Larry Fitzgerald fighting for every yard against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Photo: azcardinals.com
The Arizona Cardinals went on the road to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the heat and humidity of Florida. After the Cardinals were picked apart in a 31-7 defeat to the to the New Orleans Saints, the Buccaneers game was seen as a proving ground.
The game was a very sloppy one for the Cardinals. Many mistakes were made on offense and adjustments didn’t pay off until the fourth quarter. The winning field goal was not kicked until there was less than one minute, thirty seconds on the clock, Tampa Bay’s comeback attempt hit the skids when rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, starting in place of out of favor veteran Josh Freeman, threw a silly interception in the final minute.
What did we learn from the Cardinals’ performance? Here are five takeaways.
Converting Third downs is still an issue - The Cardinals currently sit with a 2-2 record. In both of their wins – Week Two against the Detroit Lions and this game against the Buccaneers – the Cardinals converted a total of TWO third downs in ten or eleven attempts. So that comes down to a total of two converts in a total of twenty-one attempts through two games. In the Saints game, they converted a mere five of thirteen attempts. This is something the Cardinals need to work on if they want to sustain drives and score more than field goals.
The Cardinals have a nasty run defense – As a Cardinals fan, the prospect of facing Buccaneers’ star running back, Doug Martin, filled me with dread especially since the team were without “Dumpster” Dan Williams, their best run stuffing nose tackle, for the second straight week. I needn’t have worried. The Cardinals defense shut down Martin to 46 yards on 27 carries. This is a far cry from past years where the Cardinals made the most average looking running backs look like Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. As a result of this performance, the Cardinals now have the number two run defense in the league behind the Denver Broncos.
Andre Ellington is underused – Despite the struggles of the offense in this game and in the last two, one of the bright spots is sixth round rookie Andre Ellington. Ellington was one of Tajh Boyd’s most dependable weapons at Clemson and that has continued to a degree with the Cardinals. Ellington has shown he is able to be a threat for the Cardinals when he is given the opportunity. Those opportunities are few and far between however.
Watch out for Dontay Moch - Dontay Moch was a third round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2010 draft. Injuries and a lack of opportunities in Ohio left Moch with a hunger to prove himself. He was snapped up by the Cardinals and added to their practice squad. Due to suffering three injuries to their outside linebacker corps in the space of 48 hours, Moch was activated for the Buccaneers game and he didn’t disappoint. Moch recorded a sack and two tackles in his limited playing time. He was even involved in the final play of the game which essentially won the gae for the Cardinals – he hit Mike Glennon who promptly threw an interception to Patrick Peterson.
Carson Palmer had another bad game…but came out good in the end - Against the Saints in Week Three, Palmer threw two interceptions and went 18 for 37 and 194 yards. Part of his issue in the Saints game was the play calling. The Cardinals were throwing it too much resulting in Palmer getting hit often and putting him out of his stride. Against the Buccaneers Palmer was staring at a similar performance minus the hits before head coach Bruce Arians decided to make some adjustments. Those adjustments helped turn a game staring at a 10-0 loss into a 13-10 win. Palmer ended the game with a touchdown, two interceptions and 227 passing yards.
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