Cardinals ride defense, 4 FGs to drop Titans

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Phil Dawson hasn’t had the greatest season and missed another field goal on Sunday.

He made the other four, though, all the offense the Arizona Cardinals needed in a 12-7 victory that knocked the Tennessee Titans out of first place in the AFC South.

Dawson connected from 47, 23, 32 and 35 yards and missed from 40 for the Cardinals (6-7), whose victory came two weeks after they beat then-AFC South leader Jacksonville on the same field.

“It wasn’t our most fancy or nifty offensive performance I’ve ever been a part of,” Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald said. “But it’s a win and we’ll take them.”

The Cardinals intercepted Marcus Mariota twice in the second half after the Titans (8-5) nursed a 7-0 lead at halftime.

Mariota completed 16 of 31 passes for 159 yards. Tennessee managed 65 yards rushing against the Cardinals after gaining 198 on the ground in a win over Houston a week ago.

Mariota was 6 of 16 for 60 yards with two picks in the second half.

“Frustration is an understatement,” Mariota said. “Defense played lights-out, special teams did their job and I’ve been hurting our team. I’ve got to find ways to be better.”

Mariota said he hurt his knee in the first half when he didn’t slide soon enough to protect himself, but he wouldn’t use that as an excuse for his performance.

The Cardinals gained 64 yards in the first half and 197 in the second.

Blaine Gabbert completed 17 of 26 for 178 yards for Arizona with no interceptions, but was sacked eight times, most by a Cardinals quarterback this season. Kerwynn Williams rushed for 73 yards as Arizona, ranked last in the NFL in rushing, outgained Tennessee on the ground 136-65.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians improved to 7-1 against the AFC South.

“I know what everybody is going to say. `It’s an ugly win,'” Arians said. “There is no such thing.”

The game’s lone TD came after Andy Lee’s 33-yard punt gave Tennessee the ball at the 50. The Titans needed nine plays, Derrick Henry sweeping right and diving at the pylon on the 6-yard touchdown play in the second quarter.

Mariota directed the Titans on a drive from their 26-yard line to the Arizona 40 in the final 49 seconds of the half, but Ryan Succop’s 58-yard field-goal try bounced off the crossbar.

Arizona took the second-half kickoff and, despite Tennessee getting two sacks, got a 47-yard field goal from Dawson to cut the lead to 7-3.

Then came a big Tennessee gamble.

After the subsequent kickoff, the Titans faked a punt on fourth-and-1 from their 35. Initially, officials ruled that Eric Weems had made the first down. But Arians challenged the spot and, after a review, it was determined the runner came up a few inches short.

Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey said he probably got “a little over-aggressive” with the fake punt call.

But, he said, “We should have got it. I thought we had it. Both officials had the mark as a first down. I was standing right behind them. I don’t know how it got overturned.”

The Cardinals took over and Dawson’s 23-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-6.

Dawson missed a 40 yarder that would have given the Cardinals the lead with 12:04 to play. But the 42-year-old kicker would get another chance.

Rookie Chad Williams ran 33 yards on an end-around to ignite an eight-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in Dawson’s 32-yard field goal to put Arizona ahead 9-7 with 5:59 to play.

Josh Bynes intercepted Mariota over the middle on the next possession and returned it 25 yards. A late-hit penalty against the Titans play moved the ball to the Tennessee 7. Jurrell Casey’s second sack of the game forced yet another field goal by Dawson, good from 35 yards to finish the scoring.

The Titans will stay in the desert and practice next week at Arizona State University to prepare for next Sunday’s game at San Francisco.

FITZ MOVES UP

With his 23-yard catch on the Cardinals’ first possession of the second half, Fitzgerald moved past his boyhood idol Randy Moss into third place on the NFL career yards receiving list, trailing only Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice.

Fitzgerald was a ball boy for the Vikings and used to wash Moss’ cars for cash, and even borrowed his BMW to go to the high school prom.

INJURIES

Arizona outside linebacker Gabe Martin left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. … The Titans lost starting left tackle Taylor Lewan in the second quarter with a lower back injury.

UP NEXT

Cardinals play at Washington next Sunday.