Setting the Stage:
Late Breaking - (Big event or non-event)? - Cards made a trade with NO for all pro RB Adrian Peterson in exchnge for a conditional 6th round 2018 draft pick. To make room on their roster, the Cardinals released veteran RB Chris Johnson. To this observer, both RB's seemed similar in size, explosiveness, running-style and "tread still left on the tire." Both had struggled thus far this season. (Note - AP is actually bigger than CJ2K - 220 lbs vs. 201). So I leave it to you the reader - Do you think adding Peterson, dropping C Johnson and surrendering a conditional late draft pick is a net-plus or a big ol' meh? (In a separate move - Cards also addressed their long snapper issue by signing 8 year veteran Justin Drescher).
TB is 2 & 2 after losing a tight low-scoring contest to New England. Cards are 2 & 3 after being blacktopped by a rising Eagle squad. This, once again, is a must-win game for the Cardinals if they want to stay in contention in a very competitive NFC West division.
TB's Last Game
Pretty much a "pitcher's dual" with the Pats building a slight early lead and keeping just a little ahead of the Bucs until the final whistle to prevail 19 to 14.
Pats received and Brady threw an interception (McClain on the 5th play from scrimmage. But neither team could get much done offensively unti - with 1:25 left in the 1q, Gostkowski's FG attempt was good from 27-yds to complete a 13-play (7:10) Pat drive. Pats 3 - Bucs 0.
TB on KO. TB went 3 & out. Pats ran off one play to end the quarter.
First Quarter Score: Pats 3 - Bucs 0
Pats completed a 3 & out. Punt returned to TB 32. Winston engineered an 11 play (5:12) drive capped by a Martin one-yard TD run up the middle. (Key plays: Winston-to-Jackson +11. Martin up the middle for +17). Bucs 7 - Pats 3
TB on KO. Brady led the PAts on a 9-yd (4:44) TD drive ending in a 5-yd Brady-to-Hogan hookup. Pats 10 - Buc 7.
TB on KO. TB held to 3 & out. Punt returned 40 yds to TB 27 with 2:13 left till halftime. Pats settled for a 23-yd Gostowski FG with 0:35 left. - Pats 13 - Bucs 7.
TB ran out of clock 4 plays later.
1st Half Score: Pats 13 - Bucs 7
TB received - TB on KO. 3 & out. Pats got ball back at their own 6. Brady put together an 8-play 3:25 drive capped by a 45-yd Gostowski FG. (Key play: Brady to Cooks for +34). Pats 16 - Bucs 7.
The two teams exchanged possessions with Brady fumbling away the ball after being sacked. TB ran off five plays to end the 3Q with their ball at the NE 31.
Third Quarter Score: Pats 16 - Bucs 7
Two plays into the quarter, Folk's 49-yd FG attempt was wide left. NE took over at their own 39. TB forced NE to punt 9 plays later. Bucs downed the NE punt at their own 3-yd line with 10:40 left. They put together a 5:01 "drive to nowhere" when Folk was wide left from 31-yds out.
Pats took over with 5:36 left to play & went 3 & out. TB took over on their own 26 with 4:26 left, and Winston put together a 9-play TD drive finished off by an 18-yd TD pass to Brate. Pats 16 - Bucs 14.
Onside kick recovered by Pats on the TB 37-yd line with 2:09 left. Five plays later, Gostowski was good from 48-yds. Pats 19 - Bucs 14.
T1:10 left. TB on KO. Winston moved his team to the NE 19 in 6 plays before time ran out.
Final Score: Pats 19 - Bucs 14
Key Game Stats
Buc Stats to Date
Passing - Winston was 26 of 46 - 334 yds, 1 TD and 0 interceptions.
Rushing -- Martin ran for 74 yds yds and a TD on 13 carries. (Winston carried 3 times for 11 yds.
Receiving - Four Bucs caught 5 passes each (D Jackson for (106 yds), s Brate (68 yds), Evans (49 yds) and Sims III (31 yds)
Tackles - Beckwith (14 tackles) had a huge game. Evans had 9 tackles. Glanton had 7 and HArgreaves 6.
Sacks - 3. Glanton, McCoy and McDonald had one sack apiece. Winston was sacked twice.
3rd Down Conversions -TB converted 4 of 13 3rd downs (30%) while NE was 4 of 12 (33%)
Rushing Avg - TB averaged 4.5 ypc rushing. (They gave up 4.9 ypc)
Net Punting Average - TB was 36.7. (vs. 39.8 for NE).
Penalties - TB was penalized 9 times (NE was flagged 12 times)
Red Zone Efficiency - TB was 2/4 = 50% i (vs. 1/2 = 50% for NE).
Turnover Ratio: Plus-1. (Neither QB threw a pick. NE lost one fumble).
First Downs - TB 88 / Opponents 91
Offensive Yards - TB 1,496 / Opponents 1,585
Passing Yards - TB 1,198 / Opponents 1,261
Rushing Yards - TB 344/ Opponents 349
Sacks - TB 4 / Opponents 7
Field Goals - TBs 6/11 / Opponents 7/8
Time of Possession - TB 27:36 / Opponents 32:24
Turnover Ratio +2
Key Player Stats
Passing: TB - Winston: 94 of 154 for 1,198 yds. 61.0%. 7.8 YPA...7 TD's.... 3 Int.... 92.4
Rushing: TB - Rodgers: 43 for 167. 3.9 YPA. 1 TD...Martin: 13 for 74....5.7 YPA. 1 TD...Barber: 12 for 49.... 4.1 YPA
Receiving: TB - Evans: 24 for 276 yds. 11.5 YPR. 2 TDs...Humphries: 17 for 207 yds. 12.2 YPR....Brate: 15 for 205 yds. 13.7 YPR. 3 TDs.
Field Goals - Folk: 6 /11
Punting - TB - Anger: 45.8 Avg
Punt Returns -TB - Reedy 6returns 10.3. YPR
Kickoff Returns - TB - Reedy: 6 returns for 132 yds (22.0 YPR)
Tackles - TB - Beckwith (36)...Hargreaves (24)...Conte (24)...Glanton (23)
Sacks - TB : 4 (Opponents' 7) - Glanton, McCoy, McDonald and Spence had 1 sack apiece
Interceptions - TB: 3 (vs. Oponents' 3): Evans (1), McClain (1), Alexander (1)).
WR...11 D JAckson...10 Humphries....18 Reedy
LT.....76 D Smith....66 Wester
LG 64 Pamphile....62 E Smith
OC 74 Marpet....68 Hawley
RT 69 Dotson....77 Benenoch
WR .13 M Evans...12 Godwin
TE ..80 Howard....88 Stocker
QB ...03 Winston...14 Fitzpatrick
RB....32 J Rodgers....34 Sims....25 Barber
LDE 97 Mauro..........72 Pierre.............94 X Williams
DT 98 Peters (A).....95 Gunter
DT 92 Rucker.........90 Nkemdiche
SLB 55 C Jones........
ILB 20 Bucannon....43 Reddick
ILB 56 Dansby........57 Bynes
WLB 96 K Martin
LCB 21 Peterson.....25 T Williams
RCB 28 Bethel.........,26 B Williams
SS 41 Bethea.........27 Branch
FS 32 Mathieu ......36 Baker
Matchup: TB Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Using TB offensive stats and opposing numbers as yardsticks, TB tends to lag its opponents in most areas. We know what kind of a QB Winston can be, but - judging by game and season statistics -he's not lighting the world afire. He's also not making many mistakes either.
Wnston's main receivers are Evans, Humphries and their TE Brate, but we know what a home run DeSean Jackon can be. The first three receiving threats all average around 12.5 yards per catch.
TB pass blockers have allowed Winston to be sacked 7 times (compared to TB's 4 sacks).
One characteristic of the Card pass defense is that you never know if and who will show up. C Jones is the Cardinals' head sackmeister. His fellow bookend pass rusher (Golden) is on IR and it's not clear who if anyone else will fill Golden's shoes.
Cards' biggest weakness vs. the pass is its inability to stop opposing QB's from converting 3rd downs. Do our DB's cover too loosely? Do our pass rushers fail to get their hands up? Is it the poor tacklling and inability of our pass rushers to close and finish?
Peterson and Bethel seem to be doing OK, but T Mathieu continues to look a half-step slow (until he surprises everyone with a pick or a sack). Bucannon is back from the mash unit but is still showing signs of rust.
Key Matchups: Brate vs. T Branch. Rodgers vs. Mathieu. D Jackson vs. PP21. Evans vs. Bethel. Howard vs. Bucannon
Matchup: TB Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
TB rushing attack appears to be more "play action/draw/home run than it does a Philly or Seattle smashmouth. Rodgers is more a one-cut & go type RB than he is a thumper. Martin is a different kettle of worms - gaining 74 yards on 13 carries.
Cards have shown in the past that they can match up physically and contain the run - when they decide to do so. Last week, their tackling was sloppy, lane discipline/outside contain equally as sloppy - and it showed.
TB can either go smashmouth or it can opt to attack the outside perimeter. Cards are capable of containing TB rushers, but it depends on whether they play to potential
Key Matchups: Martin vs. Dansby. Rodgers vs. Branch
WR1 11 Fitzgerald......14 Nelson.........16 C Williams
LT 74 Humphries.....73 Wetzel
LG 75 Boone
C 53 Shipley...........62 Munyer
RG 70 Boehm..
RT........68 Veldheer........69 Holden
TE .87 Niklas............80 Momah
WR2 .13 Ja Brown......12 Jo Brown.....10 Golden
QB 03 Palmer* ........05 Stanton.......07 Gabbert
RB xx A Peterson....33 K Williams...38 Ellington....35 Penny.....37 Foster
TE 84 Gresham ......
DT.......93 McCoy....96 Slilga
DT.......90 Baker....98 McDonald
DE......92 Gholston....95 Russell.....xx J Smith
SLB...51 Beckwith....59 Bond
MLB...58 Alexander....53 Glanton
WLB...54 David.....52 Lynch
CB......28 Hargreaves.....36 McClain
CB.....24 Grimes....29 R Smith....35 Elliott
S ......23 Conte.....21 J Evans.....39 I Johnson
S.......37 Tandy....43 Ward....26 J Robinson
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Buc Pass Defense
Cardinal blockers limited Eagles to 2 sacks last week (an improvement) but Carson Palmer still took a licking (& it's questionable if, under that pressure, he can "keep on ticking").
Fortunately, the Tampa Bay pass rush (3 sacks) doesn't quite pose the same threat as did the Eagles and, hopefully, Humphries and Boone will (finally) return to the OL lineup.
There is a connection between Cardinal receiver efficiency and pass blocking - i.e. whenPalmer has time to throw, he's more accurate...and when he's more accurate, his receivers aren't hung out to dry.
Bucs have good corner cover guys in Grimes, Hargreaves and McClain, but Card receivers should be up to the task. Just as much a receiving threat for the Cards is Andre Ellington coming out of the backfield.
As I see it, it all comes down to our OL-men (whomever they happen to be).
Key Matchups: Cardinal tackles vs Ayres and Gholston. Fitz vs. Hargreaves. Jar Brown vs. Grimes. John Brown vs. McClain. Ellington vs. Conte or David
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Buc Run Defense
There's no David Johnson, but that's a lame excuse - the OL isn't opening any holes and (to this writer's perception) we're tipping off our running plays (i.e. if I can predict our play calling from my TV screen, imagine what opposing DC's and defensive players must be seeing).
In a late move, Cards added Pro Bowl veteran RB Adrian Peterson. To make room for AP, the Cards dropped Chris Johnson. In terms of age, size, running style and 2017 performance to date, I don't see this as a significant upgrade. (& as previously stated, most of our problems running the ball have their roots in the Cardinal OL. But then again: "No harm/no foul. " - Who knows? Maybe we'll capture a some of that proverbial "lightning in a bottle."
Stats tell us that TB linebackers (most notably Beckwith) are to be reckoned with in the run game. McCoy is tough inside. Their CB (Hargreave) is 3rd on the team in tackles. Expect the Cards to run away from Beckwith and to attack the perimeters (to stay away from McCoy). Cards could try to occupy Hargreaves with outside passes to Ellington (to open things up for one of our receivers).
Whatever the banged up Cardinal OL is doing, it isn't working - our RB's continually run into brick walls. Depending on who we have this week on our OL, look for BA to change up his blocking schemes (be it zone or straight ahead blocking) to make his linemen more successful in the run game.
Key Matchups: Ellington vs. Hargreaves. OL vs. DL (depending on who suits up).
K xx Murray
P 09 Anger
H 09 Anger
LS .65 Sanborn
KR 18 Reedy
PR 18 Reedy
K 04 Dawson
P 02 Lee
H 02 Lee
LS 49 Drescher
KR 33 K Williams
PR 33 K Williams
Matchup: Buc Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
TB - They're having even more problems in the kicking game than we're having.
Cards - Added Justin Drescher at LS for the injured Brewer. Card coverage game is as bad as our return game.
Neither team is especially scary in the return game. Neither appears to have much of an edge on the other
Key matchups: Cardinal long snapper vs. himself.
TB- HC Koetter. OC Monken. DC M Smith. ST Kaczor.
Cards - Recent Philly debacle puts the Coach Arians era at risk. Evaluating coaches does not come with very much certainty - Some HC's are great when things are going good. Others have problems handling adversity. Others have an even-keel during good times and bad. But when things aren't going well, there are the inevitable questions - Does the HC overreact to problems? Conversely, does he undereact and let problems fester? Does he "stick to the plan" when things go south? Or does he make changes "on the fly?" You really can't know which approach is wisest until you sum things up at the end of the season.
Cards - Iupati is on IR...Humphries is still not ready...Boone iffy
Bucs - TBD
How to Beat Tampa Bay
TB appears to prefer a "war of attrition (i.e. make few mistakes, keep things close and then steal the game in the 2nd half). Our biggest challenge, therefore, will be not to beat ourselves. If we do this, we should be able to let various player vs. mismatches prevail.
Cards played arguably their worst game in a decade. whether or not they bounce back is for us to find out Sunday. Win it and we're 3 & 3. Lose it and we're 2 & 4. Must-win game. (At home).