ReFo: Cardinals @ Jaguars, Week 11
After picking up their first win of the season last weekend in Nashville, the Jacksonville Jaguars returned to losing ways in frustrating fashion against the Arizona Cardinals. Suffering their sixth straight defeat in Jacksonville, the Jags at least scored their first home touchdown since last December, but the offense spluttered to a halt after a strong start and the defense, in spite of a strong showing, couldn’t hold the Cardinals to a low-scoring scrap.
The dagger for the Jaguars and the making of the Cardinals’ victory was Michael Floyd’s 91-yard touchdown reception which came out of the blue courtesy of great effort by Floyd paired with some dreadful angles and tackling by the Jacksonville defense. The Cardinals aren’t really blowing anyone away but they are following a recipe that works. The combination of an offense that is no longer self destructive with a stifling and occasionally playmaking defense now has the Cardinals tied with the faltering 49ers for the sixth seed in the NFC.
Both teams continued their season trajectory in this game with each taking things away that will give pause for thought and others that will give real encouragement for the future.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
Big Day for Floyd
It has to be a good day when you add an extra 42% to your season output in a single game; such was the breakout game for Michael Floyd yesterday in his explosive day in the sunshine state. Aided in no small part by his 91-yard touchdown that featured three missed tackles and nearly half the Jacksonville defense left in his wake, Floyd notched career highs in receiving yards and PFF receiving grade (+5.1).
After what had been a relatively quiet first half, Floyd came to life with 44 yards on two catches in three plays. The first an excellent grab on an out route to the right sideline, the second a post route turning in the air to bring in a pass that Carson Palmer put a little behind him. He finished that post by bouncing off a tackle from Winston Guy to take the ball down to the Jacksonville 5-yard line just prior to the two minute warning, setting up Rashard Mendenhall’s game-tying score. Floyd followed this up in the second half with a 37-yard catch on the second play of the third quarter before his long score later in the same period. A slot in our ‘Team of the Week’ is surely a formality having forced five missed tackles en route to his career day.
Still Making Plays
He may have been jettisoned by the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason (how much could they use his pass rush ability right now) but John Abraham has shown in the last month that he can still bring the heat as an outside linebacker. After a relatively slow start to the season that seemed to vindicate the Falcons’ decision to move on, Abraham has re-discovered the form that belies his age in the last month — adding another five pressures yesterday (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 3 Hu) to take his total for the last four games to 24 (7 Sk, 2 Ht, 15 Hu), he’s earned a +10.5 pass rush grade in that spell.
With two hurries coming unblocked, the rest of Abraham’s pressure came against Jacksonville left tackle Cameron Bradfield. Among them was his drive-ending sack late in the third quarter that fused not only pass rushing ability but effort. Bradfield did well to work Abraham as deep in the pocket as he could, but the Cardinals’ OLB launched himself to take down Chad Henne, not only see the Jags off the field but taking them out of field goal range in the process.
Still Trying to Plug the Gap
Left tackle has been a problem position for the Cardinals for some time, and despite some improvements from Bradley Sowell in recent outings, it was noticeable that he was getting a lot of help this week; the Cardinals seemingly keen to ensure the Jaguars couldn’t isolate him. In fact, at times you would have been mistaken for thinking that Jim Dray was playing left tackle for the Cardinals, handling the Jags’ defensive right end one-on-one while Sowell double teamed a defensive tackle with left guard Daryn Colledge.
In one sense, the ploy worked, with Jacksonville unable to extract a splash play from the left side of the line in spite of their consistent pressure. Sowell surrendered five pressures (all hurries) as did Dray (3 Ht, 2 Hu) with both Andre Branch and Jason Babin registering one of their highest graded pass rush games of the season. Current indications are that the Cardinals have settled on Sowell as their left tackle and they are just looking for the best way to make it work without it becoming an anchor around the neck of the offense.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
Offense Slips Back into Neutral
Not having scored a touchdown at home since their closer than expected defeat to the Patriots last Christmas, the Jags got off to an unexpectedly fast start on offense with touchdowns on their opening two drives yesterday. Three-and-out on their opening drive, the Jags got aggressive and went for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 38 less than two minutes into the game. Courtesy of a coverage breakdown from the Cardinals it paid off to the tune of 62-yard score with Danny Noble (+1.1, 4 snaps) shaking off a tackle from Patrick Peterson for his first career touchdown on his first career reception (not a bad average).
Working their way into the end zone on the ground courtesy of ill-discipline from the Cardinals on the next drive, things looked on the up for the Jaguars but the wheels fell off the offense from there. After two first downs on the following drive, Jacksonville went three-and-out for the rest of the first half and recorded only two first downs in the third quarter as the Cardinals established a two-score lead the Jags never looked like chasing down. At quarterback, Chad Henne (-2.8) was erratic, while on the ground Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman were given only 12 yards before contact on 16 combined carries.
Solid Secondary Showing Blighted by One Play
The real bright spot for the Jags yesterday after the offense’s false dawn came on the defensive side of the ball, but one horrific play from the secondary will likely over shadow that in the eyes of many observers. That long touchdown by Floyd with the poor angles and poor tackling happened and I won’t try to take that away, but looking around that play there were signs of encouragement.
Alan Ball put in his first excellent display in what had otherwise been a solid season to date racking up four pass defenses and surrendering only three catches on seven targets for 31 yards. At safety, Johnathan Cyprien earned his first positive grade of the season with some solid work in coverage both coming up against wide screens and jumping up to disrupt short and intermediate routes. The big play is inescapable and reminds of the growing pains the Jags still have to go through, but there were undeniable positives to draw on this week.
Run Defense Makes its Mark
When you limit your opposition to 17 yards on 21 carries, you’ve (generally speaking) had a very strong day in run defense and that showing is born out in the run D grades for the Jaguars this week. As with the secondary in coverage, the Jags’ defensive front learned the hard way how a good or even very good performance isn’t enough when you get no help from your offense.
One of the few plays the Jags’ defense really failed on in run defense led to six points with Mendenhall able to get outside and spin and fight his way to the end zone for a 5-yard score just after the two minute warning before halftime, his longest run of the day. On the inside, Roy Miller (+2.2 run defense) had his way with Lyle Sendlein for two defensive stops and even standing up a double team to spill a run to Tyson Alualu for no gain immediately after the Jaguars were robbed of a potentially game-changing interception after by a Cardinals timeout. To the outside, a somewhat unexpected star was Mike Harris (+2.5 run defense) who registered two stops on five snaps in run defense — knifing in from the slot to get to the ball-carrier — pairing with a third stop in pass coverage.
– Explosive in the receiving game, Michael Floyd was also asked to pass protect on two downs this week, each time he was one-on-one with the Jaguars’ left defensive end surrendering a pressure once each to Tyson Alualu and Jeremy Mincey. Floyd only had one prior snap in pass protection in his career to date, against the Lions in Week 2 earlier this season.
– John Lotulelei (+0.9) earned his first career start and registered more snaps (25) this week than in his three prior defensive performances for Seattle (17) and Jacksonville (7) combined.
– 158 pass protection snaps and counting; Maurice Jones-Drew still hasn’t allowed a pressure since Week 6 of the 2011 season in Pittsburgh.
PFF Game Ball
Only one player can take the game ball this week with Michael Floyd marking a career day with a 91-yard touchdown that gave the Cardinals a lead they defended comfortably.
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