Cards looked lackluster in 2 consecutive preseason defeats, but no one was pressing the panic button just yet. The first two games were devoted to sorting out the pros, cons, roles and potential of each man on the 90-man roster. It's become a cliche that - because most starters play the entire first half (or the lions share of snaps therein), the "the 3rd game is the only important game of the preseason." Coach Arians has said that the game vs. the Texans will zero in on about 20 guys fighting for 8 roster spots.
5 Card Turnovers Fuel 34-24 Loss to Texans...
The Bottom Line:
It had all the earmarks of a blowout, with Carson Palmer and Matt Barkley handing the ball over to Houston at critical times and our defenders making their receivers look like superstars one on one. In terms of roster battles - We might consider keeping Barkley active...Golden has the edge at #6 WR (though we could trade one of our top 6 and keep Hubert or Shipley). Neither Bethel or B Williams are playing to pro standards, and Jenkins may be out with a serious injury.
Palmer threw a pick on his third play of the opening Cardinal possession, and Houston converted it into a TD five plays later. Cards came right back and rode the back of David Johnson on an 8 play TD drive to tie things up 7 to 7. It took Houston 9 plays to bounce back with a 44-yard Novak FG.to make it 10 -7 Texans. Palmer managed to reach the Houston 46 in 7 plays before the quarter ended but then gave up a Pick 6 when he threw one his patented "blind screens" into the hands pf J Simon who tipped & caught the ball and returned it 59 yards for a TD and a 17 - 7 lead. Palmer was hit in the head during the play and sidelined for the remainder of the game. Stanton replaced Palmer and Cards countered with a FG, but Houston came back twice with 2 TD's to ring up a 31- 10 first half lead.
Matt Barkley took over in the second half and engineered a 14 play 7:53 scoring drive capped by a 5-yard TD pass to Shipley The Card defense then held Houston to three & out, but on the first play of the ensuing Card possession, Barkley was sacked and coughed up the ball on the Card 4. Card defense stoned the Houston offense and the Texans surrendered the ball on downs. Barkley then engineered a 12-play drive that moved into the fourth quarter and hit Hubert for 43-yards and a TD to bring the Cards within 7 points of tying the game. Once again, the defense held the Texans to 3 & out, but two plays later, Barkley's pass to Golden over the middle sailed and was picked off by the Texans...But...but....but: 2 plays later, Weeden's pass was picked off by Hartfield and returned to the Cardinal 43 with 6:54 left. A sack of Barkley on the first play of the possession led to a 3 & out. The Cards stopped the Texans at the Houston 24 but Barkley's short pass to Penny was picked off and Houston iced the game with a 42-yard FG with 0:24 to play. Houston wound up winning by 10.
Elllington returned opening KO to the 19. On the 4th play from scrimmage, Palmer threw a pick off a tip by Wilfork. . Hal returned it to the Card 26. Five plays later, L Miller scored off LT from the 1-yd line. Houston 7 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. 8-play drive resulted in a 3-yard D Johnson TD. Johnson had five touches. Key play: 40-yard connection - Palmer to Fells. Houston 7 - Cards 7.
TB on the KO. Osweiler led his team on a 9-play drive capped by 1 44-yd Novak FG. Houston 10 - Cards 7.
Ellington returned KO to his own 23. Pamer led Cards to the Texan 46 to end the quarter.
1st Quarter Score: Houston 10 - Cards 7.
Card drive continued. But on the 3rd play of the quarter, Palmer threw a screen right into thre hands of Simons who returned the interception 59 yards for a Houston score. Palmer took a shot to the head. Out for rest of game. Houston 17 - Cards 7.
Ellington returned KO to his own 19. Stanton in for Palmer. He took the Cards to the Houston 49, but the 8 play drive ended with a Butler punt. Fair caught at Houston 16. Texans held to 3 & out. Ellington returned punt to Card 28. Stanton engineered a 10-play drive capped by a 33-yard Catanzaro FG. Houston 17 - Cards 10.
Ervin returned the KO 58 yards t the AZ 45. Four plays later, Osweiler hit Fuller (who beat Bethel) for a 26-yard TD. Houston 24 - Cards 10.
Ellington returned KO to his own 19. Cards held to 3 & out. Punt downed at the Houston 19. (1:56 left). Savage in for Osweiler. Ervin gained +11, Savage hit Ervin for +2-. Savage hit Mumphrfey (who?) for +31 and a couple of plays later, hit Strong (covered by Gunter !!!) for a 17-yard TD. Houston 31 - Cards 10.
Can you say "blowout")?.
First Half Score: Houston 31 - Cards 10.
KO returned to Houston 15. Lots of nickel & dime stuff. Lechler punted 60-yards from the Houston 32. Returned to AZ 19. Barkley in for Stanton and engineered a 13 play (7:35) drive ending in a 5-yard TD pass to Shipley. (Longest play of the drive was a 15-yard pass to Shipley). Houston 31 - Cards 17.
TB on the KO. Card defense held Houston to 3 & out. On the first play from scrimmage, Barkley was sacked and coughed up the ball. Houston took over on the AZ 4-yard line. They ran 4 plays and failed to convert the 4th & goal from the 2. Cards took over and ran Penny twice up the middle to end the quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Houston 31 - Cards 17.
Barkley continued what turned out to be a 98-yard TD drive using up 12-plays and 7:06 worth of clock time. Scoring play was a 43-yard completion to Hubert. Houston 31 - Cards 24.
(Cards are within one score of tie-ing it, with 8:52 left to play).
Defense held Houston to 3 & out (again). Punt was returned to the Cardinal 43. Weeden in for Savage. The two teams exchanged interceptions on consecutive plays: Mitchell picked of a Barclay pass to Golden and Hartfield picked off a Weeden pass and returned it to the AZ 43. Barkley was sacked on the first play of the ensuing possession; which, in turn, led to a Cardinal 3 & out. Swanson's punt was downed at the Texan 11. (5:17 left).
Cards kept them bottled up and Lechler punted 60 yards from his own 24. Punt was returned to the 16. Penalty (on Farley) pushed us back to our own 11. (2:56 left). On the fifth play of the Cardinal possession, Barkley got picked off again. Returned by Rashad to the AZ 25. Three runs up the middle netted little yardage, but Novak was able to boot home a 42-yard FG to widen Houston's lead to 10-points with 0:24 to go. Houston 34 - Cards 24.
TB on KO. Barkley took one final sack. Game over.
Final Score: Houston 34 - Cards 24.
Notable Game Stats.
Palmer was 2 for 5 for 64 yards, zero TD's and 2 picks. Stanton was pick free but went 7 for 15 and 70 yards. Barkley played the entire second half and went 12 for 18, 162 yards, 2 TD's and 2 picks. (Barkley was by no means perfect, but had a pretty acceptable day - maybe enough to convince Cards to keep 3 QB's)
Golden led all Cardinal receivers with 6 catches for 80 yards. Hubert, Shipley and Ellington had 3 grabs apiece, followed by Fells with 2. Hubert and Shipley had a TD each.
All 5 RB's had roughly the same number of carries and gained a similar amount of yards: Penny and Taylor (8 carries for 31 yds). D Johnson (6 for 26 and a TD). C Johnson (7 for 24). Ellington (3 for 25)
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 36 /Pass:42 ).
Houston Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 23 /Pass:25 ).
Catanzaro was one for one in FG's.
Swanson and Butler were nearly even on punting averages (though Butler gave up a 56 yard PR; while Swanson gave up one for 43 yards). Coverage teams gave up a 58-yard return to Tyler Ervin.
Tackles were spread throughout the defensive roster. Minter, Golden, Martin and Nkemdiche led the team in tackles with 3 apiece.
Minter, C Jones and Pierre each had one of the 3 Cardinal sacks
Card QB's were sacked three times. We sacked Houston QB's 3 times.
Cards turned over the ball 5 times: (4 times on interceptions and once on a fumble).
Cards were 8 for 14 in 3rd down efficiency and 1 for 1 (100%) converting fourth downs. Cards held Houston to 3 for 12 (25%) in Third Down Efficiency.
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 2 for 3 (67%). Houston: 2 for 4 (50%))
Penalties: Cards and Texans were penalized 4 times each
Time of Possession: Cards 36:04 -Houston .23:56
Card defense gave up an average of 4.8 yards per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 5.4)
Running attack - especially top 3 (DJ, CJ and "Dre).
Barkley engineered 2 long TD drives.
Golden looks like he'll be our #6 receivers (unless we trade one of our top 6 and we promote Hubert or Shipley.
We seem to be set with 4 TE's with Fells making 2 nifty grabs and runs..
After the first series, the OL's run-blocking was consistently solid. Pass blocking by starters and backups was better than decent (though far from perfect).
Aside from one early breakdown and not containing a sweep, our run defense was lights-out.
The Dark Side
The second of Palmer's 2 picks was another "blind" throw into a screen. This time, he didn't float it high enough and it got tipped and intercepted.
Can the playbook mandate that throws over the middle be kept "low" to avoid tipped passes and picks?
Stanton didn't totally suck, but he didn't sparkle either.
Our skilled players continue to lose most jump ball battles.
Carson Palmer took a tough hit to the head. Said to be OK for next week. (Hope so).
When we don't (1) establish the run and (2) pass off play-fakes, their defense gets a free shot at our QB.
Another dropped pass by JJ
Jenkins had to be wheeled off the field. Judging by the intensity of his gestures, it didn't look good.
Penalty Culprits: -Crisp, K Martin, Pierre, G Christian
BA may not be upset about three straight losses, but we are one "meaningless" game away from going 0 & 4 in preseason (and losing can become a habit). Our offense stil lisn't playing the way we need to as a unit. Defense continually put Houston into 3 & outs only to have Palmer or Barkley turn the ball over. The 58-yard return by Ervin continues to expose a ST weakness.
Preseason still remains a "teaching time" to clean up chronic mistakes (most glaringly at QB and CB) and an "evaluation time" for determining who shall survive and who'll be flipping burgers come September.
Game #3 is also a time to be wary of injuries. (Looks like we may lose CB Mike Jenkins for an extended time).
It's also a time for "learning how to win" and "how not to lose." Our inability to do so is beginning to really scare us.