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Keim Time: When things got bad, Cardinals responded vs. Jaguars

LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals General Manager

Even though the Arizona Cardinals led most of the way, that “here we go again” feeling returned when quarterback Blaine Gabbert fumbled leading to a touchdown for former Cardinal Calais Campbell and his Jacksonville Jaguars.

Then, it happened again, when Gabbert threw an interception with the game tied, 24-24, and just 3:38 remaining.

But Gabbert along with safety Tyrann Mathieu, running back D.J. Foster and kicker Phil Dawson all made plays down the stretch to help Arizona eke out a 27-24 win in Week 12.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim liked how his players responded to the adversity. He joins Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station every Monday morning during the season, and this week, he addressed the Cardinals’ surprising home win over the Jaguars.

It’s Keim Time.

Talk a little bit in general about getting the fifth win of the season and what you saw yesterday.

I mean, you know, guys, what we’ve been through this year. It’s rewarding, particularly whenever you think about the fact that we beat a good football team, a team that has dominated a lot of other opponents on defense. To see the way we played and, more so for me, see a lot of a young players have the opportunity to step up and the ways those guys produced when the lights came on to me is what’s exciting about it.

What’d you think of Blaine Gabbert?

I thought I was late calling in because I couldn’t stop watching the last play of the game. And Wolf, you’ll appreciate this, when you watch that tape, he eludes the rush, steps out of the pocket and starts running full speed. He’s about a yard-and-a-half to two yards away from the line of scrimmage, and he snaps off a ball, the velocity and the way it jumps out of his hand is phenomenal, particularly when you think about that he’s running full speed.

Then you see D.J. make a phenomenal catch where he extends, keeps his feet in. I don’t know what’s more impressive, the catch or the throw. It’s a phenomenal way to finish the game. It gives both of those guys, who again have gotten this opportunity, a lot of confidence.

Steve, did you think (Gabbert) did a good job overcoming adversity? The most impressive thing about Blaine Gabbert to me was that period in the third quarter where he went 0-for-7 even though there was a drop that was mixed in there. Then he ripped off 8-of-12 for over a 100 yards and a touchdown. He righted the ship, and in the past the knock has always been — at least from other analysts I’ve heard — was he didn’t handle pressure well. Did you think he handled pressure well yesterday?

I think he handled it extremely well. I think more so as a team we handled it well. When they had the strip and Calais had the touchdown, it was one of those points in the game where you could have had the woe-is-me attitude and (say), “here we go again.” But to bounce back and regain the lead and again handle adversity the way we did, not only from the quarterback position but from a lot of different spots and getting guys stepping up and making plays, it’s a great feeling. Hopefully that’s something we can build on as an organization.

As you sit here this morning, is Blaine Gabbert playing to be the quarterback of the future? Is he playing to be the stop-gap from the time Carson Palmer leaves? How do you look at Blaine Gabbert in 2017 as it relates to the future of the Cardinals?

No different than the reason we signed him back in the springtime. It was very little risk to possibly a high reward. A lot of people scoffed at the fact we signed him and I don’t think were high on that decision. I liked him coming out, Coach liked him a lot coming out. He’s always had the physical gifts. Again, what was the real risk involved signing a guy to a contract to be your third quarterback?

The fact that he’s stepped up, he’s looked poised and he’s got a lot of patience in this offense — he’s been a great fit so far, he works his tail off off the field. To me, this gives you the confidence as a general manager and as a coach to make these decisions, and hopefully it pays off going forward.

You were talking about some of the young players that really jumped off the film when you watched it. Who are those young players who really impressed you?

(Rookie safety) Budda Baker continues to impress. I mean, his foot speed, his explosiveness, his ability to blitz off the slot, what he brings from a coverage standpoint, is really, really fun to watch. There’s no doubt that (rookie receiver) Chad Williams made a few nice plays. D.J. Foster, and again, obviously Blaine.

The guy that continues to impress me is (rookie tight end) Ricky Seals-Jones. You wonder at times when a guy is an undrafted free agent if it’s a fluke that he comes in in his first game and has some success like he did. All of a sudden, he capitalizes in the second game, he does the same type of thing. The one thing you see on tape, and you see the mismatches he creates. You see the foot speed, the suddenness, the explosiveness in and out of his routes. The fact that he can play in line, he can line up in the slot, he can move all over the field and create all sorts of mismatches is really fun to watch with his body control, his ball skills — although he did have one drop.

To me, it encourages you to think about moving forward with a guy that we really haven’t had in this offense in a long time, and again, that’s a mismatch tight end.

Phil Dawson (made) not only just a couple kicks, I mean, these were long-distance field goals. Career high on the game-winner and the tackle on special teams. Tell me about Phil Dawson.

Phil was money. That’s the guy that we signed. I don’t want to make excuses for anybody, but there is a difference whenever you go through the transition of a new long snapper and the operation time. There’s all those sorts of things that play into it. Phil stepped up and handled it like a true pro. I know he’s been disappointed this year so far, as the team has. But when it counted, Phil stepped up and made the plays.

Steve, talk a little bit about what you’re seeing from Tyrann Mathieu. Once again, just an incredibly instinctive play. Over the last couple weeks, does it look like Tyrann is getting better, is he getting more confident when you watch him on tape?

I think so. I think the one thing is you forget that the guy has been through quite a few traumatic injuries. It’s not only one thing to come back from the physical ailment, but to come back and to play with the confidence mentally. I think that’s always an obstacle that we all have to go through when you incur those types of injuries. He’s coming back into form. He’s always been a very, very instinctive player, and to see him come up with that interception yesterday, I was really, really happy for him because, again, that can just build on the confidence moving forward.

What was it like for you, for a guy (like Campbell) that has meant so much to the organization and so much to you, to score a touchdown that you really didn’t want to see? What were you thinking when Calais Campbell walked into the end zone?

Well, I mean it’s one of those things that — I love Calais. I love him as a person and really enjoyed having him here as a player. Unfortunately, we had to make some tough decisions. We allocated that part of the contract to Chandler Jones so I think the part that Chandler Jones played yesterday was probably more encouraging for me. The fact that Chandler Jones has led the NFL in sacks since we traded for him. He’s tied for the (most) sacks in the NFL right now and he leads the NFL in TFLs (tackles for loss).

He was good, Chandler Jones, yesterday. Steve, how’d the offensive line do?

Oh, I thought it was one of their best games collectively, again, against a very talented defensive front seven. I thought a lot of guys played well. I thought (left tackle) Jared Veldheer played one of his better games. (Left guard Alex) Boone, (center) A.Q. (Shipley), they all played well in my opinion. I thought we pass protected. We were able to run the ball effectively, I thought Adrian (Peterson) ran the ball really hard. Again, another encouraging game to build on for those guys moving forward, because as you know, Wolf, sometimes this game, it’s the degree of confidence that you have to gain.

The one thing about yesterday too that excited me is the energy and the excitement that our fans brought. You know, you never want to lose a football game but to lose in front of your home crowd is extremely disappointing. I was very, very encouraged that we were able to (win) at home yesterday.

I think it’s only fair that since I asked you about fourth down last week when it didn’t work, I should ask you about it this week. What’d you think about B.A.’s decision not to go for it on fourth down this week?

I didn’t have any question he was not going to go for it. He’s beat himself up pretty bad over the last couple of weeks. Again, I don’t think there’s many play-callers better than Bruce Arians. His gambling style has won him a lot of games over the years, so you know, I think it was one of those self-evaluation pieces that he had to look himself in the mirror and say, ‘hey, if I have this opportunity again I’m either going to do it or not do it.’ I think he made the right decision yesterday.

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