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The Setup
Cards had bounced back from a gut-wrenching one-point opening day loss to post a 40 - 7 hurt onTampa Bay to go one & one. Bills had lost their second in a row to the Jets 37 - 31. Bills were 0 & 2 and likely to fight like cornered rats. Cards wanted to cement notion that they're a winning team on the upswing.

Bills had to deal with the early firing of their OC Greg Roman and rumores that ownership was going behind Rex Ryan's back to interview players and staff. It's unclear what parts of the Buffalo game plan (if any) will depart from Roman's playbook. Note: Key personality listed as "Out" for this game will be Watson WR Bills and Mathis OG Cards.

The Lede
Cards Blown Out 33 - 18

The Bottom Line:
We considered this a statement game that would indicate whether the Cards were a 2 & 1 team that clawed and scratched its way above .500; or whether it was a 1 & 2 team trying to get back to .500.

Put it this way: The Cards certainly do not resemble a playoff team, let alone a Super Bowl contender. They play like your basic average .500 team. "But didn't we clobber Tampa Bay 40 - 7?" you might ask. We sure did, we played like a .900 team vs. the Bucs and a .100 team vs. the Bills. Up one week, down the next - sure looks, smells and quacks like a .500 football team.

Game Recap
Cards came out listless and wound up down 10 - 0 at the end of the 1Q. They were hoodwinked by Tyrod Taylor, repeatedly submarined by Bill run blockers and played a stellar game of "air tackler' as they struggled to slow down Lesean McCoy.

Bills widened maintained their 10 pt lead to remain ahead 17 - 7 at halftime.

The legendary Cardinal offense was held to "3 & Out the first five times they had the ball in the first half.

Cards looked a bit better in the second half, but were down 30 - 13 at the end of the 3Q and a 33 - 18 loser at the end of the game. There were a couple of "comedy of errors" defensive miscues - one where the one Cardinal player between McCoy and the goal line was "tackled by the turf monster" watching from the ground as McCoy rambled in unmolested for a 25+ yard TD. The other involved a Bills receiver who "fell down" about 4yards short of a 1st down but managed to elude 3 or more Cardinal tacklers and was able to get up and pick up the 4 yards anyway.

By the time the game had (mercifully) ended, the Cardinal offense had been held to 3 & out. If my quick survey of the play by play log was accurate - by the end of the game, the Card offense had either been held to 3 & out or limited by turnovers to less than 4 plays a grand total of 9 times. It was an awful day.

Carson Palmer put up some hefty numbers in a losing cause, but - throwing off his back foot most of the day - threw 4 interceptions. David Johnson (who started off slowly) had a much better second half. Smokey Brown had an especially good day. Floyd won most jump ball battles. Fitz survived a pounding as he operated from the slot.

1st Quarter
  • Bills received. TB on KO. Bills went 3 & out, with Minter sacking Taylor for minus-13 yards. Cards went 3 & out. Bills received punt on their own 11. Punted. Cards went 3 & out. N+Buff ball on own 22. Drive led to Carpenter 23 yard FG Buffalo 3 - Cards 0

    Cards returned punt to the Buffalo 36, but went 3 & out. Punt downed by Bethel at the Bills 11. They punted from their own 23. Fair caught by Jo Brown at the AZ 38. Cards went 3 & out.

    Punt was out of bounds at the ball at the Buffalo 47. Five plays later, McCoy ran up the middle for a 24 yd TD. Buffalo 10 - Cards 0.

    Cards went 3 & out again to end the quarter.

    1st Quarter Score: Cardinals Bills 10 - Cards 0 -

2nd Quarter
  • Bills took over at their own 39. Four plays later, Peterson made a one-handed interception before rolling out of bounds at the Buffalo 10. AZ then (surprise!) went 3 & out. Cataqnzaro punted from his 10. Punt (net penalty) gave the Bills the ball at their own 48-yd line. An18-yard run6 play by McCoy, a 10-yard scramble by Taylor and a 6-yard run by Gillislee set up a 5-yard TD run around LE by McCoy. Bills 17 - Cardinals 0

    Cards returned KO to their own 16. Palmer engineered a seventeen play dink & dunk drive capped by a 4-yard run up the middle by D Johnson. (Longest plays of the drive were for 11 yards. TD play was orginallly ruled one-yard short of a TD by the refs but reversed on review). Bills 17 - Cardinals 7.

    TB on the KO. Bills reached own 47 in 8 plays before the half ran out.

    First Half Score: Bills 17 - Cardinals 7

3rd Quarter

  • Cards received. TB on KO. Cards went 3 & out. Bills returned punt to AZ 47. Six plays later, Taylor ran off RT for 20-yard TD. (XP Wide Right). Bills 23 - Cardinals 7

    TB on the KO. They moved the ball to the Buffalo 7-yard line. A penalty pushed Cards back to the 12. FG snap was high. Butler couldn't handle it. A Williams recovered & ran it back back 53 yard for a TD.Bills 30 - Cardinals 7

    Ellington returned the KO to the Card 17. Palmer put together receptions for +7, +7, +15, +15 and +17 yards before D Johnson circled LE for a 22-yardTD. (2-point conversion no good). Bills 30 - Cardinals 13.

    Bills returned KO to their own 31. Golden zoomed up the A-Gap and sacked Taylor for minus-8 yards to end the quarter.

    Third Quarter Score: Bills 30 - Cardinals 13

4th Quarter
  • Buffalo completed a 3 & out. Punt out of bounds at the Buffalo 46. Penalty-filled drive reslulted in a record-breaking (longest in Card history) 60 yd FG by Catanzaro. Bills 30 - Cardinals 16

    KO returned to Buffalo 31. A Jefferson sack of Taylor stalled the Bill drive at the Cardinal 47. Punt downed at the Cardinal 4. On the 4th play from scrimmage, Palmer's pass - deep left to Smoke Brown was intercepted and returned to the Cardinal 30. Bills couldn't get past the Cardinal 27 nd Carpenter's 45 -yd FG attempt was good. . Bills 33 - Cardinals 16

    TB on the KO. 4:48 left to play. Palmer led the Cards to the Buffalo 23, but his pass - deep left - for Jaron Brown was picked off by Graham who rolled into the end zone but was ruled down at the Buffalo one-yard line. On the first play of the Bills' possession, McCoy was tackled in the end zone for a safety. Bills 33 - Cardinals 18.

    3:04 left. Smokey Brown returned the free kick51-yards to the Buffalo 14 with 3:04 left to go. But Palmers pass - deep left - for Floyd - was intercepted by Gimore in the end zone and returned to the Bills 33. Buffalo held to 3 & out. Punt fair caught by Smokey Brown at the Cardinal 40. Cards moved to the Buffalo 28, but - on the 4th play of the drive - Palmer's pass - deep right - was intercepted in the end zone for a touchback. Game ended 2 knees later.

    Final Score: Bills 33 - Cardinals 18

Notable Game Stats.

  • Passing: Palmer was 26 for 50, 361 yards no TD's and 4 Interceptions. (Taylor was 14 for 25, no TD's and a pick).

  • Running: Johnson gained 84 yards on 19 carries. (McCoy picked up 110 yds on 17 carries & 1 TD. Taylor added 78 yards on 9 carries & 2 Td's)
  • Receiving: Brown had 6 grabs for 70 yards. 7 had 7 for 60. Floyd had 4 for 65/ (Woods caught 6 for 51). There were no passing TD's in the game.

    Turnovers: Cards gave away 5 (Buffalo gave away 1).

    Penalties: Cards 8/Bills 9

  • Run/Pass Ratio: . (C.

  • Kicking: Catanzaro was 1 for 1 in FG attempts (that one a franchise-record of 60 yards).

    Net Punting Yards: Butler/Catanzaro averaged 28.8. (Buffalo punter averaged 33.2)

  • Tackles: Jefferson led the Cards with 9 tackles followed by Cooper with 7 and Golden (6)

    Sacks: Cards sacked Taylor 4 times (Golden, Jefferson, Minter, C Jones 1 apiece). Palmer was sacked 5 times.

    Interceptions: Peterson had the Cards' only nterceptions. Palmer was picked off 4 times.

    Third Down Efficiency: Cards wer 5 of 15 for 33%. (Bills were 4 of 1 for 30%).

    Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 1 of 3 - 33%. (Bills were 1 of 2 for 50%).

    Time of Possession: Cards 34:00 / Bills 26:00

  • Card defense gave up an average of 2.0 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 49)

Bright Spots

  • Smokey's back.

  • D Johnson (overcame a brutal 1H to make plays in the 2H.

    Thhhhat's all folks.

The Dark Side

  • Cards were held to 3 & out the first five times they had the ball.

  • Turnover Ratio minus-4.

  • You could make the case that Canaday's bad snaps were instrumental in both losing efforts.

  • Palmer threw 4 interceptions - mostly into double or triple coverage. Although he was hitting his target more often than not, it seemed as if, too often. he was throwing off his back foot from the bottom of a man-hole.

  • Cardinal run blockers in the 1H weren't opening clean holes for D Johnson. (By contrast, take a look at the gaping holes McCoy got to run through.

  • Card defense did a horrible job containing Taylor (& it wasn't as though they didn't know about Taylor's mobility).

  • As in the Tampa Bay game, it looked as if McCoy and his blockers were winning the leverage battle by exploding off the ball with a much lower pad level. (Did the Card OL and TE's forget how to tackle properly)?

  • Too many times, you'd see our DB's and LB's avoiding contact in the open field. (in addition to "air tackling", they'd fail to dive on a loose ball or "fall down" when challenged by a runner in space).

  • We continue to be outgained on kick and punt teams.

Last Word:
As I see it, the Cardinals are demonstrating that they're a .500 football team looking for a couple of breaks. Sure, they could get lucky and sneak into the playoffs, but what I see is a team capable of blowing out an opponent but equally capable of being blown out as well. (To my thinking, that spells out .500. What we don't know is whether our weaknesses are physical, mental or motivational - i.e. can they be fixed or are they part of the team's DNA).

As a Cardinal fan, I will be leery of getting false-hopes up or accepting some of the PR coming out of BA's or SK's office (or for that matter, listening to what the players have to say on the video clips). Fasten your seat-belts boys 'n girls; each week's football game promises to be an adventure.

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