NFL.com's play-by-play account of the Jacksonville Jaguars' home-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals does little justice to the first of two second-quarter plays that broke open a back-and-forth contest.
3-12-ARI 28 (11:57) (Shotgun) 9-[David] Garrard pass incomplete short left to 81-[Torry] Holt.
On the play, which reads like a garden-variety misfire by Garrard, Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson hit Holt before the football did. This run-of-the-mill pass interference call, however, was missed by an otherwise nitpicky officiating crew in a game where 15 penalties were called—a number well above the league average.
In context, the non-call came on a drive that started with Jacksonville's first stroke of luck on Sunday.
The Jaguars forced Arizona ball-carriers into two fumbles on their first two drives—handing the Cardinals a first-and-goal on the one-yard line on one, and watching the ball roll harmlessly out-of-bounds on the other. Between those two possessions, Arizona scored a touchdown and a field goal for an early 10-3 lead.
But karma seemed to have consoled Jacksonville when Adam Podlesh's first punt glanced off Arizona's Greg Toler and was recovered by the Jaguars' Sean Considine.
Two pressure-packed plays and two lost yards later, though, the Jaguars faced third-and-12 on their bonus drive. Given time by his pass protection, Garrard found Holt open near the sideline behind Wilson and delivered the throw on the money.
Or he would've, at least, had Holt been free of Wilson's grasp.
Holt appealed to a referee for the pass interference call as he rose from the ground. Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio threatened to challenge the non-call before being reminded that interference calls are non-reviewable.
Begrudgingly, the Jaguars sent kicker Josh Scobee onto the field to cut the Cardinals' lead to four.
Arizona special teams coach Kevin Spencer and defensive end Calais Campbell deserve equal credit for the block that ensued. The Cardinals overloaded the gap to the right of Jacksonville left tackle Eugene Monroe, forcing him to throw himself at three surging defenders and leaving Campbell free to launch his 6'8" frame at the kick.
Scobee's foiled attempt ricocheted off Campbell's hand high into the air, landing in the outstretched arms of safety Antrel Rolle who returned it 83 yards for a touchdown.
In two plays—one illegal, one exceptional—Arizona had turned a potential close game into an early 14-point lead.
Playing with house money from that point on, the Cardinals were able to conservatively kill clock with a dink-and-dunk passing game and their grinding rushing attack.
Defensively, they committed eight and sometimes nine defenders to clamping down on running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Jacksonville's ground game, willing to risk a big play or two with a two-score cushion.
With their defense on its heels and their offense smacking into a wall, the Jaguars fell behind 31-3 before mounting a too-little, too-late rally to achieve the final tally of 31-17.
Granted, having those 10 points back wouldn't have made Monroe's day against Arizona defensive end Bertrand Berry much easier. The Cardinals' veteran pass-rusher had his way with Jacksonville's rookie tackle for most of the game, on runs as well as passes.
Had the Jaguars managed a game-tying touchdown on the drive halted by the non-call, they would still have been hard-pressed to handle quarterback Kurt Warner, whose hot hand completed 24 of 26 passes en route to 246 yards and two scores in under three quarters of action.
But Jones-Drew, who touched the ball only 17 times for 83 total yards after getting 26 touches in Week 1 against Indianapolis, might have had a chance to get on track as well had the Jaguars not been behind the eight ball from early in the second quarter.