OK, raise your hand if you saw this one coming. Dallas with a chance to take control of the NFC East blows the game to the Cardinals who were just grateful they didn’t have to start John Skelton anymore.
In a game that went down to the wire (actually beyond the wire as we hit over time), Jason Garrett showed some impressive coaching calamity as he successfully iced his own kicker, negating a kick Dan Bailey put straight down the middle with a late timeout only to see him shank his next try.
Arizona got the ball in overtime and worked their way to midfield before a moment of magic sealed the win with a touchdown. So how did it go down?
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
Who needs two hands?
Linebacker Sean Lee (+7.2) had a stellar game, despite playing with a giant club of a cast on one hand. Lee graded positively against the run, as a pass-rusher and in coverage on his 59 snaps and was comfortably the best Dallas player on defense. It was a good day for Lee in the stats too, as he notched three pressures, a pass defensed, seven tackles and five stops. He was a complete linebacker, in that he found a way to make a nuisance of himself in all facets of the game, and the pass defensed came in the end zone as he prevented a touchdown by dropping underneath an in-breaking route at the back line and deflected the ball enough that it couldn’t be caught. Arizona was forced to settle for a field goal on that series and so that intervention from Lee saved Dallas four points.
Newman taken to task, but not by who you might expect
We’ve been asked a lot about the play of Terence Newman this season, and why we haven’t been talking more about it. It’s because he hasn’t been playing as well as raw numbers might suggest, as our grading reflects, and this game (-4.6) represents his second bad game on the bounce. He was thrown at eight times, and allowed seven completions for 117 yards, and while you might think that is inevitable to Larry Fitzgerald, only two of those catches were to the Cardinals’ top receiver. Fitzgerald took Newman for 28 yards, but it was Andre Roberts that did the damage, catching all five passes thrown his way when Newman was covering him for 89 yards and also drawing a crucial pass interference penalty to move the chains on 2nd-and-19 in overtime.
Tyron Smith – the forgotten rookie
Nobody has time for rookie offensive linemen. They can play very well, and the best you’ll usually get is a terse acknowledgement before more praise is heaped on an inferior skill position player. Tyron Smith (+3.6) is playing well enough to be firmly in the Rookie of the Year conversation, and is in the upper tier of offensive tackles this season. Smith was perfect in pass protection, actually the first time this season he has managed that (he has eight games of allowing just a single pressure), and was effective as a run blocker sealing the edge as well. Were it not for the ridiculous season Von Miller is having for the Broncos, I would give Smith serious Rookie of the Year consideration.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
If you didn’t already know, Calais Campbell (+4.9), not Darnell Dockett (-0.5) is the best D-lineman on the Arizona roster. For some reason Dockett gets all the praise (maybe it’s the dreadlocks?), but Campbell is consistently the more disruptive and effective player. In this game the two were actually only separated by one pressure, each notching a sack and three (Dockett) or four (Campbell) more pressures, but the difference in grade came in how those pressures were achieved. While Dockett earned them with some hustle plays chasing down the passer long after linemen had given up the block, Campbell was beating linemen early for his pressure and doing things the hard way.
Kolb to the rescue!
If you’d asked me before this game I would have said that the best thing about Kevin Kolb was that at least he isn’t John Skelton, and therefore has a vague chance of actually hitting his receiver, or at least getting it in the right area code. But Kolb’s +4.6 grade is more than double his best performance in a Cardinals jersey to date. That’s not to say he was great, completing just 16 passes, but he made his best plays at the death with the game on the line, and escaped pressure on multiple occasions to do so. One such instance was the game-winning touchdown when he had to negotiate an unblocked Anthony Spencer coming off the edge before he could get the ball to his running back on the screen. Kolb may not be everything the Cardinals wanted him to be (and kind of need him to be), but this is a huge step in the right direction.
Bad, Bad (good?) Levi Brown, the baddest man in the whole damn town
OK so Levi Brown wasn’t great (+1.7), but it’s a notable departure from his baseline of awful that I felt it was worth pointing out. Interestingly, if you look through his career grades at PFF, you do see the awful punctuated with the occasional decent game. Rarely average, just a baseline of terrible and the occasional pretty good outing. This was one of the high notes as the big man allowed just a single pressure and acquitted himself well in the run game on his 60 snaps. Even a false start in overtime couldn’t dampen his day as the Cardinals scored the game winner on the very next snap. I wouldn’t expect this to be the start of some kind of re-birth in form from Levi, but it’s worth noting that this makes back-to-back games in the green, only the second time he has ever managed that.
– Matt McBriar did an excellent job of kicking to (or away from) arguably the NFL’s best punt return man in Patrick Peterson. McBriar allowed just one punt to be returned, and it gained 1 yard.
– Patrick Peterson was thrown at 13 times in coverage, allowed eight receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown, but also batted away three passes and earned a +1.7 grade.
– When blitzed, Kevin Kolb had a QB rating of 137.5, and 15.8 yards per attempt.
PFF Game Ball
Sean Lee: It came in a losing effort, but Lee was able to stand out in all areas of the game and was single handedly disrupting the Cardinals offense at times.