Cardinals’ defense shuts down Titans in 12-7 victory
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals didn’t get much offense against Tennessee. Their defense, though, was just fine.
The Cardinals held the Titans (8-5) to 204 yards, just 65 on the ground, in a 12-7 victory on Sunday that knocked Tennessee out of first place in the AFC South.
”Our defense really stepped it up,” said Arizona outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who had a sack, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits, ”buying into what the coaches are preaching, and guys were just making plays.”
The Cardinals (6-7) intercepted Marcus Mariota twice in the second half, once to stop a scoring threat and later to set up one of Phil Dawson’s four field goals.
Mariota said he hurt a knee in the first half but kept playing and didn’t use it as an excuse.
He completed 16 of 31 passes for 159 yards and was just 6 of 16 for 60 yards in the second half.
”I expect myself to do my job and just taking care of the football and converting third downs,” Mariota said. ”I haven’t been up to par, and I’ve got to be better.”
Meanwhile, after gaining 193 yards in a win over Houston a week earlier, the Tennessee rushing game ground to a halt.
”I don’t remember too many times in my time here where anybody has run the ball in this stadium against us,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.
Dawson connected from 47, 23, 32 and 35 yards and missed one from 40. It was the eighth miss of the year for the 42-year-old kicker, tying the most in a season in his long career.
”It’s inexcusable,” Arians said, ”but he made the next two.”
The victory came two weeks after the Cardinals beat AFC South leader Jacksonville on the same field. Arians improved to 7-1 against AFC South teams.
”I wish we played them every week,” he said.
Here are some things to consider from Arizona’s victory over the Titans:
There was no long, brooding flight home for Tennessee after the game, just a bus ride to a resort on the other side of suburban Phoenix.
The Titans are staying in the desert next week, practicing at Arizona State University to prepare for next Sunday’s game at San Francisco.
”I think this is a good opportunity for us to come together as a team,” Mariota said, ”especially with the circumstances with what happened. So I think it’s going to be good for us, and I think we can bounce back on Sunday.”
Even though top pass rusher Derrick Morgan was out injured, the Titans sacked Blaine Gabbert eight times, the most by an Arizona opponent this season.
Six players had at least one sack. Jurrell Casey had two.
”It’s definitely good to see us getting pressure,” Tennessee linebacker Avery Williamson said. ”I wish we could’ve got some strip sacks, but we definitely had them out of their comfort zone.”
The eight sacks tied for the most for the Titans this season. They had eight against Indianapolis two weeks ago.
Mariota was not intercepted a week ago against Houston, but he threw two against Indianapolis and four against Pittsburgh in the two games before that.
Overall, the third-year quarterback has thrown for 10 touchdowns and been intercepted 14 times this season.
Tramon Williams got the first interception and Josh Bynes the second.
Mariota said both were his fault, although receiver Rishard Matthews also took the blame for the first one.
Derrick Henry, who rushed for 109 yards on 11 attempts a week earlier against Houston, gained just 20 yards in eight carries for Tennessee. Demarco Murray had 34 yards on 11 attempts.
”We were just definitely sound defensively,” Bynes said. ”We knew we had to stop the run, and once we stopped the run, we made them one-dimensional.”
The Cardinals, who entered the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing, outgained the Titans on the ground 136-65.
Larry Fitzgerald caught five passes for 44 yards, in the process moving past his boyood idol Randy Moss into third place on the NFL career yards receiving list.
Fitzgerald has 15,311 yards, behind only Jerry Rice (22,895) and Terrell Owens (15,934).
Will he catch Owens at No. 2?
”I don’t know,” he said. ”That would require me to play another year, I think.”
Fitzgerald hasn’t said whether he will play next season.
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