Through the first three quarters of Sunday’s contest, the Arizona Cardinals’ offense looked like a carbon copy of the unit that went scoreless over the final three-plus frames in a 31-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.
On their first nine possessions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carson Palmer and Co. punted the ball six times and turned the ball over three times.
For a team that stayed in Sarasota, Fla. for the week in preparation for the early Sunday contest rather than traveling across multiple time zones the day before, the Cardinals looked lifeless for the first 45 minutes of play.
Jay Feely finally got Arizona on the board with a 42-yard field goal with 11:16 remaining in the game, but momentum would swing for good on an ill-advised call by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano and an ill-advised throw by Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon, who was making his NFL debut.
After the Cardinals elected to punt from the Buccaneers 49-yard line with under five minutes to go in the game, Schiano’s squad had a chance to run some clock with the ball placed firmly inside its own 15.
Instead on a second and six from the Tampa Bay 11-yard line, Glennon stepped back and attempted to fire a pass down the field to Vincent Jackson. The ball, however, was picked off by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson at the 24-yard line and taken back for an 11-yard return.
On the Cardinals’ next play from scrimmage, Palmer found wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone for a game-tying, 13-yard touchdown.
The boneheaded plays didn’t stop there for Tampa Bay.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jeff Demps tried to take the ball out of his own end zone despite being about five or six yards deep. The former Florida standout got as far as his own 10-yard line before being taken down.
Following a rush for no gain and an incompletion, Glennon was sacked by Cardinals linebacker Dontay Moch — making his first appearance of the season — back at the one-yard line.
Michael Koenen’s punt put Arizona in great field position at the Tampa Bay 38-yard line, and after a beautiful 19-yard catch by Jaron Brown and subsequent personal foul infraction by Dashon Goldson, Jay Feely calmly kicked home the game-winning score from 27 yards out to complete the 13-10 comeback victory over the Buccaneers.
With Sunday’s victory, the Cardinals snapped a nine-game winless streak on the road dating back to their Week 2 win over the New England Patriots in 2012.
The win was by no means pretty, but the comeback is something the Cardinals can certainly build off of — especially considering it ended on a positive note.
While Mike Glennon looked rather comfortable in the pocket in the first half — 115 yards passing and a touchdown — the Cardinals defense did a terrific job dialing up the pressure over the final 30 minutes of play.
In the second half, the rookie quarterback looked much more uneasy in the pocket and threw two late interceptions to Peterson, including the final one which sealed the victory for Arizona with under a minute to play. Glennon also threw for only 73 yards after halftime.
For the second time in three weeks, Arizona’s defense shut out the opponent in the second half. On both occasions, the Cardinals came out victorious.
The ‘next men up’ also deserve a lot of credit for the victory. Moch recorded his first NFL sack in the fourth quarter, but he wasn’t alone.
Nate Potter came in for Daryn Colledge (leg) in the first half and was part of an offensive line that didn’t allow a single sack after the first play of the game.
Kenny Demens filled in for Jasper Brinkley (groin) and had four tackles.
Matt Shaughnessy, who played at outside linebacker due to the injuries to Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and Alex Okafor, had four tackles and recovered a fumble that led to Arizona’s first score of the afternoon.
And Brown, who came to Arizona as an undrafted free agent out of Clemson, had arguably the biggest and most-difficult catch of the contest, as his 19-yard reception set up the game-winning field goal in the waning moments.
The offense’s abysmal performance through the first 45 minutes has already been highlighted at length, so the next obvious choice are the penalties and injuries.
Arizona came into their Week 4 matchup in Tampa averaging 5.3 penalties per game. Sunday, they had 10 penalties for 90 yards — including personal foul penalties by Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett.
In addition to their numerous infractions, Bruce Arians’ squad once again was bit by the injury bug.
Guard Daryn Colledge went down with a right leg injury in the first half and didn’t return. It should be noted, that it was the same leg the bothered him for much of the preseason.
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley both suffered groin injuries and did not return to action, either.
HE SAID IT
“I think the team that plays the hardest over 60 minutes has a chance to win the game. And, I think that was us today. Obviously a lot of things didn’t go out way, but guys continued to believe in each other, fight.” — Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians
– After not being targeted in the first half, Larry Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
– Carson Palmer continued his INT streak Sunday. The former Heisman Trophy winner threw picks on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to up his season total to six — tying him for third-most in football.
– Arizona’s inability to convert on third down reared its ugly head again in the three-point victory. The Cardinals finished 1-of-10 on third down Sunday, including 0-of-6 in the first half.
– From Alfonso Smith’s three-yard touchdown run in New Orleans to Jay Feely’s 42-yard field goal in Tampa, the Cardinals went 103 minutes and three seconds without scoring.
The Cardinals (2-2) will return home to face their third straight NFC South opponent, the Carolina Panthers (1-2), on Sunday, October 6 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. MST and can be heard on 92.3 KTAR.