Another "early" (1 pm ET) game" this Sunday. The previous week, Cards won a 31 - 23 see-saw contest vs. a highly regarded Washington team. Miami got torched by the Ravens 38 - 6 and didn't figure to be very happy campers as they approach today's's game. The Dolphs hadn’t lost a game since Oct. 9, having beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. Miami players were treating the Baltimore loss as an unexpected hiccup.
"Comedy of Errors" ends in a 26 - 23 Cardinal loss.
The Bottom Line:
The Arizona Cardinals (aka "Santa and His Helpers") gave away a football game with the playoffs at stake to the Miami Dolphins. They did it the Cardinal Way - with giveaways, botched kicking and other examples of poor play.
I had always rated a 20 - 20 OT tie with the Giants on MNF a few decades ago as "the most boring game ever played.
Cards may have been caught by surprise by a sudden torrential rainstorm which lent legitimacy to the term "greasy pigskin. Carsom Palmer started early throwing an interception on the Cards's first possession that resulted in a Miami TD. The Cards countered with a TD by Nelson on an end around to make the score 7 - 6 (because Catanzaro - what else? - shanked the XP). . The two teams then exchanged takeways (a pick by Cooper followed by a fumble recovery by Paysinger). Palmer then tilted the "turnover contest" in the Cards' favorite by throwing another pick - this time it bounced off Fitz. But Tannehill turned around and fumbled an aborted snap to tie the Pickfest: 3 -3. A Miami TD on a short pass to Sims made it 14 - 6 Dolphs. Palmer fumbled gain (this time off an aborted snap). Cards marched right down to the Miami 23 where Cat Man's 41-yard FG attempt was no good ( bounced off the right upright). Right before halftime, Catanzaro made it 14 - 9 Dolphs with a 56-yarder that surprised everyone.
Miami opened the 2H with a TD to make it 21 - 9. Two possessions later, a Cardinal punt was fumbled by a Miami returner who ran into his own blocker - but Cards couldn't convert it. Cards finally got something going in the 4th quarter when Palmer completed a 12 play drive by hitting Golden in the end zone. XP was (heh heh) blocked and returned to the Cardinal end zone for a "2-point defensive conversion." This made it 21 - 15 Miami. On the next Cardinal possessionm, the Cards moved to the Miami 8 whaew Palmer hit Nelson for a TD. 2-pointer was good. Cards 23 - Maimi 23 with 3:01 left.
(We got ourselves a tie football game).
The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. Completions by Miami of +12 and +29 yards put the ball on the Cardinal 3-yard line where - with 0:10 left to play, an aborted snap on a running play almost resulted in time running out, but the Card defense rose to the occasion and a tackle was made with 0:01 to go. Franks kicked his first winning pro FG from 21-yards to win it for the Dolphs 26 - 23.
(Has there been a game so far this year when the Cards didn't receive the opening kickoff)? Cards received (TB on KO.) and made it to midfield in 6 plays before Palmer's pass for Fitz was picked off by Hull. Five plays later, Tannhill hit Stills on a pattern that split the safeties for a 28-yd TD. Miami 7 - Cards 0.
- (It began to rain really hard). TB on the KO. On the third play from scrimmage, Nelson beat everyone on an end-around around RE for a score. XP attempt was (extremely) wide left. . Miami 7 - Cards 6.
TB on the KO. On the fourth play of the Miami possession, Tannehill's pass for Stills was picked off by Cooper. But on the very next play, David Johnson was stood up on a run around RE and coughed up the football. Paysinger recovered at the Dolph 37. Miami punted from the Card 46. Ball was downed at the Cardinal 10. Three plays later, Palmer threw another pick - this one targeting Fitz and picked off by Rambo. But two plays later, Tannehill fumbled an aborted snap. Gunter recovered. Johnson ran for +2-yds to end the quarter.
Total Cardinal Miscues: 2 picks, 2 fumble and a botched XP
1st Quarter Score: Miami 7 - Cards 6.
Cards remained boxed in at their 3 before Butler outkicked his coverage (62 yds!) and the punt was returned to the Card 43. A minus-9 yd sack of Tannehill was nullfied by a defensive holding flag on Cooper. Dolphs made it to the Card 7 where Tannehill hit Sims for a 7-yd TD. Miami 14 - Cards 6.
TB on the KO. Cards moved to their own 41, where Palmer fumbled an aborted snap/recovered by Miami Cards held Miami to 3 & out Punt returned by K Williams to the Card 20. Cards made it all the way to the Miami 14, where Palmer was sacked for minus-9 yards and Catanzaro's 42-yd chip shot went wide off the right upright. Miami took over on their own 31 and, 2 plays later, Tannehill was sacked and fumbled the ball out of bounds. Miami remained boxed in at their 7 yard line. Punt was returned by PP21 to the Miami 38. 1:39 to go. On a 4th & 10, Catanzaro shocked the world by kicking a 46-yard FG. Miami 14 - Cards 9.
TB on the KO. Cards held Miami to 3 & out and took one knee to end the half.
Total Cardinal Miscues: 1 sack, 1 fumble, 1 botched FG
First Half Score: Miami 14 - Cards 9.
TB on the KO. Dolphs reached the ARZ 3 in five plays. Tannehill hit D Williams for a 3-yd TD. . Miami 21 - Cards 9.
Cards returned the the KO to their own 29 where they were held to 3 & out. Punt fair caught at Miami's 16. They punted from their own 41. Fair caught at Card 8. Arz remained boxed in by a couple of penalties at their own 4-yd line. Landry collided with his own blocker and fumbled. Card ball on their own 47. Gresham penalized for taunting. This was followed by a holding penalty on Ulrick John. Cards punted from their own 30. Punt returned to Miami 44. Miami reached the Cardinal 39 as the quarter ended.
Cardinal Miscues: 3 killer penalties.
Third Quarter Score: Miami 21 - Cards 9.
Miami punted from the Card 41. Downed at the Cardinal one-yd line. Palmer engineered a 12-play (6:45) TD drive capped by a 9-yd pass to golden in the left corner of the end zone. XP was blocked and returned for a "2-pt defensive score." .Miami 23 - Cards 15.
KO (net holding call) gave Miami the ball at their own 10. Cards held Miami to 3 & out. Puntdowned at midfield. 7 plays later, Palmer hit Nelson for an 8-yd TD. 2-point attempt (Palmer to D Johnson) was good. Score tied. Miami 23- Cards 23.
3:01 left. Cards held Miami to 3 & out. Punt returned to the Card 25 with 1:55 left. (Cards in control, but Palmer got sacked for minus-6 on the first play of the possession which contributed to a Card 3 & out. Punt returned 20 yds to the Card 47. 5 plays later, an aborted snap almost caused D Williams to be stopped short of the goal line with no time on the clock, but Cards tackled him one second "too early." Franks kicked the first game-winner of his career with 0:01 on the clock. Game over. Miami 26- Cards 23.
Final Score: Miami 26- Cards 23.
Notable Game Stats.
Palmer was 18 for 33, 145 yards, 2 TD's and 2 interceptions. (Tannehill was 15 for 20 for 195 yards, 3 TD's and one picks). Moore was 3 for 5, 47 yards, no TD's and no picks.
D Johnson picked up 80 yards on 20 carries . Ajayi gained 48 yards on 20 carries).
A TE and a RB (Gresham and D Johnson) led Cardinal receivers with 5 catches each. Stills caught 6 for 97 yards. Landry gained 103 yards on 4 catches).
Dolphs won the turnover war (2 fumbles/2 picks vs. Cards' 2 fumbles/1 pick)
Run/Pass Ratio: . (Cards: Runs: 27 /Pass: 33. Mi Runs: 31/Pass 25).
Catanzaro missed one FG and botched 2 XP's
Miami punter outpunted Butler (39.3 Net Punting Average vs. 36.8).
Jefferson led the Cards with 10 tackles followed by Swearinger (6) and Golden (5) and Bucannon (5)).
Palmer was sacked twice. Cards defense was credited with 0 sacks).
Cards were 4 for 13 (30%) in Third Down Efficiency.Dolphs were also 14 for 13 (30%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 2 for 3 (66%). Dolphs 2 for 4(50%)
Penalties: Cards were penalized 7 times (compared to Miami's 14)
Time of Possession: Cards 29:56- Miami 30:04.
Card defense gave up an average of 2.7 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 6.5)
The Dark Side
Kicking game (all three guys) remained atrocious
Turnovers- hallmark of a losing team.
BA's play calling seemed pretty predictable. Passing on 4th & 2 on that final drive (given rainy conditions) seemed like a worse bet than having D Johnson pick it up.
I was not thrilled by BA's insistence on running D Johnson thru non-existant holes off LG.
Injuries to our DB's late in the 4Q. (DB's couldn't stop Miami's final winning drive).
The Calais hit on Tannehill - while no doubt not intended to hurt him - sure looked like it could have been flagged for "attacking the legs."
Cards should have been better prepared for a day in the rain.
Seattle lost, and - though our chances are tres slim, we're still not totally out of the playoff hunt (Giant win over Dallas didn't help any). Never give up. Play for pride. That's all we got left.
Final Note - I don't believe in firing coaches in mid-season or prematurely whacking a head coach who may have had a bad year, but I've got to tell you: We lost four games due to poor special teams play and we identified ST play as a weakness. But nothing significant was done to fix the problem. Result: 4 losses that didn't have to be. The Cardinal staff dropped the ball on this one, and I'm madder than hell having to wrap up our final games "playing mostly for pride."