Patrick Peterson saved the day for the Cardinals.
Another week came and went, and another ugly performance was turned in by the Arizona Cardinals offense. The team rallied late after three quarters of nothing, and with a lot of help from the defense, the Cardinals (2-2) squeaked by with a 13-10 victory.
For all intents and purposes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should have won this Week 4 game.
Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon played well enough in the first half to build a 10-0 lead, and with the Cards struggling as much as they were, the game easily could have gotten out of hand in the second half.
But Todd Bowles’ defense did not allow it despite playing down three starters from a week ago. The new starters played well, holding star running back Doug Martin to 1.7 yards per carry on the day.
Tampa Bay kept with the run game despite its failure, probably because head coach Greg Schiano did not want to put too much pressure on his rookie quarterback.
When that pressure came, Glennon crumbled, throwing a late interception to cornerback Patrick Peterson that set up the game-tying touchdown with three minutes to play.
Here are some takeaways from the 13-10 win.
For the second straight week, quarterback Carson Palmer struggled to convert third downs. The offense went 1-of-10 Sunday and didn’t get the one until the opening drive of the second half.
He completed 21-of-38 (55.3 percent) for 248 yards, 6.5 yards per attempt, a touchdown and two interceptions for a 62.2 passer rating. Both picks came on the only two third-quarter possessions for the team.
The one throw his team needed him to make while down a touchdown late in the game, he made perfectly to Larry Fitzgerald for the game-tying 13-yard touchdown. Other than that, Palmer was rather mundane.
Rookie running back Andre Ellington once again did not receive much of the carries in the game, but he was once again the best back in the offensive huddle.
Ellington carried four times for 29 yards (7.3 YPC) and caught three passes for 22 yards (7.3 yards per catch).
For the season, he has carried 11 times for 68 yards (6.2 YPC) and caught nine passes for 112 yards (12.4 YPC) and a touchdown. He gets chunk yards when Arizona needs it most, and to this point has been the most consistent back for the team.
He should probably play more than he does.
Fitzgerald caught the game-tying touchdown late in the game, but he was not targeted once in the first half. It’s not that he wasn’t open, because he was—Palmer simply did not look his way.
He ended up with six receptions for 68 yards and the score, but it’s troubling that Palmer went an entire half before recognizing Fitzgerald was on the same field. Darrelle Revis is a great cornerback, but he’s not that great.
The All-Pro receiver did look lost a few times before the snap, not reacting when Palmer tried sending him in motion. That has been the case every week of the season so far, and it could be a reason Palmer avoids him at times—maybe Palmer doesn’t trust him to run the correct routes.
Whatever the case may be, it must be fixed, because Fitzgerald with the ball in his hands is far more dangerous than Fitzgerald without the ball in his hands.
It seems obvious, but maybe Palmer doesn’t know that.
Arizona’s much-maligned offensive line played well for the most part Sunday. It allowed just one sack—on the first play of the game—and gave Palmer time to throw throughout.
Run blocking seemed to be an issue during parts of the game, but that didn’t hurt them since head coach Bruce Arians hasn’t called enough run plays this season anyway.
Left guard Daryn Colledge was forced to leave the game with some sort of leg injury, but his status is currently unknown. Second-year offensive lineman Nate Potter took his spot and held his own against a talented Buccaneers defensive line, so it appears his transition from tackle to guard is going smoothly so far.
The player everyone seemed to have a problem blocking was defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The former first-round pick was in Palmer’s face a few times and notched the only sack of the game for Tampa.
Dontay Moch (50) sacks Mike Glennon.
The defense got to Glennon twice Sunday against one of the better offensive lines in the game. The rookie had all day to throw and had room to move if needed, but the timing of the two sacks was more important than the total number.
Both came on third downs.
The first, on Tampa’s initial drive of the game, came as strong safety Yeremiah Bell blitzed the A-gap. No one picked up Bell as he came shooting up the middle, and Glennon went down to force a punt.
The second came at a much bigger time in the game. With the game tied at 10 apiece with just over two minutes remaining, Tampa Bay had a 3rd-and-10 from its own 10-yard line.
Valley native Dontay Moch, playing outside linebacker in his second career NFL game, rushed Glennon from the right side of the defense, working against left tackle Donald Penn—who is among the league’s best blindside blockers.
Known for his speed-rush ability, Moch instead used a bull rush to the inside of Penn, blowing him back toward Glennon. The sack resulted in a 9-yard loss and nearly went for a safety.
Bucs punter Michael Koenen punted from the back of his own end zone, which resulted in great field position for the Cards and led to the game-winning Jay Feely field goal.
Arizona’s defensive secondary is not great at covering receivers. Peterson will do his thing, as he did in this game, but overall the group struggles in one-on-one situations.
Where they shine is in keeping the play in front of them. Bowles understands that, and it’s possible he is the reason the team won as sloppily as it did.
The longest pass-play from Tampa on Sunday was 20 yards, from fullback Erik Lorig on the first play of the second half, and that came against inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. Other than that, everyone kept the receivers in front of them.
It was a long four weeks for the inside linebackers. They all worked very hard to keep tight ends and running backs in check after the catch, but Dansby and Jasper Brinkley are not speedsters and struggled to contain the better tight ends and backs they faced.
Having Daryl Washington back in the middle to help stop these athletes is going to be huge.
That said, Dansby and Brinkley did a great job with Tampa’s tight ends and backs in this game. Lorig was the only non-wide receiver with a yards-per-catch average of greater than 10 yards, and collectively the group caught 13 passes for just 98 yards (7.5 YPC).
Through three games this season, Peterson had zero interceptions and was beaten badly by opposing quarterbacks to the tune of a perfect 158.3 passer rating allowed.
This day, he would carry his team to victory.
Holding Vincent Jackson to two receptions for 27 yards (13.5 YPC) was not enough, however. His interception of Glennon late in the game set up the game-tying touchdown just one play later; his second, about 17 real-time minutes after the first, sealed the game for the Cardinals.
It would be great if this game catapulted Peterson to another Pro Bowl-type season. His team needs him to be the best cornerback in the game, and to this point, he has not been that.