There comes a time in every game when a team has to go off script.
It may be because a play was too good to pass up. Or because it finds a hole in its opponent’s game plan. Or simply because a situation dictates it, such as falling behind 13-0. That was the case for the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.
After the Miami Dolphins’ fourth-ranked run defense stifled the Cardinals to just 20 yards on the ground in the first half, it was time to regroup. Miami knew it could stop the Cardinals on the ground and it dared the home team to win Sunday’s game through the air.
That’s exactly what the Cardinals did, improving to 4-0 with a 24-21 win in overtime at University of Phoenix Stadium.
If there was anyone who benefitted from the Cardinals’ change in offensive philosophy mid-game it was Andre Roberts, who finished with 118 yards on six receptions and a career-high two touchdowns in his first multi-score game since college.
As the second quarter came to a close, he had one catch for seven yards and his quarterback,
The third quarter opened with a pass-happy Cardinals offense.
“When it was 13-0, we had to throw the ball,” Roberts said. “We always like to establish our run. I think anyone likes to establish the run. We believe in our receivers. I think we have some of the best receivers in the league in our core.”
In the third quarter alone, Kolb was 8-for-16 for 92 yards and the Cardinals ran just twice.
The Dolphins continued to pack the box with eight or nine defenders and the Cardinals continued to beat them over the top. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said his team missed a few opportunities, especially in the first half, but capitalized on others as the game progressed.
As the final quarter began and the Cardinals’ first defeat was just 15 minutes away, they stayed with what worked.
They ran the ball twice in the fourth quarter and when Kolb could stay on his feet – he was sacked five times in the final stanza – he made Miami pay. After
“We definitely try to throw the ball and run the ball about 60-40,” Roberts said. “Probably throw the ball more because we got the big guy, Larry, on the outside.”
Roberts was the “big guy” Sunday.
The Dolphins took a 21-14 lead with 7:17 left in the game and after a four-and-out, the Cardinals didn’t regain possession until 2:51 left on the clock. After Kolb was sacked twice, the Cardinals came out of the 2-minute warning with a third-and-18 from their 41.
A pair of connections between Kolb and Roberts, one for 16 yards and another for nine and a first down, began a string of eight straight passes. And like that, Kolb was in what’s become his comfort zone on the football field: the no-huddle offense.
“Obviously we need to get our run game going but we can get into a two-minute situation like we did no huddle and control a game and that’s all Kevin,” guard
“It’s a good weapon to have. It keeps the defense on their toes. You can tell they weren’t quite ready for that.”
Three straight incompletions from Miami’s 15 with 42 seconds left led to one of the best plays of Kolb’s career, the quarterback said afterward. It was a double move that the Cardinals called earlier in that series and Roberts was open but Kolb didn’t see him. Sort of like Friday at practice, except during a seven-on-seven drill, Kolb barely missed Roberts.
“I came back and I said, ‘Hey, that’s a game-time throw. I’ll put it in the same spot. You’ll make it,’” Kolb said.
With 29 seconds left, Kolb called the same play on fourth-and-10 from the Dolphins’ 15 and Roberts ran the same play. The two connected this time, just inches inside the front right pylon to tie the game at 21.
“He said, ‘Yeah, we have to hit one of those,’” Kolb said of Roberts. “I said, ‘If we hit that play, I’m going to hug you.’ Timing has to be right. The route’s got to be right and it just happened we ultimately win the game on it. Just a crazy moment.”
Another pass, another hug.