Palmer, Arizona D lead to 27-14 win over Jaguars

Defense is a big reason the Arizona Cardinals are right in the
middle of the playoff picture going into the final six weeks of the
season.

That’s why giving up two quick scores to the Jacksonville
Jaguars – who had not scored a TD at home all season – was no
reason for concern.

”They ran out of gimmick plays,” cornerback Patrick Peterson
said after a 27-14 victory Sunday. ”And I thought we came out in
the second half and played Cardinal defense.”

The Jaguars went up 7-0 on a fourth-and-2 play from their 38 –
the opening drive of the game – when Arizona stacked the line and
Chad Henne found tight end Danny Noble all to himself for a
catch-and-run that went 62 yards. It was his first NFL
reception.

After a 59-yard kickoff return, tight end Clay Harbour left the
huddle early and no one for Arizona noticed until Henne took the
snap and threw to the sideline. No one was within 10 yards of
Harbour, and he rumbled down to the 5 to set up another
touchdown.

And that was that.

The Jaguars (1-9) didn’t score again, and didn’t even get beyond
Arizona’s 40-yard line until late in the game. Carson Palmer did
not throw an interception for the first time all season, going 30
of 42 for 419 yards to nine receivers and two touchdowns.

One was a 91-yard score to Michael Floyd, who ran the final 70
yards while bouncing off three defenders. The other was to Larry
Fitzgerald early in the game.

The Cardinals (6-4) held Jacksonville to 57 yards in the second
half.

”We knew once we settled down a little bit and they got rid of
the gimmicks, they had to play football,” linebacker Karlos Dansby
said. ”In the second half, we were ready to play football and took
over the game. We played hard, sound and fast. Once we got past all
the gimmicks, the tricks they had up their sleeves, they had to
come back to reality.”

Henne finished 27 of 42 for 255 yards and two late interceptions
when he had to throw the ball downfield. For most of the game, he
had been throwing bubble screens with hopes the Jaguars could find
a crack in the defense. It never did.

Here are five reasons why the Cardinals won their third straight
game, and why the Jaguars failed to put together their first
winning streak in nearly three years.

PROTECTION: Palmer had 15 interceptions, second only to Eli
Manning, and coach Bruce Arians said most of them were from his
quarterback trying to unload the ball under pressure. Palmer was
sacked three times against the Jaguars, but for the most part, he
had a clean pocket and plenty of time. He had six passes go for at
least 20 yards, including three in one drive that ended on a 5-yard
TD run by Rashard Mendenhall. His only mistake was throwing one up
for grabs, which was picked off – except that the Cardinals had
called time out and the play didn’t count.

DEFENSE: The Cardinals had the No. 3 defense against the run.
The Jaguars tried it anyway, and didn’t get very far. Maurice
Jones-Drew ran for 23 yards on 14 carries. The Jaguars didn’t have
a single running play go for more than 9 yards. The front seven of
Arizona was so strong that even a series of bubble screens didn’t
get very far. With the score tied at 14 at the half, the Cardinals
held Jacksonville to 57 yards after intermission.

STAYING ON THE FIELD: Eight of the Jaguars’ 13 drives lasted
five plays or fewer, including their first touchdown on a 62-yard
pass on fourth-and-2. The Jaguars lost the time-of-possession
battle in all four quarters, a nearly 12-minute differential for
the game. The Jaguars were only 2 of 14 on third-down
conversions.

RUNNING GAME: Jacksonville center Brad Meester wanted to look at
film to see what happened with the running game, which didn’t
exist. Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging 2.9 yards per carry for the
season. He used to either fall forward or push the pile that much
before his injuries. Jacksonville came into the game at No. 31 in
the league rushing the ball, and left with 32 yards on 16 carries.
With a quarterback who looked more comfortable throwing sideways
instead of down the field, it’s not a good recipe.

ATTITUDE: This could have been a trap game for the Cardinals,
who were a touchdown favorite on the road against perhaps the worst
team in the league. They are tied with the San Francisco 49ers for
second place in the NFC West, three games behind Seattle, but
they’re right in the mix for the playoffs as a four-loss team.
Arians wants them to treat every game like a playoff game, and the
Cardinals are responding to that.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org