Two Sunday Night Football games, two horrid misses from Chandler Catanzaro. After Catanzaro and Stephen Hauschka jersey traded field goals to begin the overtime period, the Cardinals were set up with a first down at the Seahawks’ five-yard line. After David Johnson nearly crossed the goal line at the left pylon, the Cardinals hurried up on second down to run a play to Johnson for no gain. After taking a delay of game penalty ahead of the next snap, Catanzaro, who had had a kick blocked already on the evening, hit the left post on a 24-yard field goal attempt from the left hash with the game on the line. Coach Bruce Arians summed up his kicker’s evening best when he said post-game “Make it. He’s a professional. This isn’t high school, baby. You get paid to make it.” Catanzaro’s unforgivable error was only outdone when Hauschka shanked the ensuing game-winning attempt all the way to Scottsdale.
That this game even went to overtime is a miracle only Russell Wilson’s nanobubbles can perform. A fourth-quarter punt block by Seahawks wideout Tanner McEvoy flipped momentum and field position and set Seattle up with a golden opportunity to steal a win over the Cardinals, who had dominated from kickoff with authentic sports jerseys. However, down just three points at the 22, the Seahawks moved backward and settled for a game-tying field goal.
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David Johnson is the Cardinals’ offense; the Cardinals’ offense is David Johnson. The second-year back was the workhorse for Bruce Arians’ offense on Sunday night, tallying 171 total yards on a career-high 41 touches. For the seventh straight week, Johnson eclipsed 100-plus scrimmage yards and remains in the league lead in that category. Johnson didn’t display the trademark burst that he has in prime time games past, instead acting as the Cardinals’ sacrificial battering ram. (A holding penalty negated Johnson’s most bruising dash of the game, a 23-yard rumble down the right sideline in the fourth quarter.) The tailback’s performance Sunday night was the football equivalent of Andy Dufresne breaking out of Shawshank using a mini rock hammer. Chip away, chip away.
Russell Wilson is not the same quarterback. Blame it on the inexperienced, hold-happy offensive line. Blame it on his bum knee. Blame it on the opponent, but against a division rival in a familiar environment, Wilson was subjected to one of the least productive games of his career. Without a stable running game from Christine Michael jersey, the quarterback was erratic. He missed wide receivers, settled for short gains and worst of all, failed to establish a relationship with tight end Jimmy Graham, who finished with five catches for 53 yards.
Seattle’s offense came alive in overtime when the Cardinals began playing conservative football, letting Wilson roll out of the pocket more than usual, but their production in the extra period barely tilted the statistical balance. Before overtime, the Seahawks had just five first downs — FIVE — and nine punts; Arizona outgained the ‘Hawks 443 to 257 in total yardage; and the Cardinals won the time of possession battle, 46:21 to 28:39.
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Contributing to the Cardinals’ struggles on offense has been their inability to score first, or at the very least, score in the first quarter. Through four games, Arizona has yet to score a single point in the opening 15 minutes and instead the team has punted 10 times. With Stanton under center, it’s unlikely there will be any increased confidence in play calling to spur a hotter start. However, instead of forcing the ball downfield early as Palmer is oft to do, the Cards can use David Johnson as their workhorse and Andre Ellington as a change of pace in short situations to keep drives moving against San Francisco’s poor run defense. Putting Gabbert and the San Francisco offense behind on the scoreboard in the first quarter would be a surefire way to put this game with cheap NFL jerseys to bed early.
The Cardinals’ cornerbacks across from Patrick Peterson were exploited time and time again against the Rams’ league-worst passing game; Marcus Cooper looked overmatched against Brian Quick of all people, who beat the fourth-year cornerback for two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Arizona’s defensive backs have to rebound this week against a similarly mediocre crop of wideouts in San Francisco. The 49ers’ yards-per-play average (4.7) is the second-worst in the league, just above the Rams (4.6). Their deep threat wideout, Torrey Smith, is frustrated with Blaine Gabbert’s play at quarterback, despite the quarterback’s claims that their relationship is “fine.” If Arizona can’t shut down journeyman slot receiver Jeremy Kerley jersey, Garrett Celek — the second-best Celek — and San Francisco’s passing game, then there will be legitimate reason to panic in the desert.
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Case Keenum plays like the youngest brother in a backyard with Tony Romo jersey and Ryan Fitzpatrick. He shares the same penchant for keeping broken plays alive and bedeviling defenses with his feet even if his arm is barely NFL caliber. He hasn’t been a major liability since the Rams were shut out in a dismal Week 1 performance.
Returning from ACL surgery, Tyrann Mathieu has been outplayed thus far by fellow Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson who is off to a Pro Bowl start at the season’s quarter-pole. After staking its claim as one of league’s stingiest big-play secondaries last season, Arizona’s defensive backfield has struggled early this year. The cornerback spot opposite All Pro Patrick Peterson remains an Achilles’ heel, as Marcus Cooper was beaten twice by Brian Quick for difference-making plays’ cheap jerseys.
It’s easy to see why the Cardinals elected to let Dwight Freeney walk in favor of second-year pass rusher Markus Golden. Borrowing Freeney’s trademark spin move, Golden took Keenum down for his fourth sack of the young season. He and bookend edge rusher Chandler Jones have totaled eight sacks this year — one apiece in each game.
Jeff Fisher needs a more astute replay advisor in his headset. The Rams challenged two separate plays that were clearly not catches, including one Brian Quick diving drop that hit the ground twice.