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TB was coming off their first opening day road win since 2005, beating the Falcones on the road 31 - 24 and feeling pretty good about themselves. The heavily hyped Cardinals lost a heartbreaker to NE when their game-winning 47-yard FG attempt on the second-to-last play of the game was aborted by a bad snap.
You never know how a team will react to adversity. (The good ones get mad, put their heads down and take it out on next week's opponent. Others talk a good game but curl up in a fetal position). We didn't know what to expect vs. TB yesterday.
Now we know.
Reports of the Cardinals' demise greatly exaggerated.
The Bottom Line:
Cards bounced back from an opening day loss to hand a 40 - 7 trouncing to the TB Buccos. The Cards held the Bucs to a tenuous 0 - 0 deadlock in the first quarter, but then posted 24 unanswered points in the second quarter and won going away.
It took a bit of time - for the Cardinal offense to click and the defense to get its sea-legs. In true Cardinal tradition, we'll admit to holding our breath waiting for the Cards to lose focus and Tampa Bay to climb back into to the contest, but fortunately, it never happened. Cards are now 1 & 1 and focusing on their "business trip" to Buffalo.
The two teams circled one another cautiously, settling for a zero-zero tie in the first quarter, but - on the backs of five takeaways (4 picks and a fumble recovery) the Cards cruised to victory..
Cards received. TB on KO. Cards picked up a quick 1st down, but Palmer was a bit off-rhythm and the Cards were forced to punt from their own36. Humphries returned punt to the YB 17. TB picked up three quick 1st downs and moved into Cardinal territory, but on the 6th play of their possession, Winston's pass was picked off by Patrick Peterson who ran out of bounds at the Cardinal 25.
D Johnson runs of +10 and +8 yards weren't enough to sustain anything close to a drive, and Butler punted from the Card 43. Punt was returned for no gain by Humphries at the TB 7-yd line. TB moved to their own 36 in 9 plays (generating accellerated levels of bitching by Cardinal die-hards) but were forced to punt.
John Brown returned the punt to the Cardinal 33. Cards reached the TB 15 in ten plays to end the quarter. (It should be noted that, during that drive D Johnson gained a grand total of 6 yards in four carries).
1st Quarter Score: Cardinals 0 - Tampa Bay 0
On the second play of the quarter, Palmer hit Fitz (who made a deluxe grab idespite being interfered with) for a 4-yard TD. Cardinals 7 - Tampa Bay 0
TB on the KO. On the second play from scrimmage, Winston's pass town the seam for V Jackson was picked off by Marcus Cooper (Welcome to AZ, Coop)! Cooper was pushed out of bounds at the TB 19. Cards made it to the TB 5 before Catanzaro had to kick a 22-yard FG (to derisive cheers from the Gollin living room). Cardinals 10 - Tampa Bay 0
TB on the KO. They reached the Cardinal 43 in 7 plays before being forced to punt. Punt was downed at the Cardinal 9. Cards played it conservatively deep in their own territory and went 3 & out. Humphries tiptoed 17 yards down the left sideline to the TB 49 (BA challenged - play stood - lousy call. Cards' 10-point lead in jeopardy). After TB picked up a 1st down at the Cardinal 30. Winston was sacked, and his fumble recovered by Tony Jefferson. Cards ball at their own 32 with 3:06 till halftime. A 27-yard completion to Jaron Brown followed by a completion/RAC by D Johnson and a 24-yard completion to Fitz (orginally ruled a TD but then reversed) set up a one-yard Palmer-to-Floyd TD hookup. (Cardinal fans can begin to catch their breath). Cardinals 17 - Tampa Bay 0
TB on the KO. 1:35 till halftime. Cards held TB to three & out. Punt was fair caught by J Brown at the Card 26. A holding penalty seemingly would end scoring for the half, but D Johnson picked up 10-yards up the middle followed by a +14 yard pickup on a Palmer to John Brown completion. and a 9-yard pass to Fells. On the Cardinal 49 with 0:26 on the clock, Palmer hit Jaron Brown on a deep post route - Jaron outran his defender and caught it going away for a 51-yard TD. (A 24-yard halftime lead has a nice ring to it). Cardinals 24 - Tampa Bay 0
0:20 seconds left - that was it for the first half.
First Half Score: Cardinals 24 - Tampa Bay 0
Tampa received. TB on the KO.(Typical Cardinal-fan thinking: "Only the Cardinals could blow a24-point lead and become the laughing stock of the NFL). Well...Winston ran off 11 plays, scoring on a 19-yard completion to Evans. TB off the schneid. Cardinals 24 - Tampa Bay 7
TB on the KO. Palmer hit D Johnson short-right. Johnson's RAC turned the short gain into a 58-yard pickup. Drive stalled at the TB 22 (aided by a 4-yard sack of Palmer). But Catanzaros's 40-yard FG try was good (So, OK - all we need do is keep posting a few 3-pointers in the second half and they'll never catch us). Cardinals 27 - Tampa Bay 7
TB on the KO. Winston pecked his way down the field with short-passes until he reached the Cardinal 41. But on the 6th play of the drive, his pass for Sims was batted twice and wound up in the hands of Marcus Cooper (aka "Mr. Cornerback") who rambled 60-yards for the back-breaking Cardinal TD. XP attempt No Good (Way to go, Cat Man)! Cardinals 33 - Tampa Bay 7
TB on the KO. Bucs moved to the Card 26 (mainly off a 24-yard run by J Rodgers). But their drive stalled at the Cardinal 26 and Aguayo attempted a 45-yard FG whic was no good. Cards took over at their own 35 and ran off 3 plays to reach their own 41 at quarters end..
Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 33 - Tampa Bay 7
Palmer methodically moved the Cards to the the TB 3 in 5 plays (with steady GAINS OF +13, +8, +9 and +2 yards before C Johnson bulled his way up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown. Cardinals 40 - Tampa Bay 7
That was all the scoring for the day. (While there was very little to crow about during the 4Q, you could say that the Cards didn't allow Tampa Bay to claw their way back into the game. Huge win.
Final Score: Cardinals 40- Tampa Bay 7
Notable Game Stats.
Palmer was 18 for 31, 308 yards, 3 TD's and no interceptions. (Winston was 27 for 52, 243yards, a TD and 4 interceptions).
C Johnson picked up 54 yards on 16 carries & 1 TD. D Johnson picked up 45 yards on 12 carries. carry (No one on TB broke the 30-yard mark).
Fitz caught 6 passes for 81 yards and a TD. Johnson gained 98-yards on 3 completions. Jaron Brown picked up 78 yards and that one gorgeous deep TD for 78 yards. Evans and Humphries caught 6 apiece. V Jax gained 44 yards on 4 grabs).
Cards won the turnover war 5 - zip. (1 fumble/4 picks vs. TB's no fumble recoveries/no picks)
Run/Pass Ratio: . (Cards: Runs: 29 /Pass: 35. TB Runs: 21/Pass 52).
Catanzaro was 2 for 2 on FG's/Missed one XP attempt.
Anger (42.5) outpunted Butler (39.3) in Net Punting Average.
Jefferson led the Cards with 11tackles followed by T Branch (10) and Cooper (7)
Palmer was sacked once times. Cards sacked Winston 3 times. (though C Jones and Golden only players listed).
Cooper was credited with 2 interceptions(incl a Pick 6). Peterson and Swearinger (on final TB hail Mary) had one apiece.
Cards were 6 for 14 (42%) in Third Down Efficiency. TB was 5 for 13 (38%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 3 for 5 (60%). Bucs 1 for 1 (100%)
Penalties: Cards were penalized 3 times (compared to TB's 5)
Time of Possession: Cards 29:03 - Bucs 30:57
Card defense gave up an average of 2.0 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 49)
Chris Johnson the perfect compliment to David Johnson's running.
All the receivers (notably Fitz and Jaron) were catching just about everything thrown their way
Pass blocking was solid in front of Palmer the whole day.
After a shaky first half of the 1Q, Card run defenders settled down and were solid thereafter.
Marcus Cooper (2 picks) looked like more than just a dependible compliment to PP21. .
The 2 safeties (T Jefferson and T Branch) were outstanding.
No apparent serious injuries.
Cards didn't slack off after building the 24 - 0 lead. They kept up the pressure.
The Dark Side
Slow start (both sides of the ball)
Our TEs - Fells dropped catchable passes and too often fell a yard or two short of a 1st down. I saw a lot of #84 (Gresham?) standing around after a play instead of hitting someone during it.
Stanton had the opportunity to show us more than he did.
(It's awfully hard to be critical after a lopsided win like this one.
Lessons learned: (1) When we stay focused, we can play with anyone. (2) We now know we're capable of (a) winning big when we keep our eye on the prize and (b) stinking up the joint when we don't - coaches just need to keep the pedal all the way down at all times. (3) Our CB situation appears more-than stabilized (& that's before we get to see what T Simon can do). (4) We remain relatively healthy.
We're now in a four-way (1 & 1) tie for NFC supremacy. We can't talk our way into 2 & 1. (We have to beat an angry 0 & 2 Buffalo team that fired its OC after Game #1).
Here's to a successful business trip to Buffalo next weekend. No time to relax now - just because we won a game we shoulda won.