Ellington over right tackle for +6. He then took himself out of the game to give Stepfan Taylor a chance to score. Taylor did just that and powered his way into the end zone from 4 yards out, re-widening our lead to 8. Cardinals 21 -- Oakland 13.

  • TB on the KO. An early 18-yard completion to J Jones (over Jefferson) helped Oakland move to midfield, but their drive stalled and King's punt was fair-caught by Ginn at the Cardinal 13 to end the quarter.

Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 21 - Oakland 13.

4th Quarter
  • Cards drained 5:01 off the clock on 8 plays before Butler's punt was returned to the Raider 15. After Carr hit Holmes (over Cromartie) for +18, Oakland couldn't make it past their own 34. King's punt was returned by Ginn to the Cardinal 27 with 7:22 left to play. Arians continued to dish up healthy portions of Ellington (6-touches) and Taylor (4-touches) on a 12-play drive that took 6:53 off the clock and was capped by a 41-yard Catanzaro FG to widen the Cardinal lead to11-points with just 0:29 on the clock. Key play was a 22-yard strike to Smoke Brown on a 3rd & 15 for a drive-sustaining first down. (Brown managed to hang onto the ball surviving a vicious hit by the Oakland defender). Cardinals 24 - Oakland 13.

  • 0:29 left. KO (net a holding call) gave Oakland the ball at their own 10. Carr hit McFadden on the sideline for +2 and then dumped it off to Holmes who ran it out of bounds for +13 yards as time ran out.

Final Score: Cardinals 30 - Washington 20.

Game Stats
Relative success of the Cardinal running game coupled with a defense that (with one exception - the Butler TD) - denied Oakland benefit of big plays) contributed to a Time of Possession edge of +13:54. Underrated stat of the game: Third Down Conversions. Cards converted 5 more third downs (60%) than did the Raiders (33%).

  • Passing Efficiency: Palmer completed 22 for 31 throws for 253 yards, 2 TD's and one interceptions (the first pick thrown by a Cardinal this season).

  • Run Game: (Ignore the AP report that Ellington ran for 160 yards). Andre ran 24 times for a respectable 88 yards. Taylor tacked on another 40. Cards ran the ball 37 times for 123-yards.

  • Receiving: Ellington led Cardinal receivers with 6 catches for 72 yards (with his longest gain 37). Fitz was next up with 4 catches for 21-yards. Michael Floyd caught 3 passes (including the jump-ball win down the left sideline that he turned into a 33-yard TD. Taylor caught a couple (including one for a TD).
  • Defense: We held Oakland to 56 rushing yards on 19 carries.

  • Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: For the first time in recent history - very run-heavy with 37 runs/22 passes .

  • Sacks: Palmer was sacked once for minus-11. We got to Carr once (by Foote for minus-9).

  • Leading Cardinal Tacklers: It was really spread around - Foote led the team with 4 tackles followed by four players with 3 tackles and six with 2 tackles.

  • Field Goals: Catanzaro went 2 for 2 and remains perfecto over 6 games..

  • Turnover Ratio: +1. No fumbles. The one interception of Palmer near the end of the 2nd quarter.

  • Penalties: 6 for 43 yards (Oakland was penalized 8 tmes for 74).

  • 3rd Down Efficiency: 9 for 15 (60%). Raiders were 4 for 12 (33%)

  • Time of Possession: Us - 36:57/Them - 23:03

Bright Spots

  • Palmer's play was consistent with his performance a week ago (i.e. the arm appears to be mending OK).

  • The RB-oriented offense overall.

  • Taylor's tackle-breaking power on his TD run.

  • The catches by Floyd and (Smoke) Brown.

  • We just weren't going to allow Oakland runners to gain more than a couple of yards a pop against our very stingy defense.

  • Few defensive standouts, but: Acho batted down a pass at a critical time. The Badger stepped up to make a key tackle. Foote apparently drank from the Fountain of Youth and had our only sack.

  • Catanzaro (2 for 2) continues his perfect record.

  • Draining nearly 12-minutes on our final 2 4th quarter possessions.

The Dark Side

  • We still seem to struggle running wide left where the right side of our OL (Massie ?!$@?) pulls to the left.

  • Giving 10 points in the final 2:00 or so of the first half.

  • Not scoring on our first 2nd-half possession.

  • A couple of dropped 3rd down passes.

  • Matching up Rashad Johnson solo with a speedy WR probably isn't such a good idea.

  • One on one tackling wasn't its usual "money in the bank" self.

Last Word:
I'm not sure which kind of games give me the most agita: Games we're supposed to win (because of the unecessary holes we'd did our way into)? Or Games we're supposed to lose (with the possibility of being embarrassed like we were in Denver)? Suggested answer: Both kinds (i.e. an "L" is an "L"). We were supposed to beat Oakland, and we did. It wasn't supposed to be easy, and it wasn't. But there's something to be said about winning the games you're supposed to win and then fighting like hell to win your fair share of intense, competitive battles against really good teams in order to reach the playoffs. The schedule doesn't get any easier - Philly (at home) followed by Dallas (away) followed by home games against the Rams, Lions and then the Seahawks in Seattle.

Unlike most NFL head coaches (who stress strategic consistency as a stepping-stone to developing a "personality" for their team), Coach Arians is said to favor tailoring each week's offensive game-plan to the team he is playing. In past weeks, the plan seemed to be to go after "chunk yardage" via the pass. It was pretty apparent that this week's game plan was to hand the leather over to our RB's (Ellington and, to a lesser extent, Taylor) either via hand-off or pass. It's unclear (at least to me) whether BA did this (a) because he felt it was the best way to beat the Raiders or (b) because he knows he'll need a potent running game later on in the season and felt he could get away with "practicing" this approach against a 0 & 5 opponent. Whatever the case, I think we came out of the Raider game a stronger team overall - first because our offense had 37 "real game" reps in the running game to learn from and, second, because we're one less loss away from blowing a playoff spot and (and one win closer to reaching the playoffs). Next up: The Iggles - at home. Go git 'em!

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012