The Cardinals celebrate their second straight win.
The Arizona Cardinals used a total team effort to grind out a 27-24 victory over the Houston Texans Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Arizona started off the game with a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and cornerback Justin Bethel made a key block of a Houston field-goal attempt at the end of the first half.
Carson Palmer threw for 241 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the win, while Case Keenum racked up 201 passing yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
Arizona was able to keep defensive lineman J.J. Watt in check and allow him just one sack during the game. Watt also recovered a pair of fumbles, but it wasn't enough to keep Houston from a seventh straight loss.
Start the slideshow below and see how the Cardinals graded out.
Carson Palmer was surprisingly effective against a tight Houston pass defense. The Texans came into the game allowing only 158 passing yards per game, the best mark in the league. Palmer threw for 241 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The interception continues the streak where Palmer has been picked off at least once in each of his nine starts this season.
What was more impressive was that he moved the ball around through nine different receivers, and Andre Roberts was the star of the show in the receiving group. Palmer also took advantage of a style of offense better suited to his dink-and-dunk style, and it paid off.
Palmer didn’t have to rely on Larry Fitzgerald (three catches for 23 yards) in this game and finally looked comfortable in the pocket as he found receivers open in the Houston defense.
Just when we thought we had clarity at the running back spot in Arizona, it has become muddled again.
Rashard Mendenhall returned from a toe injury to be the starting running back. Mendenhall pulled out another average game for himself with 42 yards on 13 carries. He also had a critical fourth-quarter fumble that Houston recovered and cashed in for a touchdown shortly thereafter.
Andre Ellington wasn’t much better as he finished with 55 yards on 11 carries, and neither back found the end zone. Stepfan Taylor made a couple of carries in the fourth quarter but wasn’t much of a factor.
Houston is one of those teams you can run on, and the Cardinals didn’t do it effectively.
Andre Roberts emerged at wide receiver and had his best showing since Week 1 when he posted eight catches for 97 yards. Fitzgerald was mainly a non-factor in this game as was Michael Floyd (two catches for 31 yards). They weren’t the focal point of the offense, but they did what you would expect them to do.
The Arizona wide receivers are looking much better as of late since the team figured out that a short passing game suits Palmer better than a deep one.
Rob Housler (pictured above, 84) scored his first touchdown of the season to highlight his 57-yard, four-catch afternoon. Jim Dray and the recently acquired Jake Ballard added a catch. The unit stayed in to block when called upon and got the job done. They were able to get more involved in the passing game with better blocking to keep the Texans at bay.
When the tight ends are running more anonymously, that's a positive sign for the offense. They may not be rolling up yardage and points, but they are contributing in the run game and pass protection.
The offensive line was surprisingly strong against Houston. The Cardinals allowed only one sack for a six-yard loss and left the Houston defensive line asking questions. Defensive lineman J.J. Watt of Houston recovered two fumbles but didn’t get much pressure on Palmer along with much of the Houston team. Blitzes were properly picked up and communication had to be working well.
It's a far cry from last season's paper-thin line Arizona had, and it gave Palmer enough time to make his reads and get off the correct throw.
The defensive line had a good but unmemorable game. The line made a handful of tackles as Houston kept running away from there, and that’s where the linebackers and defensive backs are stepping up to make plays.
They kept getting to the point of attack quickly and were able to put pressure on Keenum like Calais Campbell did in this photo.
Arizona’s linebackers had an excellent game. John Abraham recorded a pair of sacks, and Matt Shaughnessy returned a fumble six yards for a touchdown.
Daryl Washington (eight tackles) and Karlos Dansby (seven tackles) were among the top defensive players for Arizona in Week 10. They were able to limit Houston running back Ben Tate to 56 yards on 15 carries and made Keenum try to win the game with his arm.
The defensive backfield saw Patrick Peterson get matched up with Johnson all day. Johnson won a few battles with two touchdown catches on the day. Peterson held Johnson in check, limiting him to 37 yards on five catches.
DeAndre Hopkins was targeted 11 times and finished with a team-high 69 yards on six catches for Houston. It’s quite different from Houston’s last game when Johnson toasted the Indianapolis Colts for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
Arizona had to keep Johnson in check to get the win, and they did exactly that.
The Arizona special-teams unit did its job effectively.
Jay Feely scored on a pair of field goals and three extra points. Dave Zastudil punted five times, so he had a lighter workload than usual. Zastudil was still credited with three punts landing inside the 20-yard line, including a beauty of a kick that trickled out of bounds at the 1-yard line.