In case you haven’t noticed yet, the Cardinals are a very good team. If it wasn’t for Seattle controlling the NFC West, Arizona would be a pretty tough out come playoff time, but as it is they find themselves embroiled in the NFC Wild Card race with a record of 7-4.
The Colts on the other hand now have the same 7-4 record, but because of the ugly situation in the AFC South are still two games clear at the head of their division. With a dominant defense and a passing game getting things done, the Cardinals were everything that the Colts want to be in this game, harassing Andrew Luck all game and preventing the Colts from running anywhere (along with everybody else).
This game was a cold shower to those who want to crown Andrew Luck as the greatest young quarterback in the game. He was poor throughout and did little to help dig his team out of the hole they found themselves in.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Not so Lucky
This game highlighted well what Andrew Luck still struggles with, despite all the good he does and the ability he has. He all too often misses routine passes that he needs to be able to hit, and he has a tendency to get himself into trouble throwing with defenders draped all over him. When it works, they’re great plays, but it exposes him to throwing passes that can be affected by that contact and sent wayward. He threw a back-breaking pick-six in this game while trying to make a play and avoid a sack. It was a throw that was there to be made had he thrown it a fraction earlier, but the pressure forced him into poor location and gave Karlos Dansby the chance to jump in front of Coby Fleener and intercept it, taking it back easily for the score. Under pressure Luck’s passer rating fell to just 44.6 and he completed just five passes on those snaps. The Colts line seemed to be giving up pressure at the worst possible times, preventing him from getting any momentum going all game long.
Free Agent Earned Some Money
The Colts splashed around a lot of money in free agency this past off-season, and much of it seemed frivolous at best and foolish at worst. Ricky Jean-Francois was one of the big signings made and while his season has been up and down so far, this was definitely one of the up games. His +3.6 grade represents a high-mark for his Colts career, and he was making plays consistently all day. It wasn’t just a pair of sacks that RJF tallied, but he also knocked the quarterback down once more and hurried him another two times. He added to that pass-rush with a batted pass at the line of scrimmage, breaking up a screen pass for a fine day all around. This is the player the Colts want to show up every week, but that +3.6 grade represents 63% of his total positive for the year. They need to see this more often.
Rush from the OLBs
Robert Mathis is sometimes very much a feast or famine kind of player. He can be shut down for long stretches, but he specializes in strip-sacks and when he does get home it tends to be devastating. Mathis rushed the passer 31 times, and only generated pressure on two of those snaps, but still earned a positive grade such was the impact of one of them, a lightning fast strip sack that almost maxed out the PFF-grading system on the play. Other than Mathis though, the Colts still haven’t been able to generate too much pass rush. The other three OLBs combined for three hurries, with Bjoern Werner struggling especially and ending the game with a -2.5 grade from his 61 snaps as a starter. Werner added some struggles in the run game to his lack of pass rush for a real day to forget, seemingly one of many for the rookie.
Arizona: Three Performances of Note
Floyd Breaks Out
Larry Fitzgerald had the game paused for his milestone reception sending him past 11,000 receiving yards at the youngest age of any receiver in NFL history, but it was Michael Floyd who earned a big grade for his performance. Fitzgerald was thrown at 11 times, but was only able to come down with five of them for 52 yards, albeit two for scores. He also registered his first drop of the season on a slant pattern he should have caught. Floyd was thrown at seven times and caught every pass, notching 104 yards against three different Indianapolis defenders. He also emulated his more experienced teammate by blocking well in the run game on the perimeter to total a huge +5.3 grade. Floyd has now had a pair of huge games on the bounce, and the Cardinals will be hoping that’s set to continue.
Any time your top corner allows nine yards from six targets he has done pretty well. That’s exactly what Patrick Peterson managed this week as the Colts desperately searched around for a viable receiver to throw to. That lack of weapons reflected on the coverage grades of the rest of the Cardinals defensive backs. Tyann Mathieu (+1.9) and Jerraud Powers (+2.4) both joined Peterson with strong coverage grades as Karlos Dansby chipped in, thanks largely to his pick-six. Only really Yeremiah Bell (-1.9) let the side down, blowing his assignment for the lone Colts TD pass of the day by allowing Fleener in behind him when he should have had cut the pass out. For Peterson, this represents his sixth green-graded game of the season and another fine performance, but he has already amassed four red-graded games to go with those as he tries to prove he is a shutdown corner.
The Cardinals D is at its best when they have their DE pairing of Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett firing on all cylinders together. Dockett in particular is wildly inconsistent, with his game grades this season ranging all the way from -6.2 to +8.5, but he came to play on this occasion. Campbell is far more consistent, and has now put in four straight impressive performances, but the pair combined to wreck the Indianapolis interior all day long. Not only did they combine for two sacks (one each) three knockdowns of Luck and four additional hurries, but Campbell also batted a pass (which was caught by C Samson Satele after bouncing around the line). Each man also disrupted the run badly on occasions, driving across gaps to blow up the point of attack.
– Carson Palmer was pressured on 14 plays and had a passer rating of 139.2 on those snaps.
– Trent Richardson gained 15 yards on 7 carries, with 8 of those yards coming after first contact. Donald Brown could manage just one yard on his two carries. Neither made a man miss.
– Rashard Mendenhall flashed a little of his old best in this game, gaining 57% of his yards after contact in the game, forcing three missed tackles and scoring a touchdown with a nice burst.
PFF Game Ball
There were some impressive performances on the Arizona defense but we aren’t looking beyond Michael Floyd for the game ball.
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