Big Red Recap: Cardinals playoff hopes flatline in loss to Dolphins
Entering the week, the Arizona Cardinals’ playoff hopes were on life support.
They’ve now flatlined.
The Miami Dolphins pulled the plug, more specifically Andrew Franks, who kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired for a 26-23 victory at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
The loss dropped the Cardinals to 5-7-1, and they are just 1-6 on the road.
They’ve got no one to blame but themselves. They turned the ball over four times and missed three kicks, including a pair of PATs, one which was blocked and returned for a defensive two-point conversion.
The Cardinals never led, and they needed two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Carson Palmer to even give themselves a chance at victory.
Palmer’s eight-yard throw to J.J. Nelson, who also had a rushing touchdown, made it 23-21 and the ensuing two-point conversion tied the game at 23 with 3:01 to play.
Palmer finished with 145 yards passing, but he had three of the four turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble.
Before leaving the game with a knee injury, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 15-of-20 for 195 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Moore replaced Tannehill and led Miami (8-5) on the game-winning scoring drive.
Though not officially eliminated from the playoffs, the Cardinals are unlikely to make the six-team field in the NFC even if they win out.
Playing in his 199th career regular season game, tied with Jim Hart (1966-83) for the second-most in franchise history, Larry Fitzgerald extended his streak of at least one reception to 192 consecutive games, the third-longest in NFL history. He did so with a one-yard catch on the team’s fifth play of the game. By the way, this streak of Fitzgerald’s began in Week 9 of the 2004 season, the last time the Cardinals played in Miami
A week after catching a 42-yard game-clinching touchdown, Nelson rushed 56 yards for a score for the first Cardinals points of the game. The PAT was missed, however, making it 7-6 Miami at the 8:00 mark of the first quarter. For Nelson, it was his first rushing touchdown of the season—and fourth overall—and the longest by a Cardinals wide receiver since Bobby Joe Conrad’s 56-yarder against Washington on Sept. 27, 1959.
It wouldn’t be a game if David Johnson (80 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving) didn’t gain 100+ yards from scrimmage. He cleared the century mark on a 12-yard catch late in the fourth quarter to tie Edgerrin James (2005) for the most consecutive games, 13, with 100+ yards to open a season in NFL history. Johnson didn’t score, but he did catch a two-point conversion which at the time tied the game at 23 with 3:01 to play.
Three times the Cardinals turned the ball over in the first quarter. Palmer was picked off twice, while Johnson fumbled. Only the first turnover was converted into points, however. Tannehill passed 28 yards to Kenny Stills, who beat Marcus Cooper in coverage, for a touchdown and 7-0 lead at the 9:27 mark of the first quarter; and one possession into the game the Dolphins had surpassed their point total (6) from last week in Baltimore.
Another turnover and another missed kick for the Cardinals in the second quarter. First, the turnover: Palmer just mishandled the snap from A.Q. Shipley and fumbled the football. Then, Chandler Catanzaro missed a 41-yard field goal, the ball hitting off the right upright. It was his fifth miss of the season. One play earlier, facing a 3rd-and-2 at the Miami 14, Palmer was sacked by Cameron Wake, who beat right tackle Ulrick John.
Poor tackling by the Cardinals helped allow the Dolphins increase their lead to double figures early in the third quarter. Tyvon Branch and Tony Jefferson both missed bringing down Jarvis Landry on a 3rd-and-7 pass play. Landry shook off both defenders and went 71 yards to the Arizona 3. Three plays later, Damien Williams caught a three-yard touchdown to make it 21-9 Miami at the 11:17 mark of the period.
As if a missed extra point and field goal were not enough, how about the Cardinals allowing a defensive two-point conversion after a blocked PAT? Yep, it happened. Walt Aikens picked up the loose football and returned it the other way for two to make it 23-15 Miami at the 7:05 mark of the fourth quarter. Lost in all of this was the Cardinals’ Brittan Golden catching a nine-yard touchdown pass—the first of his career—on 3rd-and-goal.
STAT OF THE GAME
7: The combined number of turnovers, four in which were committed by the Cardinals
HE SAID IT
“We had a chance to win it. They made a big play to win it. We didn’t,” head coach Bruce Arians said, adding about the mistakes on special teams. “That’s five points. That’s the game. That is the game.”
Earl Watford started at right guard, replacing John Wetzel who got the start last week
Wetzel in the second quarter played left tackle, replacing D.J. Humphries (concussion)
Catanzaro’s 56-yard second-quarter field goal was the third-longest in franchise history
The six combined first-half turnovers tied for the most in a half in a game this season
Cooper (back) and Deone Bucannon (ankle) both exited the game in the third quarter
Branch (groin) exited the game in the third quarter, putting Golden at safety for a play
Among the Cardinals’ inactives included S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Robert Nkemdiche
The last home game of the regular season.
Arizona will host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Dec. 18 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Cardinals have won two of the past three matchups, with both wins coming at home, including last season, 31-19.
This is the 30th meeting, and first time the teams have played in back-to-back years since 1997-98.
Overall, the Cardinals lead 15-14 in the all-time series, which dates back to 1967.