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"2nd" Sunday Game (4:25 ET). Cards were bushwacked by the Texans the previous week. Jags were 7 & 3 coming off a 19 - 7 win in Cleveland (and a 4-game winning streak). Jag defense was evolving into a powerhouse - ranked #1 in points-allowed, yards-per-play allowed, sacks and passing yards-allowed and tied for #1 in takeaways. Cards were 4 & 6 and not playing very well. They're at the stage of the season where they appear to be ready to start younger players to "see what they've got." It will be interesting to see whether Seattle's loss Monday night loss might keep the seat warm for a little bit longer in the NFL West and breathe more oxygen fumes into a Cardinal roster that seems to be close to life-support.
(A shout out to the CBS announcing crew (Spiro Dedes and Adam Archuleta) for their insight into formations, coverages, players etc. and their focus on the game-itself - a far cry from what we've been used to hearing on the FOX channels).
Cards edge Jags on 57-yarder with 0:01 left
Answers to Unasked Questions:
Playoffs???!!!??? - Not sure, but If so, chances are pretty slim.
Gabbert??? - Not perfect, but stepped up at crunch-time to lead his team into a position to kick the winning FG with 0:01 to go - against what was arguably the best defense in the NFL.
Gabbert's mobility brings a new feature to the Cardinal offense. True, there are some remaining ball-protection issues, but these look more correctable than ingrained.
The OL executed better than it did vs. Houston (Adrian Peterson gained 79 yds and was able to rip off a couple of 10-yard gains against a very stingy Jaguar run defense). Gabbert was still pressured more than you'd like to see in your starting QB, but he was able to chalk up 27 poiints by hook or by crook.
Chandler Jones had a beast of a game with 2 sacks and 6 tackles. He also got nailed for a roughing the passer penalty - we understand why they had to call it, but are not sure it was avoidable.
Patrick Peterson benefitted from the lack of a home run threat from the banged-up Jaguar receiving corps.
Just when we were about to write off Tyrann Mathieu as still-injured, no-longer motivated, a step-late etc. he comes back and makes plays like he used to (& not only that, but his level of play was consistently high throughout the game. 4 tackles and a pick don't tell the whole story - his pressure off the edge on blitz-detail kept Bartles off balance throughout the entire game.
The one major "below the radar" stat was 3rd Down Conversions - Jags only converted 1 of 12 (8%). Cards converted 7 of 17 (41%)
There were so many interesting story-lines that you could use them to produce an Academy Award film:
The Big Man Returns - Calais Campbell returns to post 3 tackles and return a fumble for a TD.
David vs. Goliath - With an inconsistent running attack and shaky run-defense, the Cards faced a playoff contender with a crunching run-offense and top overall defense - especially vs, the run.
AP Not Ready for Medicare - Coming off a weak performance in Houston, Adrian Peterson gained 79 yds on the ground and also caught 4 passes.
Gabby Proves 'Em Wrong - They said 3rd string QB Blaine Gabbert's career was probably over, but he threw for241 yds, 2 Td's and threaded the needle twice to set up the winning Card FG.
The Old Man's Still Got it - Phil Dawson puts down his AARP Card and kicks a record-setting 57-yarder to win the game.
Still Fear The Badger - Amidst criticism that he lost a step, lost the fire and no longer could get the job done, Tyrann Mathieu returned to his game-breaking days of old.
"The Kid" - All we knew about DJ Foster was that he was a UDFA and a local product from ASU who was brought in to be a place-holder on the Cardinal RB depth chart. If his "toe dance" doesn't get both feet in bounds or he fails to hold onto the ball, Dawson doesn't kick the 57-yarder and we lose.
Cards won the toss but uncharacteristically deferred. TB on KO. Jags held to 3 & out. Punt returned to Card 33. A 26-yd completion to Seals-Jones and a couple of short passes to A Peterson set up a 34-yd Dawson FG. Cards 3 - Jags 0.
TB on KO. Bucannon hurt on second play from scrimmage. Jags picked up a quick 1st down but were forced to punt from their forty. Punt fair caught at the Card 25. Cards clawed their way across midfield in ten plays but were forced to punt from the Jag 46. (Jag defenders were adept at batting down wide screens). Punt downed by Bethel at the Jax 4. Fournette gained one yd up the middle to end the quarter.
1st Quarter Score: Cards 3 - Jags 0.
- Jags moved to the Card 34...Roughing the passer flag on C Jones helped sustain the Jag drive to the Card 34, where Bynes forced a fumble and Dansby recovered. Card ball at their 40. A roughing the passer penalty on Fowler, a 14-yd completion to Nelson and a 7-yd run by Peterson helped set up Dawson's second FG from 42-yds. TD. Cards 6 - Jags 0.
- TB on KO. A 12-yd sack by Pierre set up a Jax 3 & out. K Williams returned the punt for 20 yds. Cards ball on Jax 41. Four plays later, Gabbert hit Seals-Jones for a 29-yd TD. Cards 13 - Jags 0.
- TB on KO. Interference call on Bynes moved Jax to midfield, but Bortles was then sacked by C Jones for a minus-10 yd loss. Jax punted. TB on the punt. On the first play from scrimmage, Gabbert fumbled the the snap. A Peterson recovered. On the next play, K Williams fumbled but ruling was reversed. After two consecutive false-start penalties (What's with that?) Cards eventually punted from their own 15. Punt returned to the Jax 44 at the 2:00 mark. Bortles put together what seemed to be his best drive of the game, featuring completions for +7, +3, +11, and +13 yards, but another sack (for minuis 10) by C Jomes forced Jax to settle for a 25-yd Lambo FG with 0:20 on the clock. Cards 13 - Jags 3.
- Gabbert took a final knee to end the half.
First Half Score: Cards 13 - Jags 3.
Cards received. TB on KO. (An un-sexy but important drive) - A 16-yd completion to Fitz and a horse-collar flag on Jax was enogh to move the Cards to the Jax 30, where Dawson was good from 48. Cards 16 - Jags 3.
TB on KO. A roughing the passer flag on K-Mart followed by a Bortles ramble for +28-yds around LE moved Jax to the Card 9. On the next play, Bortles scrambled up the middle and fumbled, but BOrtles recovered it at the Card 1-yd line. Bortles then scrambled around RE for a one-yd TD. Margin now less than a TD. Cards 16 - Jags 10.
TB on KO. Six-play mini-drive featuring 3 inconsequential runs by A Peterson. Lee punted from midfield. Fair caught at Jax 7. Teams exchanged 3 7 outs (one for Cards and two for Jags). Peterson ran once up the middle for 10-yds to finish the quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Cards 16 - Jags 10.
- Cards bogged down and Lee's punt was O-O-B at the Jax 17. Rucker got flagged for roughing the passer (4th time in this game for Cardinal pass rushers). Card defense tightened up and Jax punted from its own 48. Punt fair caught at the Card 15. On the 3rd play from scrimmage, Gabbert ran into Ngakoue while scrambling to avoid a sack. Fumbled the ball. Calais Campbell picked it up and rambled in for a 10-yd TD. that gave Jax the lead for the first time. Jags 17 - Cards 16
- TB on the KO. Gabbert came right back, pulling up on what first looked to be a scramble up the middle and throwing a 52-yd TD pass to a wide open Jaron Brown on the 6th play of the possession. Cards went for 2 on the XP conversion. Attempt was good when Gabbert rolled right and hit Fitz in the end zone. (The additional point would prove huge). Cards 24- Jags 17.
Plenty of time (9:07) left. Grant returned the KO 68 yds to the AZ 38. Bortles shredded the Card defense with completions to Yeldon for +5, Cole for +6 and Lewis for +10. On the next play, Bortles circled LE for +17 and the game tying TD. Cards 24- Jags 24.
7:26 left. KO returned to the Card 16. Gabbert took the Cards in 7 plays to the his own 41, where, on the next play, his pass for C Williams was intercepted by Church downed at the Jax 42 with 3:38 left. (Uh oh!). Bortles moved the Jags to the fringe of FG country (at the Cardinal 48). It was here that I wondered out loud whether if and when - on a quck sideline out - a Cardinal pass defender would "jump the route." Which is exactly what happened when Bortles's throw in the right flat was jumped by the Honey Badger.
Cards ball on their own 41 with 2:42 left. Nail-biting time - Cards held to 3 & out. Punt fair caught by Jags at their own 10 with 1:14 left to play. (You got the feeling Jacksonville was playing to get into overtime and settle things there). Jags went 3 & out (Dedes and Archuleta questioned why - if Jags were playing to get into OT - Marrone would have dialed up a pass on second down - essentially giving BA a "free time out" if he planned to go for a score).
Cards held Jax to 3 & out with Peterson returning the punt 12-yds to the Card 39 with 0:16 on the clock. On the first play from scrimmage, Gabbert hit K Williams (who managed to get out of bounds) for 1-yds. Ball on the Card 49. Then Gabbert hit DJ Foster - who managed to get both toes in-bounds while hanging onto the ball as he was pushed out of bounds - which put the ball on the Jag 39 and set up a desperation 57-yd FG attempt by Senior Citizen Phil Dawson. Attempt was good. Cards 27- Jags 24.
0:01 left. Final play was an on-side kick followed by a game of "keep away" that eventually went nowhere,
Final Score: Cards 27 Jags 24.
Notable Game Stats.
Passing: Gabbert was 22 of 38 for 241 yards, 2 TD and 1 Int. (Bortles was 19 of 33 for 160 yds, 0 TD's and 1 pick).
Rushing: Peterson gained 79 yds on 20 carries. (Jag runners gained 91 yds on 22 carries).
Card rush defense gave up 41 yds per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.5)
Receiving: Non-receivers Seal-Jones and A Peterson led the Cards with 4 catches apiece. 14 other catches were spread around among 8 other receivers. Seals-Jones and Ja Brown had one TD apiece. Drops were cut down markedly
Turnovers: Plus-One. Each team gave up 1 interception apiece. Jax gave up 2 fumbles/Cards gave up one.
Penalties: Cards were penalized 10 times (4 for roughing the passer). Jax 56
- Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 31/38. (Jax 22/33)
Field Goals: Cards 4 for 4 Jags 1 for 1
Net Punting Yards: Lee averaged 40.0. Norman averaged (40.4)
Tackles: Bynes 8, C Jones 6, Rucker 5, Four others 4
Sacks: 3. C Jones 2, Pierre 1 (Cards allowed one sack)
Interceptions: Mathieu had one. Gabbert gave up 1.
Third Down Efficiency: Cards were 7 of 17 for 41%. Jax: 1 of 12 for 8%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 0 of 1 for 0%, Jags were 2 of 2 - 100%. (Houston: 2 of 3 - 66%).
Time of Possession: Cards 34:39/ Jax: 25:21
Gabbert would have looked better than OK if it weren't for his OL.
Seals-Jones looks like a legit receiving threat.
Fitz had 9 catches
B Baker had a pretty good debut as a starter.
The Dark Side
Foreman's 4Q TD - Came on the first Houston play after A Peterson failed to convert a 4th down. It looked like 11 Cardinal defenders standing around as Foreman breezed around RE for a 34-yd score that broke our backs. If you want to know where the Cardinals "are" right now as a team, that one play speaks volumes.
The OL - Perfect example of the "domino effect" created by awful play - Your QB gets hurried...your RB can't find any holes...your defense stays on the field too long...your receivers don't have time to achieve separation...tight coverage results in several drops of catchable passes...penalties disrupt your rhythm,
PP21 is Mortal - Got beaten by Hopkins in two one-on-one situations. Makes me nervous that this will encourage other NFL teams to test PP21 early and often. (I've long held that some very good players catch a break because their opponents don't even bother trying to outplay them one on one. In this case, the reverse may be true - we can't automatically assume other teams will lay off Patrick).
The Badger - Looked a step slow chasing slot receivers on crossing routes. Tackling was considerably less sure-footed than the Badger we've become used to).
Bethel - Another flag on ST's? Beginning to grow into the familiar definition of a "coach killer."
10 Penalties - (vs. Houston's 6).
Coaching - That 34-yd run by Foreman should tell you all you need to know. Cards hit the US Mails in the 4Q. It reflects on BA as a leader. He looked kind of sad on the sideline, and "sad" won't cut it.
Management - Memo to SK: How goes the OL, there goes the Cardinals. How to fix it: Short cuts won't work (injuries too frequent). Only solution is to "overdraft" and "over-buy") at the position so that we wind up with 10 to 12 linemen who can open holes and protect the passes. Anything less will doom us to perennial mediocrity.
It's hard to stay fired up, but there are always young players to pull for...the up-coming draft to follow...& a couple of upsets to root for.
Just a win would be kind of nice.