Big Red Recap: Cardinals record first shutout win since 1992
GLENDALE, Ariz. — If this was it, if this happened to be the final home game for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, then what a way to go out.
He did it all, just about.
Fitzgerald caught nine passes, including one for a touchdown, and threw a pass. That’s right, Fitzgerald threw a 21-yard pass to Jaron Brown in the second quarter much to the delight of the fans at a sold-out and open room University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Call it an early Christmas gift.
Of course, the best gift was the win.
The Cardinals (7-8) blanked the New York Giants, 23-0, recording their first shutout since 1992.
Fitzgerald became the first Cardinal with a receiving touchdown and pass completion in the same game since Frank Sanders on Nov. 30, 1997 against Pittsburgh.
His nine catches — on 15 targets — totaled 119 yards.
With Drew Stanton back at quarterback, the Cardinals moved the football better than they had in recent weeks. And they scored a touchdown. In the red zone. Twice.
The Cardinals were 0-for-10 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line before Stanton and Fitzgerald hooked up for a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The play — Fitzgerald’s 100th catch of the season — ended an 11-quarter drought without a touchdown.
Stanton went 20-of-34 for 209 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Overshadowed but certainly not overlooked was the defense.
The Cardinals frustrated Eli Manning into three turnovers, two interceptions — both by Antoine Bethea — and a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown by Robert Nkemdiche.
Manning was 27-of-45 for 263 yards.
The Giants (2-13) have lost four straight.
The Cardinals’ last shutout victory also was against the Giants, 19-0 on Dec. 12, 1992.
On his second catch of the game, a 19-yard first-quarter flea flicker, Fitzgerald went over 1,000 receiving yards for a ninth time in his career, joining Jerry Rice (14), Randy Moss (10), Tim Brown (9), Terrell Owens (9) and Jimmy Smith (9) as the only players in NFL history with 1,000+ receiving yards in at least nine seasons. By the way, Anquan Boldin has the Cardinals’ second-most seasons hitting the 1,000-yard mark doing so five times.
Needing eight catches for 100 on the season, Fitzgerald reached the century mark on a 13-yard touchdown reception (the 110 of his career, eighth-most all-time) that increased the Cardinals’ lead to 10-0 at the 1:01 mark of the second quarter. For Fitzgerald, that’s three straight seasons and the fifth time in his career with 100+ catches; the latter of which is the second-most in NFL history, trailing only Brandon Marshall who has done so six times.
More Fitzgerald milestones: He became the first player in NFL history to record 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards in a season in which he began at age 34 or older. His 15-yard catch to begin the second half was the 561st of his career in 94 games at University of Phoenix Stadium, the second-most in league history by any player at a single venue, trailing only Rice who had 646 receptions in 119 games at Candlestick Park.
At halftime, the Cardinals had six net yards rushing with Kerwynn Williams carrying the ball seven times for five yards. In other words, the run game was non-existent. It re-appeared in the second half, specifically on the first possession. Of the 75 yards gained, 43 came on the ground with Williams running three times for 30 yards, including a long of 21 that saw Stanton out in front blocking. The drive, by the way, ended with a Stanton touchdown toss to John Brown.
In two seasons, Nkemdiche has yet to record a sack. But he does have a touchdown. Figure that out. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Deone Bucannon sacked Manning, who lost the football. Nkemdiche recovered the fumble and returned it 21 yards for the score and a 23-0 lead at the 14:50 mark. By the way, Nkemdiche’s last touchdown of any kind was a one-yard rushing score for Mississippi on Sept. 26, 2015 against Vanderbilt.
On their second possession of the game, the Cardinals entered the red zone, recently referred to as the dead zone. Despite a 1st-and-goal at the eight-yard mark, the Cardinals failed to punch the ball across the goal line. That’s 10 straight trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line without a touchdown. Instead, Dawson kicked a 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead at the 5:29 mark of the first quarter.
Turnovers are killers, and the Cardinals killed third and fourth-quarter drives with Stanton throwing an interception. On the first, he was looking for Fitzgerald who was double-teamed; and on the second, he was looking for J.J. Nelson. Ross Cockrell recorded both picks. The first one in the end zone for a touchback and the second one off a deflection. Stanton has four interceptions this season.
STAT OF THE GAME
140: Fitzgerald accounted for 140 of the Cardinals’ 289 total net yards, factoring in his first career completion; his numbers were even more impressive in the first half when he was responsible for 125 of the 158 yards
HE SAID IT
“They played fantastic, the whole ballgame. Unbelievable effort by everyone on defense,” head coach Bruce Arians said.
Fitzgerald has at least one catch in 210 straight games, the third-longest streak in NFL history.
Dawson passed Sebastian Janikowski (1,799) for 10th place on the NFL’s all-time scoring list.
Haason Reddick left the game with a foot injury in the second quarter.
With the victory, Arians earned his 49th win, tied for the most by a head coach in team history.
With the victory, the Cardinals finished with a winning record at home for a fifth straight season.
The Cardinals won the coin toss and deferred, something they’ve now done five times this year.
Among the Cardinals’ inactives were injured players Josh Bynes, Troy Niklas and Earl Watford.
Singer, songwriter and actress Jordin Sparks — Arizona’s own — performed the National Anthem.
It’s the last game of the season on the last day of 2017.
The Cardinal hit the road, traveling to Seattle for a Week 17 matchup against the Seahawks on Sunday, Dec. 31. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:25 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
Playing at CenturyLink Field has agreed with the Cardinals in recent years. They’ve won their past two, including a 34-31 win a year ago, and three of the last four visits. Of course, it should be mentioned that all three wins came with Carson Palmer as quarterback.
Seven weeks earlier, the Cardinals dropped a 22-16 decision on Thursday Night Football. Russell Wilson threw two touchdown tosses to help lead the Seahawks to their fourth win in five years in Glendale.
Seattle last swept the season series in 2014.
Overall, the series, which dates back to 1976, is all square at 18-18-1.