Cornerback Patrick Peterson (center) and lineman Alex Boone (right) celebrate with kicker Phil Dawson (left) after Dawson booted a game-winning field goal Sunday against Jacksonville.
Blaine Gabbert got a measure of revenge, certainly, even though the quarterback wasn't about to say it.
For the Cardinals, however, Sunday's 27-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at University of Phoenix Stadium, the echoes of games gone by weren't of Gabbert and his time with the Jags but instead of the efforts the Cards used to have not so long ago.
There was Tyrann Mathieu making a clutch interception late, a crucial toe-tapping catch by D.J. Foster on the sideline and a career-long 57-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to provide an exhilarating victory over a team battling for a division title.
"Not to dwell on the past, but the first three years we were here, we made those kinds of plays," Mathieu said. "We made interceptions at the end of the game, we made field goals the end of the game. The last two years we've kind of been down in that department. It's good to actually play a team game and complement each
The Cardinals (5-6) snapped a two-game losing streak, delivering a loss the Jaguars (7-4) weren't expecting. The homecoming for former Cardinal Calais Campbell almost had a storybook ending itself, when Campbell returned a Gabbert fumble for a touchdown to give the Jaguars a lead early in the fourth quarter.
Until that point, the Cardinals had played a very-Jaguars-like game. Great defense, good run game (Adrian Peterson and that unit broke out of their slump with 79 yards on 20 carries) and no turnovers.
"That's the way we have to play everybody," coach Bruce Arians said. "You have to have a balanced attack, and you have to protect the football."
The rest of the game played out a little more high-speed, with some ill-timed turnovers but plenty of excitement.
Gabbert was again solid. He did have a couple of passes that probably should've been held on to for interceptions, and he threw one late. He also lost the ball on the Yannick Ngakoue sack that Campbell returned for the score.
"At that point in time, I just knew we had the game locked up," Campbell said "But at the end of the day, they made a few big-time plays."
On the drive after that play, Gabbert twice scrambled for first downs, and then scrambled away from a near-sack to heave a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown. Gabbert finished 22-of-38 for 241 yards and was sacked – by the Jaguars' record-setting defense in that category – only once.
"The beautiful thing about football is you can't get too high and you can't get too low," Gabbert said. "The game is never over. Today, we showed that."
Third downs, such a problem for the Cardinals in recent games, were turned around completely. The Cards
completed 7 of 17, and allowed the Jaguars to convert only 1 of 12. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was able to run for 62 yards and that was Jacksonville's saving grace, with running back Leonard Fournette held to 25 yards on 12 carries.
The Cardinals did give up a quick touchdown drive following the Brown TD – sparked by a 68-yard kickoff return and a short field – but came back later with the Mathieu pick that short-circuited a potential field-goal try and then a stop to get the Jaguars' final punt.
"You never can play a perfect game," said linebacker Chandler Jones, who had two sacks and five tackles for loss. "The Jaguars defense, they were number one coming into this game, so I think that called our defense out a little bit. That competitive nature made us step up."
Jacksonville had the ball with 1:14 left on its own 10-yard line for their final possession, and looked like they'd run the clock. But on second down, a dropped pass stopped the clock, and gave the Cardinals a final chance.
"If I had to do it all over again looking at it, I would've just ran the clock out," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.
Gabbert got the ball on his own 39 with 16 seconds left. A quick sideline pass to Kerwynn Williams gained 10, and then the fabulous reception by Foster – upheld on review – gained 12 more, setting the stage for Dawson.
"That's a situation we work a lot," Dawson said. "Everybody knew exactly what the plan was."
"I've had a few long attempts in my career and a mistake I've made is try and hop on it and hit it too hard," Dawson added. "I was trying to focus on just hitting it smooth, get it on line and trust the Arizona dome to have that ball track."
It cleared with plenty of room to spare, the seventh straight field goal Dawson has made since a rocky beginning to the season. It was also reminiscent of the dramatic wins at home that marked Arians' early years in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
"I hope it gives us the snowball effect," Jones said. "The season isn't going how we wanted, but it's not over."
Images from the Week 12 home matchup against Jacksonville