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The 4 - 6 - 1 Cards lost again a week ago (this time 38 - 19 to the Falcones). Skins lost to the Cowboys 31 - 26. Washington - at 6 - 4 - 1 - was third of three NFC East teams competing for playoff spots. Although BA continued to state otherwise, the Cards were "running on fumes" when it came to playoff hopes.
Cards Win See-Saw Battle Over Washington 31 - 23
The Bottom Line:
It was a hard-fought win, with the lead changing back and forth 4 times. The teams were pretty even in most areas of play (offensive and defensive line-play, pass coverage, QB-play etc,), but the play of RB David Johnson, crowd noise and an edge in turnovers gave the Cardinals the slight edge they needed.
Cards came out ready to play and scored a TD on the opening drive of the game. They maintained a 7 - 0 lead at the end of the 1st quarter and went into the lockerroom at halftime up 10 - 6. But Washington came out smoking and took a 20 - 17 lead going into the 4th quarter. Cards outscored Washington 14 -3 iin the final quarter to ice the football game.
Wash won the toss and deferred. TB on KO. Cards started with a couple of runs by D Johnson, and Carson Palmer then mixed in several short-passes on route to a 15-play (8:17) statement-maker. (Yds gained pattern: +10, +2, +12, +2, -3, +13, Inc, +11, +6, +10, -2, Inc., +14, +0, +1 (the final play a 1-yd TD run up the middle by D Johnson). Cards 7 - Washington 0.
Kickoff returned to the Wash 24.TB on the KO. Two false-start penalties (crowd noise?) put Washington in a (rare for them) 3 & out. Punt returned to Cardinal 41, but Cards held to 3 & out. Punt retured to the Wash 25. Cousins managed to lead his offense to the Cardinal 45 but the defense stiffened. Punt (net a holding penalty) gave Cards the ball on their own 8-yd line. They ran three plays but were still on their 8 as the quarter ended.
1st Quarter Score: Cards 7 - Washington 0.
Cards moved to their own 26 where they were forced to punt Punt was returned to the Wash 31. A completion to Thompson for +21-yds followed by a burst up the middle by Kelley put the ball on the Cardinal 28, but another false-start flag helped derail the Wash drive and they settled for a 47-yd Hopkins FG. . Cards 7 - Washington 3.
TB on the KO. An offensive pass interference call on Floyd helped force the Cards into a 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Card 48. Despite two more OL penalties (false-start and illegal shift) Cousins engineered an 11-play drive which stalled at the Cardinal 1. Card goal-line defense stiffened and Wash settled for a 20-yard FG. (We've got ourselves a one-point football game). Longest play of the Wash drive was a 13-yd completion to Grant. Cards 7 - Washington 6..
1:52 till halftime. TB on the KO. Palmer overcame a minus-9 yard sack as he moved the Card offense to the Wash 10 in 11 plays, but had to settle for a 28-yd Catanzaro FG. Key play in the drive: a +23-yd completion to D Johnson. Cards 10 - Washington 6
0:07 left. KO was for no gain. Cousins took a knee. ).
First Half Score: Cards 10 - Washington 6
Wash returned the KO to its own 26. On the second play from scrimmage, Cousins hit D Jackson deep for +59-yards. Three plays later, Cousins snuck it in from one-yard out, and Washington took the lead. (Knuckle-biting time). Washington 13 - Cards 10.
TB on the KO (How would Palmer and the Cards respond? With a 12-play drive that came to a screeching halt at the Washington 25 where Ellington lost 2-yards up the middle, Palmer took a minus-10 yard sack and Catanzaro was wide left from 53. (Here we go again?)
But no-o-o-o! On the second play of the Wash possesswion, Cousins was sacked by Calais Campbell and his fumble recovered by Golden and returned to the Wash 10-yd line. Three plays later, Palmer hit Floyd for a 6-yd TD. and the Cards regained the lead. Cards 17 - Washington 13.
TB on the KO. Cousins moved Washington in 7 plays to the Cardinal 26, where Cousins hit Crowder (who split what looked like 2-deep safety coverage) for a 26-yd TD. (Key play: a 28-yd 3rd & 5 completion to Garcon over T Jefferson. Washington takes over the lead again). Washington 20 - Cards 17.
TB on the KO. Cards reached their own 35 in 3 plays to end an action-packed third quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Washington 20 - Cards 17.
After a holding penalty on Gresham appeared to stall the Cardinal drive right in its tracks, but Palmer hit Fells for +9 yds, Gresham for +9, Gresham for another +11. Then it was D Johnson up the middle for +13 and Palmer-to-Fitz for +5 before Palmer hit D Johnson short-right and "The Man Without a Nickname" ran it in for a 25-yd TD. (Consider that - after the penalty on Gresham - all but 5 yards of the Cardinal positive yards on the drive was made either by TE's or RB's). Cards 24 - Washington 20.
TB on the KO. Washington came roaring back. A lot of short stuff (max yardage was a pass to Crowder for +14) brought ball on the Cardinal 35, but the defense stiffened and Wash had to settle for a 53-yd Hopkins FG which still left the Cards ahead by one-pt. Cards 24 - Washington 23.
6:01 left (any Cardinal fan who claimed not to be watching the clock was lying). TB on the KO. Check out this play sequence: DJ Run: +3. CP to Fitz: +4. CP to DJ: +2. DJ (on a 4th & 1) Run: +14. CP to Floyd: +5. Inc. Holding on Norman (who was preventing Fitz from making his inside break). DJ Run: No Gain. CP to Nelson who made a leaping catch between 2 defenders in the end zone for a 42-yard backbreaker. Cardinals 31 - Niners 23
1:56 left to play (Confession: We knuckle-biters were still biting). A roughing the passer call on Campbell and a hands-to-the face on PP21 helped put the ball on the Cardinal 28 with 0:48 left to go (& no time outs) But Cousins' pass for Crowder instead went into the hands of PP21. Palmer took a knee. Game over.
Final Score: Cardinals 31 - Niners 23
Notable Game Stats.
Passing: Palmer was 30 for 46, 300 yards 3 TD's and 0 Interceptions. (Cousins was 21 for 37, 271 yds, 1 TD's and 1 pick).
Rushing: D Johnson gained 84 yards on 18 carries & 1TD'. (Kelley picked up 63 yds on 14 carries. Thompson only carried twice but gained 24 yards
Receiving: Fitz led the Cards with 10 grabs for 78 yards. D Johnson was next with 91 & a TD yards on 9 catches. Gresham had 5 for 52. (Garcon had 78 yards & on 7 catches. V Davis caught 5 passes for 47 yards). .
Turnovers: +2. The fumble recovery by Golden and the late-game interception by Peterson.
Penalties: Cards were penalized six times for 51 yards. Wash was penalized 7 times for 35 yards.
Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 24/46. (WA: 18/37)
Kicking: Catanzaro was 1 for 2 in FG attempts. (Hopkins was 3 for 3).
Net Punting Yards: Butler averaged 34.0. (Way averaged 38.0)
Tackles: Bucannon led the Cards with 7 followed by Cooper (6)
Sacks: Cards sacked Cousins 2 times (Campbell and Minter). Palmer was sacked twice)..
Interceptions: Palmer wasn't picked off (Cousins was picked off once).
Third Down Efficiency: Cards were 10 of 16 for 62%. (WA was 5 of 11 for 45%). Note - Equally as important as the # of 3rd downs converted was the number of 3rd downs available tp be conversion (Cards had16. Wash had just 11).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 2 of 3 (66%). (Wash WAS 1 of 2 for 50%).
Time of Possession: Cards 32:18 / Niners 27:42
Card rush defense gave up an average of 4.8 yds per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.7)
Palmer was deadly-accurate and nearly mistake-free the entire game.
D Johnson was this game's difference-maker. Equally impressive is his consistently high level of production.
While Fitz didn't make many highlight-reel catches, he made the tough (mostly short-yardage) catches when it counted.
The offensive line - while far from perfect - played well enough to keep the Washington defense from doing too much damage.
Although Cardinal pass rushers only got to Cousins two times, they consistently had him running 45-degrees away from the LOS and finding it difficult to get much mustard on most throws.
Defense was gritty - especially during the first 3 quarters (converting TD's into FG's)
The Darker Side
The OL is still a work in progress
Palmer will occasionally run himself out of FG range. Either Red Zone play calling has to minimize that risk or Carson has to be willing to throw a few balls away.
You see other young corners on other teams improve during the course of the season. Cooper doesn't appear to have shown that kind of improvement and - being opposite to Peterson - is the guy picked on by opposing QB's.
It may just be a mis-perception, but are our safeties being victimized too often by deep plays?
Too many broken tackles one-on-one in the open field. (They don't seem to be the "fail to wrap up" or "bounce-off" variety but, instead, the other dude being stronger than our dude. Does their need to be more arm and hand strengthening conditioning work)?
"One small step forward for mankind. We're one game below 500 with 4 games to go (& Seattle just had a huge win over Carolina).
One thing this win over Washington should prove to the team and its players - Stay focused and keep mistakes to a minimum and we can win any game we play in. Most impressive were the length of the drives engineered by our QB (to execute 10 - 15-play drives, you have to play virtually "mistake free" football).
We play Miami next Sun. Best advice we can give is: "Do it again."