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