Cardinals can’t overcome desperate Tom Brady, Buccaneers in OT
GLENDALE — The Arizona Cardinals offense was once again the downfall of the team on Sunday night, falling 19-16 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Christmas.
Down nearly every starting offensive lineman and turning to third-stringer Trace McSorley at quarterback, Arizona entered the matchup playing largely for pride and next season in its final home game of 2022.
And while the Cardinals (4-11) didn’t get absolutely blown out like many expected them to do against a Buccaneers team (7-8) looking to keep pace over the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title, the end result didn’t leave Arizona feeling all warm and fuzzy this holiday season.
In the first start of his career, McSorley’s stat line was nothing to write home about, completing 24 of his 45 pass attempts for 217 yards and an interception. He also ran seven times for 14 yards.
The inconsistencies were certainly there for the signal caller, who only had a week of preparation with the first team heading into the Christmas matchup.
“That’s a game where we had opportunities to win, and we didn’t make the plays and execute enough to be able to do that,” McSorley said after the game.
Of those missed opportunities, two come to mind automatically.
After holding Brady and the Buccaneers to a field goal on their opening drive, the Cardinals looked poised to put points of their own on the board behind a quick start from McSorley and the offense.
Needing 11 plays — that included a successful fake punt — to travel from their own 25-yard line to the Buccaneers’ 13, the Cardinals put themselves in a prime position to answer back.
But on the 12th play of the possession, all the good that was coming out of the offense quickly dispersed in the form of a McSorley strip-sack on third down right out of a timeout.
Tampa Bay was unable to capitalize on the turnover, but still took at least three valuable points off the board from Arizona that ended up being the deciding factor.
The other miscue came late in the contest with Arizona trying to hold onto a slim three-point lead.
After Brady and Arizona State alum Rachaad White hooked up for a short touchdown pass to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 16-13, Arizona once again found some rhythm moving the football behind wide receiver Greg Dortch and running back James Conner.
But much like the team’s opening drive, Arizona was there to shoot itself in the foot.
Turning to rookie Keaontay Ingram on a crucial third-and-one look at Tampa Bay’s 42-yard line, McSorley and the running back botched the pitch and put the ball on the ground for the Buccaneers to jump on with nearly five minutes left in the game. It was more than enough time for Brady to lead a game-tying drive before ending things in overtime.
“I learned a lot,” McSorley said, who added the fumble on the exchange with Ingram was on him. “I don’t want to make the exact decision of what those things were, but I think a couple plays a game that we can execute better, give ourselves an opportunity to win the game instead of having to go into overtime.
“The opportunity where we can get points on our first drive and get the ball out, find a way to not have the sack-fumble, that’s at least a field goal there, and then the pitch. Those two plays right now stick out for me and things that I can do better and be better on from here on out.”
But while those two plays will be looked at as game deciders in this one, the Cardinals still had their bright spots over the course of four quarters and extra time, two being Dortch and Conner on the offensive side of things.
With McSorley at the helm, a heavy dose of Conner was expected, who turned in 15 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. He also added seven catches on eight targets for 41 yards.
Dortch on the other hand was a name not expected to see much of the field after recording just 10 total offensive snaps over the past two weeks combined.
When the dust settled on the game, it was Dortch — not one from the DeAndre Hopkins (one) and Hollywood Brown (three) duo combining for four catches — leading the team in receiving behind 10 grabs for 98 yards.
“Dortch is a competitor,” McSorley said. “He’s one of those guys that every time he’s out there, he’s going to put it on the line. He’s a guy that you can definitely trust to make plays. Just get the ball in his hands and let him go to work. He’s one of those guys that’s a quarterback’s best friend.
“He’s going to make every catch, so definitely a guy that we — in our locker room, in our quarterback room — got a ton of trust in Dortch. He’s done a great job working his tail off to get himself in this position. So, give him all of the credit for getting ready for that.”
Defensively, defensive lineman J.J. Watt continues to be a problem for opposing offenses.
Totaling six tackles, two of which were for losses, and two QB hits, Watt provided a spark early and often for the unit.
In the secondary, it was the Marco Wilson show.
Grabbing not one, but two interceptions over the course of the matchup, Wilson turned in his best game as a pro, although he exited with what Kingsbury believes is a stinger.
“Regardless of what’s going on, our record and the situation, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to play our behind off — we’re going to fight hard,” Wilson said postgame. “Because that film’s always rolling, you’ve got to put some good stuff on film.”
– Hopkins on his message to McSorley after the loss:
“I just told him to keep grinding. It’s his first start. I just gave him words of encouragement. I know it’s hard playing in this league, especially at the quarterback position.
“I’m not going to be hard on him if I’m having one catch. It’s part of the process, he’s dealing with a lot of stuff.”