ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Play: Cardinals’ rare 3rd-and-long conversion aids in victory over Colts

Sep 18, 2017, 8:45 AM | Updated: 3:42 pm

How many times have you heard a play-by-play man say it?

“There aren’t many plays in the playbook for a 3rd-and-20.”

It may be cliché, but it’s very true.

The Arizona Cardinals faced a crucial 3rd-and-20 from their own 18-yard line in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. Trailing 13-3 in the fourth quarter, Arizona needed a big conversion to keep their hopes of victory alive. They got it, and it was arguably the biggest play in the Cardinals’ 16-13 overtime win at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Arizona went with an empty backfield and had three wide receivers left and two to the right, including Jaron Brown. Quarterback Carson Palmer got pressure from his left, stepped up in the pocket and threw a strike to Brown on the numbers right at the line to gain — the Arizona 38-yard line. Brown was hit by Rashaan Melvin and fell forward for two more yards to the 40-yard line.

First down.

The damage was exacerbated by Jabaal Sheard’s personal foul penalty for hitting Palmer in the head, adding 15 yards to the end of the play. They would score on the next play on Palmer’s 45-yard strike to J.J. Nelson, but the third-down conversion (and penalty) set the stage.

“Great catch, huge play,” Palmer said after the game. “It’s not an ideal situation to be in, obviously, especially against the way they were playing us. They were sitting back a lot and sitting at the sticks — at the first-down yard marker a lot.

“That’s Jaron making a great play.”

Not only a great play, but a rare one.

In the 2016 season, NFL teams faced 3rd-and-20 or more on 210 different occasions. Only 10 of them were converted into first downs. Arizona was 0-for-11 in such situations.

In fact, the last time the Cardinals converted a 3rd-and-20 or more was all the way back in the 2013 season — Bruce Arians’ first as head coach. In a Week 13 road game against the Eagles, Arizona faced a 3rd-and-20 from the Philadelphia 43-yard line, Palmer found Larry Fitzgerald on a 43-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7-7 in the second quarter. Philadelphia would win the game, 24-21.

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The Play: Cardinals’ rare 3rd-and-long conversion aids in victory over Colts