Cardinals turn in just enough big plays to earn road win in Indianapolis

Sep 17, 2017, 2:54 PM | Updated: 6:21 pm
Arizona Cardinals' Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates with teammates after an interception during overt...

Arizona Cardinals' Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates with teammates after an interception during overtime of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

If you were going to describe the Arizona Cardinals’ 16-13 overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, you might say it had a great personality, because it certainly wasn’t pretty.

Tyrann Mathieu picked off Jacoby Brissett’s first pass of overtime to set up Phil Dawson’s 30-yard field goal that gave the Cardinals the win, their first in Indianapolis since 1984.

You might be thinking, “overtime? With the Colts? The team the Rams beat by 37 points last week?” It’s fair. No NFL team looked worse than Indianapolis in Week 1, but Chuck Pagano’s team played much better on both sides of the ball despite falling to 0-2.

For the Cardinals, it was really a handful of plays that helped them earn their first win of 2017 and the push their record to .500 for the first time since Week 10 of last season.

Play 1

After falling behind 13-3 in the third quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri that capped a massive 16-play, 76-yard drive that took over nine minutes off the clock, the Cardinals needed a spark. Facing a 3rd-and-20 from their own 18 following a sack and a pass to Andre Ellington that lost four yards, it didn’t look like they’d get one.

Palmer dropped to pass and flung the ball down the right side to Jaron Brown, who cut off his route right at the sticks in front of cornerback Rashaan Melvin. The play gained 22 yards and 15 more got tacked on because Indianapolis defensive end Jabaal Sheard smacked Palmer in the head.

It gave Cardinals a first down at the Colts’ 45-yard line and set up the next big play for Arizona.

Play 2

On first down, Palmer used a play action pass and found a streaking J.J. Nelson on a post route. The ball was on the mark, and Nelson hung on despite the presence of two Indianapolis defenders.

It was Nelson’s seventh touchdown catch in his last seven games.

Play 3

Still trailing by three points with about 5:30 to play, Palmer drew Sheard offside, leading to a free play on which he found Nelson wide-open down the sideline for a 31-yard gain down to the Colts’ 28-yard line.

The drive stalled at the Colts’ 22, and Arizona had to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Dawson to make the score 13-13 with 3:25 remaining in the contest.

Play 4

We’ll skip over Dawson’s miss on the last play of regulation after being iced with a timeout, but we’ll pick up in overtime.

After winning the coin toss, the Colts had a 1st-and-10 at their own 21-yard line. A touchdown on the possession would win the game for Indianapolis. Brissett dropped to pass and tried to connect with Kamar Aiken. Frostee Rucker provided heavy pressure from Brissett’s left as he threw and Mathieu stepped in front of Aiken for the interception — the first turnover of the day by the Colts and Mathieu’s 10th career interception.

Mathieu told Paul Calvisi of the Cardinals Radio Network after the game that he closed his eyes as he caught the ball, because he thought he was going to get hit by teammate Karlos Dansby, who was also in tight coverage.

Mathieu returned the ball to the Colts’ 21-yard line, and three plays later, the fifth big play of the game won the game for Arizona.

Play 5

Dawson atoned for his earlier miss by connecting on a 30-yarder for the victory.

While far from encouraging, the win evens the Cardinals’ record at 1-1 heading into their home opener a week from Monday against the Dallas Cowboys at University of Phoenix Stadium.

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Cardinals turn in just enough big plays to earn road win in Indianapolis