The theme of the Cardinals' 25-13 loss to the Steelers on Sunday was the inability to make plays at opportune times. They finished 1-of-4 in the red zone and allowed a pair of back-breaking touchdowns to Steelers third-string quarterback Landry Jones in the second half. The Cardinals did start with a lot of momentum, as the defense shut down Pittsburgh early and wide receiver Michael Floyd caught a touchdown pass in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. That score was set up by a 32-yard pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to running back Andre Ellington on a broken play. Ellington, tight end Jermaine Gresham and right tackle Bobby Massie broke down the sequence in this week's edition of Cardinals Film Room.
The situation: The Cardinals had a third-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 39 with 9:49 remaining in the first quarter of a scoreless game.
Gresham knows how far he needs to go on his route: "Pre-snap I was thinking of the down and distance, knowing it was third down. I was looking out for any poppers (players to chip block) coming off the line of scrimmage and then trying to work off a guy to give the quarterback a throwing lane."
Massie must figure out whether to block linebacker Bud Dupree or defensive end Stephon Tuitt: "Just watch for the twist. On third down, you're more likely to get a twist than on any other down. If the twist doesn't come, get back on the defensive end or outside linebacker and make sure he doesn't hit the quarterback."
Ellington's original route doesn't push him vertical: "I was running a hitch, and I was supposed to read the rotation of the safeties. Based off the coverage, I could change my route."
Palmer begins his throwing motion but Gresham is well-covered, so he doesn't release the ball. Gresham
: "I was really just reading the 'backer and the space, trying to find a hole for the quarterback to throw the ball. I actually didn't even notice (cornerback William Gay) to the right of me. I noticed (Dupree) on the inside, so I was trying to get separation from him to get the ball."
The linebackers dropped into coverage, and Massie is one-on-one with Tuitt: "They rushed three guys, so the three in the middle (guard Mike Iupati, guard Jonathan Cooper and center Lyle Sendlein), they were on the nose (tackle), and me and Jared (Veldheer) were on the outside guys. I'm just running him by the quarterback."
Ellington changes his route: "They rotated down to two (high safeties), so I kind of leaked out. What I was supposed to do was run a go-route if they rotated to two."
Massie pushes Tuitt around the outside to give Palmer a lane to scramble: "You don't want to let him on the inside because that's the easiest path to the quarterback. You push him outside, widen the pocket and give him a chance to step up."
Gresham freelances as Palmer moves right: "You're trying to get in the quarterback's vision. If you're near him, you want to go deep, and if you're on the backside of him you want to get in his vision so he can see you and get the ball to you. Basically, just get open and give him a place to put the ball."
No defender tracks Ellington: "My rules were to run that route, and (Palmer) kind of knew that. He saw the rotation of the safeties, so he knew he had me coming down the sideline. The way it's designed and the route responsibility I had, the width, it allowed me to stay away from the safety (Mike Mitchell) that's in the middle of the field. It kind of gave me that width, to where if it did come to me, I could catch it before I got hit."
Gresham watches as Palmer chucks it deep: "Dre made a hell of a play, finding the hole in the defense."
Palmer's pass on the run ends up shorter than expected. Massie: "I thought Carson was going to launch it into the end zone. I guess he didn't get enough on the ball. It was still a hell of a job by (Palmer). It still put us in good field position."
Ellington has to dive back for the ball but corrals it: "Once I saw him scramble, I looked back and I saw him rolling out to me. That's why I slowed down to make sure I could make the play. Catching it, that's the most important thing. It's first down before touchdown. Coach (Bruce Arians) is always telling us that."
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