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Cards traded with NO for future HOF 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. Big event or non-event? - Both RB's seemed similar in size, explosiveness, running-style and "tread still left on the tire." Both had struggled thus far this season. (Ed Note - AP is actually bigger than CJ2K - 220 lbs vs. 201). Begs the question - Would adding Peterson, dropping C Johnson and surrendering a conditional late draft pick turn out to be a net-plus or a big ol' meh?
TB was 2 & 2 after losing a low-scoring nailbiter to New England. Cards were 2 & 3 after being blacktopped by a rising Eagle squad. This, once again, would be a must-win game for the Cardinals if they want to stay in contention in a very competitive NFC West division.
Cards Blow 31-point Lead/Stil Win 38 - 33
The Bottom Line:
Answers to unasked (& asked) questions:
Adrian Peterson has plenty of gas left in the tank. If his first game as a Cardinal was no fluke, his impact on the offense could be huge.
The threat of a running attack and return of injured offensive linemen raised the play of Carson Palmer and his receivers to almost unreal levels.
Many Card players had trouble sustaining a high level of intensity (especially after being given a sizable lead). This be may be a chronic problem and part of "who the Cardinals are." Unless the coaches effectively address this, it could be this season's Achilles heel.
However, the good news is that - if the Cardinals can sustain 60-minutes of effort each week (& barring injury) we should be right in the thick of things in the NFC West.
Cards came out smoking and built a 31 - 0 by early in the 3Q; but the Buccos came roaring back with 27 points in the 4Q and were only a play or two from actually stealing the game. (Mr. Murphy - who's law warns: "Anything that can go wrong...will" was very much in attendance - as you'll see).
Adrian Peterson turned out to be every thing a Cardinal fan could dream of; which in turn opened up the passing game for Carson Palmer and his receivers
Cards received (once again). TB on KO. Play sequence: Peterson up the middlle for +8...Palmer to Fitz +3...Peterson off LT for +8...Peterson around LE for +11...Palmer to Gresham +18...Peterson up the middle for +27 and a TD. (That went well). Cards 7 - Bucs 0
TB on KO. Bucs made it to the Card 48 before punting. (Bucs converted one 3rd down on a Winston to Brate +15-yd connection). Fair catch at the Card 14. Palmer shredded the Buc defense with completions of +6, +29 and +15 yds. After Peterson circled LE for +17-yds more before Palmer hit Niklas in the end zone for a 14-yd TD. Cards 14 - Bucs 0
TB on KO. Completions for +15 yds and another +15 yds moved the Bucs out to their own 45, but their drive stalled and Anger's punt was fair caught at the Cardinal 5. (K Williams in for Peterson). Cards reached their own 25 on a 9-yd completion to Fitz and an 11-yd run up the middle by KW to end the 1Q.
1st Quarter Score: Cards 14 - Bucs 0
- A 30-yard completion to Jaron Brown and a 26-yd completion deep left to Fitz set up a 11-yd TD pass to Fitz. Cards 21 - Bucs 0
TB on KO. Bucs held to 3 & out. Punt returned to Card 30. (I remember thinking - "When is this streak of good fortune going to end)? A minus-6 yd sack derailed a 10-play (6:02) scoring drive & forced Cards to settle for a 28-yd Dawson FG. (Uh oh)! Cards 24 - Bucs 0
TB on KO. Fitzpatrick in for injured Winston. He converted two 3rd downs and one 4th down before stalling at the Cardinal 5-yd line and turning the ball over on downs. Palmer took a knee to end the 2Q.
First Half Score: Cards 24 - Bucs 0
Bucs received. TB on KO. (Opening 2H drive can be a momentum-setter). On the second play of the Buc possession, a Fitzpatrick pass was intercepted by Bethea and returned to the Buc 33 Three straight runs by Peterson (for +9, +4 and +3 yds) set up a 17-yd TD pass to John Brown. Cards 31 - Bucs 0.
TB on KO. Fitzpatrick converted two 3rd downs on routr to an 8-play scoring drive ending in a 4-yd TD completion to D Jackson. Two-pt conversion failed. Cards 31 - Bucs 0..
(I wondered: "There's too much time left. Is this where fate makes an abrupt U-turn and we fall victim to the biggest comeback in NFL history")? Cards 31 - Bucs 6.
TB on the KO. After Palmer hit Nelson for +16, Palmer's deep heave to a wide open Nelson fell short and was picked off by Grimes who returned it to the Card 42 (Uh oh)! A holding call forced Bucs into a 3 & out. Punt fair caught at the Card 7. A 5-yd sack helped end the drive at the Card 20. Lee's punt was returned to the BUc 37. A 41-yd completion to Evans brought the Bucs to the Cardinal 10 as the 3Q ended. (The 4Q couldn't have come any sooner).
Third Quarter Score: Cards 31 - Bucs 6.
Three plays later, Fitzpatrick hit Brate for a 10-yd TD. 2-pointer failed. Cards 31 - Bucs 12.
TB on KO. A 41-yd run by Peterson off RT was nullified by penalties by Jaron Brown and Peterson (taunting). On the next play from scrimmage (which happens all too often with the Cardinals), Fitz was said to put the ball on the ground. It was picked up by L David who ran it in for a 21-yd TD. (The football gods are tap-dancing overhead). Two-pointer was good. Cards 31 - Bucs 20.
TB on KO was nullfied by penalty. TB ball on its own 30. . In a penalty-ridden series of downs, the Cards made it to within FG range before Gresham was flagged twice (holding and face mask). Cards punted from Buc 41. Downed by Budda B at the Buc 1-yd line. On the first play of the Buc possession, a pass intended for Evans was picked off by T Williams and spotted at the Bucco one. On the following play, Peterson burst toff RT for what turned out to be the winning score. Cards 38 - Bucs 20.
7:28 left (& we're still nervous) - Bucs put together an 11-play TD drive ending with a run by Martin up the middle. Two-point attempt (whew!) failed. Cards 38 - Bucs 26.
It looked as though the Bucs recovered the on-side kick but officials ruled that a Buc player touched the ball before it went 10-yds. Card ball on the Buc 43 with 3:02 left. Our luck held when fumble by Peterson was recovered by Watford. Cards reached the Buc 35 and decided to "go for it" on 4th & 2. Pass for John Brown was incomplete. TB ball on their own 35 with 2:34 left. Three plays later, Fitzpatrick hit Evans for a 37-yd TD (How does that happen?). XP was good. Cards 38 - Bucs 33.
Fitz recovered the on-side. Three knees. Game over.
Final Score: Cards 38 - Bucs 33.
Notable Game Stats.
Passing: Palmer was 18 of 22 for 283 yards, 3 TD and 1 Int. (Fitzpatrick was 22 of 32 for 290 yds, 3 TD's and 2 picks).
Rushing: Peterson said "howdy" with 134 yds on 26 carries. Cards picked up 160 ground yards overall. (Bucs gained 68 running yards overall).
Card rush defense gave up 3.7 yds per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 2.2)
Receiving: Fitz caught 10 passes for 138 yds. John Brown gained 63-yds on 3 catches. (Evans gained 95-yds on 3 catches. Brate picked up 76 yds on 6 catches. , Humphreys caughr 6 passes for 51 yds ).
Turnovers: Even. Cards had one fumble (Fitz). Fitzpatrick had two picks. Palmer one.
Penalties: Cards were penalized 7 times. Bucs 9
Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 35/22. (TB 21/42)
Field Goals: Cards 1for 1. Bucs 0 for 0
Net Punting Yards: Lee averaged 41.5 (Anger averaged (38.5)
Tackles: Bucannon led with 8 tackles followed by Branch (6). Matjhieu, Bethea and Bethel had 5 apiece. .
Sacks: Palmer was sacked twice. C Jones had the only Cardinal sack.
Interceptions: Bethea and T Williams had the two Cardinal interceptions
Third Down Efficiency: Cards were 4 of 9 for 44%. (TB: 7 of 14 for 50%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 1 of 2 - 50%. (TB: 3 of 4 - 75%).
Time of Possession: Cards 32:23/ TB 27:37
Adrian Peterson had a huge game and changed the entire look and effectiveness of the Cardinal offense.
Carson Palmer - once he had the time to throw - was on-fire. (We're not aware of any incompetion until he threw that pick midway thru the 3Q).
The O-line showed what it was made of - at least in the first half of the football game.
Niklas had a couple of clutch grabs (including the one for a TD).
T Williams' clutch interception as a replacement for PP21.
Sitting on the Lead - Maybe a let-down when leading by 31-pts is considered "normal" but we consider it to be a "red flag." Team has to learn to "bring it" for all 60-minutes.
Technique - Ball protection issues almost cost us the game.
Corner - What's the deal with PP21? Is he OK? Did he leave the game due to injury? Or did BA just want to givw T Williams some snaps?
Right Guard - It's hard to follow OL blocking from a TV screen (& Watford's fumble recovery was big) but it seemed to me that, after a sack or tackle in the backfield, there was a lot of shots of #71 standing around after the play.
Penalties - Two on Gresham and one on Watford at crunch time).
To be frank, after last week's debacle in Philly, I didn't think anything (including the trade for Adrian Peterson) could be done to fix what was wrong with this team. AP proved me wrong - it was amazing how improved our offense seemed to be with Peterson ripping off double-digit gains carry after carry..
As much as we liked what Adrian brings to the table, we're almost as concerned about how we took our feet off the pedal in the 4Q and "lacked the paranoia" a team needs to deliver in the clutch.
We've got a tough stretch of divisional play ahead of us (including the Rams in London). The Cards have shown everyone how good they can be. They've also showed the world how bad they can be when they "blink."
Here's to "pedal to the metal."