Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert scrambles during Sunday's 31-21 loss to the Texans..
HOUSTON -- Blaine Gabbert "played his ass off," Bruce Arians said, and quarterback was not at the top of the Cardinals' issues list Sunday against the Texans.
It started with a failed fourth-and-inches in the fourth quarter and the Cards' down three, the coach said, and a failure Arians took on himself after the 31-21 loss at NRG Stadium.
"Very simple. I cost our team the game," Arians said of the play. "Trust is a funny thing sometimes. When you can't gain a foot, you deserve to lose. Especially when you make the decision I made and the play that I called.
"There's your headline."
The Cardinals had gotten a career-high three touchdown passes out of their third-string QB, but trailed, 24-21, with six minutes to go. With inches to go at their own 35-yard line, running back Adrian Peterson was stuffed inside – as he had
been most of the game – and lost a yard when he tried to bounce outside.
On the next play, Texans running back D'Onte Foreman sealed the win with a 34-yard touchdown run, turning what could have been a fun story – one of Gabbert successes, as well as a breakout game for rookie safety Budda Baker and unexpected production from rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones – into the first two-game losing streak of the season.
But Gabbert wasn't wrong when he said "that wasn't the deciding factor in the game."
The Cardinals (4-6) couldn't run the ball for a second straight week. Adrian Peterson ripped off runs of six and seven yards on his first two carries, but ultimately gained only 26 yards on 14 carries. The resulting long third downs led to a rough 3-for-10 in that category.
The first two touchdowns came not from sustained drives but short fields after turnovers. The first was on a strip sack by Baker, giving the ball to the Cardinals at the Houston 17. That led to a 20-yard Larry Fitzgerald touchdown catch.
The second was the first interception of the season for cornerback Patrick Peterson – not on one of the balls thrown his direction, as he had anticipated, but on a Deone Bucannon deflection – that gave the offense the ball at the Houston 15. Seals-Jones made the first of his TD catches after that.
Gabbert was 11-for-14 for 120 yards and two scores at that point, and a second Seals-Jones TD came later in the third quarter for a 21-17 lead at the 4:48 mark.
After that, however, the Cardinals got into Houston territory just once more in five possessions, with Gabbert throwing two interceptions late and the fourth-down stuff changing the complexion
of the game.
"The second half, we just did not finish, and that starts with me at the quarterback position," said Gabbert, who finished 22-of-34 for 257 yards.
Fitzgerald, who led the Cardinals with nine catches for 91 yards, praised Gabbert, but said the rest of the offense needed to be better.
"I don't know how many yards we ran for, but obviously we have to be balanced," Fitzgerald said.
The Cardinals also missed some chances on some catchable balls for a second straight game, which clearly had the attention of Arians.
"We'll be looking at some different receivers next week," Arians said.
The defense did come up with the turnovers but had trouble pressuring struggling Texans quarterback Tom Savage. Savage was sacked once, escaped a couple near-misses for big gains and threw for 230 yards and a couple of touchdowns. What was worse was the Cardinals surrendering a lead twice – the second time giving up a TD drive on the drive immediately following Seals-Jones' second score – and responding to the fourth-down stop by allowing Foreman's TD run.
"It's tough to put a finger on it," Patrick Peterson said. "We have to look at the tape and see what we have to clean up, but for the most part it's really tough to put a finger on it, to find a way to stop having those lapses."
Images from the Cardinals' Week 11 game in Houston