The Arizona Cardinals returned home Sunday for their first of three-straight games at University of Phoenix beating to the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-24 in the closing seconds on a long Phil Dawson field goal. With the win the Cards improve to 5-6. The Jags are now 7-4.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. Perfection…Veteran kicker Phil Dawson has drawn the ire of Cards’ fans this season for his inconsistency, especially from short-range. Sunday he silenced those critics drilling a 57-yarder with just one second to play to secure Arizona’s first victory over a winning team in 2017. “I was really trying to focus, just hit it smooth,” Dawson said of the game-winner. “Hit it on line and trust the Arizona dome that that ball would track and it did.” Dawson also made his other three attempts and a pair of extra points.
2. Less Is More…While nearly every scheme in Bruce Arians’ system has the chance for a big play, the Cards’ offense has been streamlined a bit with Blaine Gabbert under center. Instead of pushing the ball down the field, Gabbert frequently took what the stingy Jacksonville defense gave, engineering three first-half scoring drives and finishing 11-14 for 109 yards and a touchdown before intermission. However, much like last week against the Texans, he struggled at times in the second half, forcing throws and looking uncomfortable in the pocket until connecting with Jaron Brown for a pretty 52-yard touchdown throw down the middle. “It was a big win for this team,” Gabbert said after the game. “We were close last week. We didn’t finish the game. Being able to see the transition from week-to-week. Being able to finish that and hit that game-winning kick was huge.” It was the second time in his career, first since 2011, Gabbert’s had back-to-back games with at least two touchdown passes. Gabbert finished 22-38 for 241 yards, the two touchdowns and one interception.
3. C.C. TD…During his nine-year tenure with Arizona, Calais Campbell was not only one of the most popular, but also productive Cardinals to wear the red and white. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive lineman entered the weekend with 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. His success inside University of Phoenix Stadium continued when he scooped up Gabbert’s fourth quarter sack fumble and rumbled into the end zone from 10 yards out giving the Jags their first lead of the game. Campbell finished with three tackles, one for loss.
4. New Options…With Gabbert appearing to take hold of the starting quarterback position, Arians has begun to use his collection of tight ends more in the passing game and Sunday was no different. In the first half Gabbert was able to find Ricky Seals-Jones, Troy Niklas and Jermaine Gresham open over the middle for chunk plays. Last weekend Seals-Jones broke out in Houston with three catches for 54 yards and his first two touchdown receptions. He was also used as a slot receiver against the Jags and caught a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The trio of tight ends combined to catch 11 passes for 107 yards.
5. (Dow) Jones Rising…Trading for linebacker Chandler Jones could be the biggest heist general manager Steve Keim has made during his tenure in the desert. The pass-rush specialist had two first-half sacks against Jacksonville, giving him 12 this season and tying the club record for the most through 11 games. He sits only 4.5 sacks behind Simeon Rice who set the franchise record back in 1999. “I feel good,” he said of his big season to this point. “I lost about 10 to 20 pounds. I’m more agile. I feel like I’m faster and I have more cardio.” Jones also became the first Cardinal since Freddie Joe Nunn in the mid-80’s to record 11 or more sacks in back-to-back seasons. He had six total tackles and a pass deflection Sunday proving to be no match for the Jags’ offensive line.
The Cards jump back into division play hosting the NFC West-leading Rams next weekend.