JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars gave their fans something to cheer about in the first quarter Sunday. And a couple of questionable officials’ calls in the third quarter put a charge into their fans and their defense.
But whatever momentum there was in coming off their first victory of the season couldn’t carry over for anything close to a full 60 minutes.
A 91-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd put the Arizona Cardinals in control and put an end to any hopes the Jaguars had of winning back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 5-12, 2010.
Palmer turned in the first 300-yard game by a quarterback against the Jaguars this season, while Chad Henne once again was thrust into the thankless position of padding his numbers in a game where the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Here are five observations from the 27-14 loss:
1. OK, who had Danny Noble in the pool for “first touchdown scored by Jaguars at home this season”?
In their losses to Kansas City, Indianapolis and San Diego, the Jaguars managed a paltry three field goals and a safety. With the help of a gutsy play call and a tight end with no previous receptions in his brief NFL career, they finally reached the end zone.
Noble, who was signed to their practice squad Oct. 9 and activated from there Nov. 4, slipped into the secondary uncovered as the Cardinals stacked the line anticipating a run on fourth down and a yard to go. He clearly was running on fumes upon getting inside the 10 but stumbled across the goal line, no doubt catching the late-arriving portion of the crowd completely by surprise. With only 2:07 gone, the Jaguars had a 7-0 lead.
All of Henne’s first four completions went to tight ends — one each to Noble and Marcedes Lewis and two to Clay Harbor.
2. Paul Posluszny’s absence was felt.
No defense can lose its leading tackler and not be worse off for it. While Russell Allen did nothing glaringly wrong in his first game after being moved from his usual outside linebacker spot to the middle, the play of the front seven was not the same without Posluszny, who suffered a concussion in the closing minutes at Tennessee.
The Jaguars got almost nothing resembling a pass rush in the first half, and Palmer was able to throw for 209 yards by halftime as a result. The only time they got pressure on him occurred when outside linebacker Geno Hayes came on a third-down blitz late in the first quarter.
Allen had one of the missed tackles on Floyd’s touchdown in the third quarter, although Will Blackmon and Josh Evans were more to blame for the second-longest pass play ever allowed by the Jaguars. Only a 98-yarder from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Terrell Owens in 2009 against Buffalo was longer.
3. Alan Ball was solid, while Dwayne Gratz looked very much like a rookie.
The Jaguars’ two starting cornerbacks were a study in contrasts. While Ball broke up four passes in the first half, Gratz was the defender closest to the play on completions of 27 and 22 yards from Palmer to Floyd on the Cardinals’ second touchdown drive. He was also beaten on a 43-yard pass to Floyd to start the second half, with the Cardinals taking the lead at the end of that drive on a 21-yard field goal by Jay Feely.
The Jaguars still have only four interceptions for the season. Allen looked as if he came up with the fifth on a poorly-thrown ball by Palmer. But referee Jeff Triplette said the Cardinals had called a timeout before the snap, thus negating the play and sending Jaguars coach Gus Bradley into a rage.
4. A running game? What’s that?
The two teams combined for 22 yards on 21 carries in the first half. The Jaguars’ problems were to be expected, considering the Cardinals were ranked third behind the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers in the fewest rushing yards allowed per game. But the inability of the Cardinals to run the ball against a defense missing Posloszny and giving up an average of 153 yards was inexcusable.
While Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t have a gain of longer than 3 yards through three quarters, he scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the season by going over from a yard out in the first quarter. The Jaguars would have had to settle for a field goal if not for a taunting penalty on Cardinals safety Yeremiah Ball following a third-down incompletion.
5. Rookie Ace Sanders had his best game by far.
The fourth-round pick out of South Carolina had only 16 receptions for 182 through the first nine weeks. But with the Cardinals keeping a close watch on Cecil Shorts III, Sanders found himself more involved in the passing game than ever, especially after a shoulder injury to Mike Brown.
Sanders also returned six punts for 50 yards. His 14-yard runback in the closing seconds of the first half put the Jaguars in position to send out Josh Scobee for a 60-yard field-goal attempt. Scobee had been perfect in 12 attempts before that kick sailed wide left.
Next up: at Houston. The Jaguars and Texans will face each other twice in a 12-day span. The NFL Network is stuck with the second of those meetings.