The Cardinals were down 17-14 at halftime Sunday, thanks to the blocked field goal of Justin Bethel on the final play of the second quarter. At that point, linebacker Daryl Washington said, the defense as a unit committed to the idea 17 points was the most it could allow. A lofty goal. But if Rashard Mendenhall doesn’t fumble the ball away late inside the 10 — and if Andre Johnson doesn’t make yet another spectacular toe-tapping touchdown on fourth down for the Texans — the Cardinals’ defense would have pulled it off.
The Texans gained just 41 net yards in the second half and had zero net yards in the third quarter. In the second half, Houston had just three plays of at least 10 yards — two 11-yard passes and an 11-yard run. And in their five wins, the Cardinals — who were down at halftime in four of those games — have allowed just 21 points in the second half. They have 20 turnovers, which is tied for fifth in the league (and it should be higher if Karlos Dansby could hang on to the ball — more on that later today.)
– As of now, Elias is checking out whether John Abraham and not Frostee Rucker should get the late 23-yard sack of Case Keenum. It’s tough to tell on replay if Keenum lost his balance because of Rucker or because he was trying to dive out of the way of Abraham. Even if Abraham “only” ends up with two sacks yesterday, he’s one of only seven players this season with five sacks and three forced fumbles — nice production and exactly what the Cards were hoping for.
– Bethel’s block was the Cards’ 16th blocked field-goal attempt since 2008, by far the best in the NFL. Seattle is second with 10.
– Carson Palmer’s TD pass to Rob Housler was Palmer’s 200th in his career.
– RB Andre Ellington and his 7.19-per-carry rush average remains second in the league behind Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor (7.41) and by far the best running back with at least 50 rushing attempts.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Rashard Mendenhall, Texans
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Patrick Peterson was shaking his head, unable to fathom even after Sunday’s game how Andre Johnson had made his two touchdown catches. Both were against Peterson but neither were Peterson’s fault as much as Johnson – the Texans’ star receiver – making unreal plays to get a second foot down on the edge of the end zone.
“I thought I played pretty well today,” Peterson said. “I held him to 37 yards, I believe. Just those two touchdowns. He’s an all-pro. He gets paid the big bucks.”
Ultimately, that was the story of Sunday in a nutshell. The Texans got some good plays from their stars. J.J. Watt had a couple of impressive forced fumbles too. But in the end, the Cardinals got more from more people. Bruce Arians called it a “team” win – and most coaches do, and there were parts from everyone. It looked a lot like the other wins the Cards have had, with a defensive bent, no question, but the offense did enough.
And, of course, the Cardinals are 5-4 and going to play Jacksonville on the road.
– There was no way to start the game better than the John Abraham strip-sack that Matt Shaughnessy returned for a touchdown. It didn’t lead to a blowout or anything, but it did underscore what a good signing Abraham is turning out to be. He now has five sacks (and he was pretty close to a few before he got his first three games ago) and is exactly as advertised as a pass rusher.
– There will be much talk – again – about Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington. But guess what? Arians wasn’t down on Mendenhall at all afterward, so there are going to be no changes. He said he thought Mendenhall was down before he fumbled, so the fumble isn’t going to be a black mark. He said he thought Ellington’s work was just fine, and that was after 13 touches (although two more passes were thrown incomplete to Ellington.) Mendenhall had 14 touches for the game.
– It was interesting for a coach like Arians, who said in training camp he didn’t like the wildcat, to use Ellington in the wildcat. Arians said after the game he doesn’t like the wildcat with the QB on the field, and Carson Palmer wasn’t. Ellington was QB for three straight plays. Ran it for five. Ran it for seven. Handed off to Patrick Peterson for a four-yard loss.
– Karlos, Karlos, Karlos. You might be headed to your first Pro Bowl if you could hang on to those near interceptions. There were two more today. Feels like Dansby should have six interceptions already instead of just one.
– Arians said he expected Michael Floyd back next week after he sprained his shoulder, but I want to see that first. With Andre Roberts available, the Cards may not want to push it. It’s too bad, because Floyd was off to a good start Sunday.
– Fitz had three catches for 23 yards on six targets, and it really didn’t mean anything. Don’t know if that’s a good sign or bad.
– Palmer, on the two big plays by Watt: “There are a handful of players you’re not going to stop,” Palmer said. “They’re going to make their plays. It’s inevitable.”
– The Cards got three false starts in the first half. That’s what happens when Watt and company are ready to come. “Guys like (Antonio) Smith and Watt can come off the ball and you are primed up and ready to go,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “Carson is trying to hold (the snap) to help us as safeties are rolling down but we’re primed to go and he’s late in his cadence. There was a perfect storm. We probably could have had more than that. I think pretty much every offensive linemen at some point is pretty much just holding on to the grass.”
– Justin Bethel should be in the Pro Bowl. And that field-goal block was a life saver.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Johnson, Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Daryn Colledge, JJ Watt, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Texans
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We interrupt the normal gameday inactives post — because there are no surprises on it following the bye week — to note the Cardinals’ defense, coming into the weekend, were the top defense in the NFL based on footballoutsiders.com’s DVOA rankings. The DVOA rankings are in many ways better than the NFL rankings because it takes into account so much more than just yards. (DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, balancing a team against the league average and multiple categories). FO says the Cards’ strength of schedule plays a factor, as does the turnovers (although DVOA doesn’t give a ton of credit for fumble recoveries, because those tend to be the luck of the bounce) and the fact the Cards do well defending on second- and third-downs. Something to chew on going into today’s game.
Speaking of today’s game, the (not surprising) inactive list. Bradley Sowell will start as usual at left tackle, Jake Ballard gets a spin at some tight end:
– WR Brittan Golden (hamstring)
– QB Ryan Lindley
– RB Ryan Williams
– LB Dontay Moch
–G Earl Watford
– TE Kory Sperry
– DE Ronald Talley
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Football Outsiders, inactives, Jake Ballard, Texans
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“I don’t know how they are 2 and 6.”
Larry Fitzgerald said that about the Texans this week. Coach Bruce Arians said something similar. Normally, eh. Players and coaches are always going to say nice things about the opponent, lest bulletin board material be uttered. But this is a week where that seems to make a little sense. The Texans have the top-ranked defense in the NFL. They have the top-ranked pass defense. They have a top 10 offense. Those things don’t usually add up to 2-6 as a record.
But it is the cracks in the armor that put the Cards in a good position coming off the bye. Those stats don’t translate into wins because the Texans don’t generate a lot of turnovers. They have a hard time stopping teams from scoring touchdowns once they get into the red zone. They’ve managed to give up a lot of points when they are playing offense (although a quarterback change has helped that) and their special teams aren’t very good.
Add in a missing head coach who also happens to be the team’s play caller, and the Cardinals seem to be set up for an opportunity coming off the bye.
– Texans quarterback Case Keenum has played very well since taking over for Matt Schaub. But for an inexperienced guy, it just feels like there will be a bump coming sooner rather than later. That could be Sunday. The Cards do a nice job against the run and tend (unless you have an athletic tight end) not to get beat deep. Keenum likes to throw the deep ball. I just have this feeling that will get him into trouble this week.
– That will obviously mean Patrick Peterson will be on display, especially since he will be chasing Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson much of the game. Johnson went off for 229 yards and three touchdowns last week. The spotlight will be on both. Peterson hasn’t given up a touchdown pass since Week 3 in New Orleans, when he was beat late on a Jimmy Graham slant. Profootballfocus.com says that Peterson has been targeted 48 times in eight games by opposing passes, and he has allowed a completion on only 50 percent of those throws.
– Cardinals tackle Eric Winston not only played with Johnson in Houston, but also in college at Miami. “Andre is that specimen-athlete-type guy,” Winston said. “He looks at a weight and he puts on weight. At Miami we made him stop coming to the weight room because he got too heavy. He ate McDonalds every day and had two percent body fat.”
– Jake Ballard will be active this week. I do not expect him to be a revelation at tight end, but the Cards hope he can show a little bit as he works back into the game following so much time off.
– Rashard Mendenhall will start. Not a big deal. Andre Ellington should get his touches. That is a big deal.
– I expect Bradley Sowell to start at left tackle. Watching how the Cardinals deal with J.J. Watt, however, is going to be a line-wide job. Can they hold him off? That run game (the Texans are just 18th against the run) is going to be so important in making that pass rush hesitate at least a little.
– Saw Jonathan Cooper this morning in the weight room. The rookie guard still has a boot on his foot but was doing some dumbbell work. A good sign as he slowly progresses in his rehab.
– Heads up for anyone going to the game Sunday. Not only is the football game going on, but there is a concert at Jobing.com Arena and then the annual NASCAR November race at PIR. Traffic is expected to be heavier than normal on the 101 and around the stadium. Be prepared and give yourself extra time. Parking lots open at 10 a.m. – remember, with the rest of the country changing clocks, kickoff this weekend is now 2:25 p.m.
– And in case you missed it, the Cardinals will be wearing their black jerseys.
– As we wrap this up, I found this Karlos Dansby video very entertaining (now the world sees what I have known for a while, how Los repeats your question.) His one comment might be the quote of the year: “Batman, man, he’s gonna have problems. He’s gonna have issues.”
See you Sunday.
Tags: Andre Johnson, black uniforms, Bradley Sowell, Case Keenum, Eric Winston, Jake Ballard, Jonathan Cooper, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Texans
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The term “must-win” is thrown around often in sports, probably too much. It’s not a term coaches and players like to embrace, for the simple reality that most of the time, “must-win” is used in context of the assumption there are other games that team probably will not win. Such is the narrative with the Cardinals right now, at 4-4 and knowing three of their final five games are on the road and the last two are against Seattle (there) and San Francisco (here).
It would seem to make Sunday’s home game against the 2-6 Texans crucial if the Cardinals want to make the playoffs. Not that coach Bruce Arians is buying it. “There are so many things that could happen,” Arians said. “To say if we lose this game we can’t go to the playoffs? No. That’s ridiculous. There are way too many more games. I think if you lose this one, and you went 11-5, I think you’d make it. This is not an end-all be-all.”
Here’s what the Cardinals are up against: A 9-7 record is going to be right on the fringe of being playoff-worthy. Even 10-6 might be on the cusp. To go 9-7, the Cards still have to win five of eight the rest of the way. The schedule features three teams that seem to be pretty sure bets for the postseason, with home games against the Colts (Nov. 24) and 49ers (Dec. 29 to close the season) and a road trip to Seattle (Dec. 22). Of the other five opponents, only Tennessee — where the Cards must visit — are at least .500, and the Titans have the same record as the Cards.
The Texans’ game is different in so many ways. The stats scream they should be better — Houston has the top-ranked defense and the eight-ranked offense — than 2-6. “How they are 2-6 is beyond me,” Arians said. But they are without their head coach and playcaller, and they pushed a lot of chips in on the table needing last week’s win against the Colts, which they could not finish. Now they have to come to University of Phoenix Stadium.
This gauntlet was always looking like an important stretch, with struggling Atlanta, struggling Houston and struggling Jacksonville. No, it’s not must-win. But the climb gets a whole lot harder without victories.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Texans
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Eric Winston, Houston Texans, NFL, Texans
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In training camp, a couple of defensive players kept saying they thought the defense of Todd Bowles was actually more aggressive than that of Ray Horton, which frankly surprised me. I wasn’t sure that was possible. Late last week (sorry, with the bye weekend I’m just catching up) profootballfocus.com did research on teams — both offensively and defensively — who had allowed and created the most unblocked pressure on the quarterback. Guess who was at the top of the defensive list.
Again, these are the games charted prior to this weekend, but the Cardinals had managed to get unblocked pressure 49 times in eight games, tops in the league, and were able to hit the quarterback 61.2 percent of the time, which was the third-highest percentage. What does it mean? It means Bowles and his defense have been able to create enough confusion with their rushes/blitzes that guys are coming free (linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington are among the top individual players).
Also interesting to me: On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals have allowed 18 unblocked pressures, tied for sixth-fewest in the NFL — meaning that for all the faults of the pass protection, the scheme is at least accounting for the pass rushers most of the time. (And yes, it probably means the opposition blitzes less because they think they can beat the blockers with a four-man rush too.)
This week will be a test. Watching the Texans’ defensive line attack Indy’s Andrew Luck Sunday night with J.J. Watt and former Cardinal Antonio Smith, among others, was eye-opening. On the other side of the ball, Houston QB Case Keenum can certainly move around. But the Cards will have had two weeks to prep. And the Texans have to be reeling after another crushing loss.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Pro Football Focus, Texans, Todd Bowles
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