Something new: Arizona Cardinals finally win a close game
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Winning close games was a trademark of the 2014 Arizona Cardinals.
All 11 of the team’s victories were one-score games at some point in the fourth quarter.
That hasn’t been the case this season. The first four wins of the year for Bruce Arians’ team have come by an average margin of 25.5 points.
The two tight games the Cardinals had played — against St. Louis and at Pittsburgh — saw the opposition make the requisite plays to notch a ‘W’.
Arizona needed to win a close game. They got one Monday night.
Safety Tony Jefferson intercepted a Joe Flacco pass in the end zone with six seconds remaining, preserving a 26-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens in front of 64,722 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“We played until the final whistle and made a big play at the end,” Arians said. “We wanted this kind of game. We needed to be in one of these types of games and win it and we kind of exorcised that ‘can we win it at the end’-type thing.
“I was very, very pleased with our football team.”
Granted, it didn’t look like the game would be close in the late stages. With 8:08 remaining, quarterback Carson Palmer hit John Brown on a four-yard touchdown pass, capping an 11-play, 79-yard drive that took over six minutes off the clock.
But the door remained wide-open for Baltimore (1-6) when kicker Chandler Catanzaro clanked the extra point off the right upright, keeping the margin at 16 points, 26-10.
Later in the fourth quarter, a Cardinals’ drive stalled at their own 30-yard line. Asa Jackson broke through and blocked a Drew Butler punt which Raheem Mostert recovered at the one-yard line. One play later, Flacco found fullback Kyle Juszczyk for the touchdown. Then Flacco hit tight end Nick Boyle on the two-point conversion to trim the Arizona lead to eight.
The Cardinals would get just 23 yards in their next possession, but forced Baltimore into using all their timeouts before punting.
Flacco drove the Ravens all the way down to the Arizona nine-yard line, but his second-down pass intended for tight end Crockett Gillmore was picked off by Jefferson, who slid and got both knees down before going out of bounds.
Gillmore had beaten Jefferson twice on the possession, including a 23-yarder that gave the Ravens a first-and-goal at the Cardinals’ four-yard line.
“It’s like Déjà vu,” Jefferson said. “We’ve got to get back to how we used to win these games, and we did it tonight.”
Safety Tyrann Mathieu, who finished with seven total tackles, three tackles for loss and his first quarterback sack of the season, is curious to see what this type of win can do for the team’s confidence moving forward.
“Our coach has been harping on us the last couple weeks, especially with the two losses we have had this season,” he said. “As a team, we still like we haven’t played our best game yet, just giving those guys touchdowns.
“I am really excited to see what we can do when we are playing at our best.”