JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Two big plays early at least allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to score touchdowns at home for the first time all year.
A two-minute span in the third quarter was all it took for them to realize not much is going their way this year.
The Jaguars were down 17-14 and had the Arizona Cardinals backed up, third-and-10 from their own 9, when Carson Palmer found Michael Floyd on a slant. Floyd bounced off three tackles in a comedy of errors that turned into a 91-yard touchdown and a 10-point lead.
The Cardinals’ defense took it from there in a 27-14 win Sunday that kept Arizona in the mix for a playoff spot, and denied the Jaguars a chance at their first winning streak in nearly three years.
“Explosive plays came back to bite us a little bit,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said.
That wasn’t the worst of it. After the long score, the Cardinals (6-4) forced a punt and Patrick Peterson muffed it his 10-yard line. The Jaguars (1-9) appeared to recover the loose ball, but it was awarded to Arizona, even after Bradley challenged.
Two plays later, Palmer got rid of the ball under pressure and linebacker Russell Allen picked it off. Just as the Jaguars were celebrating their first turnover did they find out the play had been called dead because Arizona had called a timeout. Replays showed an official running from the sideline to stop play.
“We haven’t caught a break this year with penalties or major calls, but it has to turn around sometime,” defensive end Andre Branch said.
The Jaguars had no answer for Palmer, or the Arizona defense.
Palmer threw for 419 yards, two touchdowns and did not throw an interception for the first time all year. Floyd, questionable for the game with a shoulder injury, caught six passes for a career-best 193 yards. And the defense allowed only 57 yards after halftime.
The Cardinals couldn’t afford to lose this game. Palmer’s flawless play, and a defense that stiffened after surrendering two quick touchdowns, made sure they didn’t.
“We have talked about how the playoffs have already started. You lose, you’re out,” Arians said. “We’re a game behind teams, so we have to keep winning. We have to take a playoff attitude every week, that this game is a playoff game and we have to win to catch up. The guys have done it.”
The Jaguars at least scored a touchdown at home for the first time this year.
On fourth-and-2 from the 38 on their opening drive, Chad Henne found tight end Danny Noble all alone behind the defense for an easy catch, and he rumbled 50 yards to the end zone with his first NFL reception.
“There were many situations where I felt like we were bold, and I told our team that we need to take that personality on,” Bradley said.
Jacksonville scored another touchdown after a 59-yard kickoff return by Jordan Todman and a pair of Arizona mistakes — none bigger than Yeremiah Bell getting called for taunting after Henne’s pass on third-and-goal from the 3 was incomplete. Maurice Jones-Drew scored from the 1 for a 14-7 lead.
But that was it for the Jaguars, who returned to their inept ways one week after getting their first win at Tennessee.
Palmer was rarely under pressure and moved the ball at will, with six passes that went for at least 20 yards. His other TD was a 14-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald that tied the game at 7 in the first quarter.
“I had a really nice time in the pocket. I had a clean pocket for the most part and was able to step into a lot of throws,” Palmer said. “Guys did a nice job of finding the voids in their zone. I thought guys came with the right attitude. It wasn’t a letdown game for us. It was a must-win, and we did what it took.”
Rashard Mendenhall scored on a 5-yard run late in the second quarter to tie the game at 14. Otherwise, the running game didn’t exist for either team. The Cardinals came into the game with the third-ranked run defense. It held the Jaguars to 32 yards. The Cardinals had 416 yards, only 14 on the ground.
Jones-Drew finished with 23 yards on 14 carries.
“They’re a great defense. We knew that going in,” Jones-Drew said. “They load the box and wanted to make sure that we couldn’t run the ball.”
The Jaguars did get a piece of Arizona running back Andre Ellington’s locks after defensive end Jason Babin dragged him down.
“I was getting tackled and I looked and saw that he had a handful of my hair,” Ellington said. “It was a little dirty play by their part, but it’s OK. We got the win. I didn’t feel it at all, with the adrenalin flowing. I saw him holding it and said, `Come on, man.’ He said, `It’s part of the uniform.’ I’ve lost some before, but not that much came out at one time like this.”