Rapid Reaction: Cardinals fall to Texans in Gabbert’s first start
It looked promising through three quarters.
Behind quarterback Blaine Gabbert in his Cardinals debut, Arizona responded to early adversity with two forced turnovers in the first half leading to two touchdown passes, leading to a 14-10 halftime advantage. The Cardinals traded punches through the third before things got away from them late.
Of note: A questionable decision by coach Bruce Arians to go for it on 4th-and-1 with Arizona only trailing 24-21, and two late interceptions thrown by Gabbert, who’d to that point tossed three touchdown passes.
Here’s some quick reaction to the game from the staff of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station and ArizonaSports.com.
Of course, you can get more reaction Monday starting at 6 a.m. with Doug & Wolf and continuing with The Blitz with Bertrand Berry & Mike Jurecki and Bickley & Marotta — who will both broadcast from the Cardinals practice facility in Tempe. Then, Burns & Gambo will wrap up the day’s analysis on your drive home from 2-6 p.m.
Vince Marotta, Co-host of Bickley & Marotta
The Arizona Cardinals’ season-long guise of being a playoff-caliber team ended Sunday with an ugly 31-21 loss to Tom Savage and the Houston Texans.
Let me repeat that: The Cardinals lost to Tom Savage.
And they made him look really good in the process. Savage threw two touchdowns, taking advantage of facing very little pressure all day long. Arizona managed one sack, on a safety blitz by Budda Baker. The Cardinals, who looked aggressive on defense in a Thursday night loss to Seattle, were the definition of passive Sunday. The Texans feasted on third downs, converting 8-of-15 on the day.
Blaine Gabbert, making his first start for the Cardinals, played very well until it was a two-possession game late. At that point, he threw two bad interceptions, but it was familiar issues plaguing the offense. Sunday marked another wretched performance by any receiver not named Larry Fitzgerald and there was absolutely no room to run for Adrian Peterson, who finished with 26 yards on 14 carries. That last stat made a fourth-down play call by Bruce Arians all the more curious. Trailing 24-21 with 6:30 to go and facing a 4th-and-1 from the Arizona 35-yard line, Arians called a running play to Peterson, who was swarmed under by three Houston defenders. On the next play, D’Onta Foreman busted loose for a 34-yard touchdown run.
Looking for highlights? OK. Gabbert was good. Ricky Seals-Jones, elevated from the practice squad after Ifeanyi Momah’s season-ending injury, scored two touchdowns. Baker was amazing. Andy Lee punted well.
None of it could undo a terrible defensive performance. The Cardinals’ defensive line was pushed around and the absence of Corey Peters was definitely felt.
Here’s to playing out the string for the second straight year!
Craig Morgan, reporter
Blaine Gabbert deserves to keep playing after a 31-21 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium in his first start for Arizona. He didn’t get much help from a running game that managed just 48 yards on 18 carries, but he still completed 22 of 34 passes for 257 yards and a career-high three touchdowns for a passer rating of 92.4. His two late interceptions came when he needed to make a play with the Cardinals trailing by 10 with under five minutes to play.
There is no reason to go back to Drew Stanton even if he’s healthy next week. The playoffs are a pipe dream, Stanton isn’t under contract next season and the Cardinals need to find out who their quarterback of the future is. Gabbert is a long way from securing that spot, and the team still needs to draft a QB, but he earned a shot to bolster his case.
Luke Lapinski, Host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski
There are two ways to look at Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans. There’s the glass half-full approach, and the glass half-empty.
Actually that’s probably too optimistic. There’s the glass 20 percent full angle you could take and the glass 80 percent empty. And they both definitely apply here.
Let’s start with the good, because it’s the holiday season. Blaine Gabbert played pretty well in his Arizona debut, tossing three touchdowns. Ricky Seals-Jones made his first ever NFL catch, and then proceeded to haul in a pair of scores. And Budda Baker was simply a monster in his first real extended action on defense.
In terms of that whole “next man up” philosophy, the new guys stepped up. And that’s important. But it’s also where the positives end here.
In a game they desperately needed, the Cardinals lost to a team quarterbacked by Tom Savage. That sentence right there pretty much says it all. Yes, they’ve been handed a borderline unfair amount of injuries to deal with, and it’s probably true that even beating Houston would have simply prolonged the inevitable here. But the defense outside of Baker really stumbled against a similarly beat-up offense. And the receivers not named Larry Fitzgerald continued to drop passes they simply can’t afford to drop.
That all adds up to a 4-6 record with six games to go. Arizona gets the next three at home which, in theory, should provide a nice jolt. But some tough opponents are coming to town, the roster is still depleted and the margin for error is now basically obsolete. And again — they just lost to Tom Savage.
Dave Burns, Co-host of Burns & Gambo
That’s that. At 4-6, any flickering flame of hope for the playoffs has been all but put out. Many, me included, blew out that candle long ago, but this loss gives it an official feel. All sorts of things failed the Cardinals, none moreso than the defense.
Tom Savage led scoring drives of 89, 74 and 75 yards. The Texans converted over half of their third down attempts. The Cards’ D didn’t respond well to success when it allowed a fourth quarter touchdown after the offense took a 21-17 lead. It didn’t respond well to adversity, giving up a long touchdown run on the first play after the failed 4th-and-1 attempt. Arizona gave up 31 points to a Savage-led offense. Stew on that one for a little bit.
The continued dropped passes confirm the need to completely rebuild the receiving corps. J.J. Nelson in particular is simply too unreliable moving forward. The wildly risky decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 with over six minutes to go yielded no biscuits. It was centered around Adrian Peterson, who had been stifled all day. In three of his five games with the Cardinals, Peterson has been erased from the equation, not even totaling 100 yards in those contests.
The Texans represented one of the few remaining opportunities to post a win this year. The Cards have several games remaining at home, but it’s getting harder to see where the wins are going to come from in 2017
John Gambadoro, Co-host of Burns & Gambo
The Arizona Cardinals just lost to Tom Savage and the Texans. We can stop there, but let’s go over a few things. First, put this one on Bruce Arians for going for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 30 with 6:30 left in the game and Arizona only down 3. Adrian Peterson failed to pick up the first down, and on the next play Houston scored on a touchdown run by D’Onta Foreman to go up 10 — and this game was over.
There was no reason to go for it at that point in the game. Punt the ball play the field position battle.
Right before the failed fourth down, J.J. Nelson dropped a would-be first down. I’m sure I’m not alone in being exhausted from all of Nelson’s dropped balls. The Cards need to move on from him. Budda Baker was outstanding and there is no doubt he is going to be an excellent player. Ricky Seals-Jones was impressive. Blaine Gabbert was very good but this team lacks a receiver outside of Larry Fitzgerald. Time to focus on the draft.
Craig Grialou, reporter
For one game, and considering he was the third different Cardinals quarterback to start this season, Blaine Gabbert looked the part. Impressive even at times. Just look at how well he performed in the first half, completing 11-of-14 pass attempts for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s clear Gabbert knows the game, and perhaps more importantly, knows the offense. Now, can he do it next week? Because with Gabbert, it’s always been about consistency.
(Though the better question may be: Will he be given the chance to start next week? Remember, starter Drew Stanton was active on Sunday.)
Yes, Gabbert was picked off twice in the fourth quarter, but I’m willing to give him a pass. He’s trying to make a play and forced a couple of throws. Quarterback play, though, was not what cost the Cardinals in Houston.
Offensively, it was the dropped balls. Again. And the lack of a run game. Again. It’s not going to matter who is under center if the Cardinals can’t correct those two issues moving forward.