Cardinals crumble in red zone, ousted from playoff race
LANDOVER, Md. — Allowing 68 points over the past two games was just what the Washington Redskins’ defense needed to get fired up.
Motivated after two consecutive efforts players called embarrassing, the Redskins kept the Arizona Cardinals out of the end zone in a 20-15 victory on Sunday.
Linebacker Preston Smith and second-year defensive lineman Anthony Lanier led the defensive effort by bothering Arizona quarterback Blaine Gabbert with sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions.
“We all were going extra hard because we were so disappointed,” said Lanier, who sacked Gabbert twice and batted down three passes.
“Everybody has been talking about it all year about how we have to come together. Today we came together and we overcame the odds of everybody thinking we were out of it.”
Gabbert was 16 of 41 for 189 yards with the interception and a fumble he recovered himself in the fourth quarter.
Arizona (6-8), which got all its points on field goals by Phil Dawson, went 0 for 6 in the red zone and 4 for 19 on third down as it was eliminated from playoff contention.
“It was just a game of missed opportunities,” Gabbert said. “That falls on me. The lack of execution from me all day, that just can’t happen. We were inches away on a bunch of plays, but at the end of the day I have to make those. We have to score touchdowns in the red zone. We can’t come away with field goals like that.”
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was 18 of 26 for 196 yards with touchdown passes to Jamison Crowder and new running back Kapri Bibbs as Washington (6-8) ended its two-game skid. Coach Jay Gruden said Cousins was fine after talking a few hard hits late.
The Redskins’ defense delivered big hits on Gabbert all game long. Smith recovered Gabbert’s fumble and had an interception in what was a redemptive performance after losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams.
“The Dallas game and the L.A. game were both pretty darn bad defensively,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “We didn’t hardly see their punter till the second half last week. This week was much-needed. Good on us for not allowing them in the end zone.”
DRIVE FOR FIVE
Dawson made all five of his field goal attempts, connecting from 40, 35, 19, 34 and 32 yards. Dawson has scored the Cardinals’ past 30 points going back to their Dec. 3 game against the Rams.
“That is a lot,” Dawson said. “I didn’t realize that. But that’s life.”
Even though coach Bruce Arians didn’t call for an onside kick to start the second half, the Cardinals got the ball back in excellent field position. Dawson’s kickoff bounced deep in Washington territory and when no Redskins player fielded it, Budda Baker recovered at the 22.
“Uh, I mean, it’s not that good of odds,” Baker said. “But Phil’s a great kicker, and that’s a great kick. So initially we were just going to lob it to the left and see if they catch it. But they didn’t catch it.”
Gruden said special teams ace Niles Paul thought the ball would bounce to him, but went the other way.
Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones earned his NFL-leading 15th sack of the season during the first half as he continued to make a case to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year. With two games remaining, he’s two shy of setting the franchise record for sacks in a season.
Cardinals: WR Brittan Golden broke his right arm on a punt return. … DL Robert Nkemdiche left with a wrist injury. … LB Karlos Dansby suffered a calf injury. … DL Josh Mauro was inactive with an ankle injury.
Redskins: Rookie LB Ryan Anderson suffered a sprained knee in punt coverage. Anderson came in dealing with an ankle injury. … LT Trent Williams missed his fourth game of the season with a knee injury. … LB Zach Brown, who came in leading the league with 127 tackles, was inactive with toe, hip and Achilles tendon injuries.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: “We’re not playing for the playoffs, we’re playing for each other.”
Gruden: “I never really want to use 8-8 as motivation.”
Cardinals: Host the New York Giants next Sunday.