Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald looks for running room during Sunday's 27-14 win in Jacksonville.
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. – The clock had ducked under four minutes and what was left of the EverBank Field crowd watched a Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts haul in a pass just out of bounds under the coverage of Patrick Peterson.
Peterson's momentum took him toward to stands on the Cardinals' sideline, and as he heard a few catcalls, the cornerback just looked up and waved goodbye. The game was all but over, and while it was weird for a while, it was a win for the Cardinals, and that all that mattered.
"It was a pretty weird game, but it was a relief to get out of Jacksonville with the 'W,' " Peterson said after the Cardinals won their third straight, a 27-14 win which eventually felt more dominant that the score indicated.
The Cardinals (6-4) couldn't run, but their passing game was the best it had been all season. They got through a game without a turnover, but only after an odd sequence where Peterson somehow recovered a muffed fair catch and then a Carson Palmer interception was wiped out because of last-second time out request.
The defense was the first to allow the Jaguars (1-9) touchdowns in Jacksonville all season – two of them, on the first two possessions
– yet completely shut down the Jags the rest of the game. And running back Andre Ellington's day wasn't marked as much with his mere three yards on eight carries but the shreds of his dreadlocked hair in the hand of linebacker Jason Babin.
Those missing chunk plays showed up with a vengeance, including a 91-yard catch-and-run from wide receiver Michael Floyd that put the Cards in control for good as they stay within the postseason conversation.
"The playoffs for us have already started," coach Bruce Arians said. "We lose we are out. We are a game behind teams. We've got to win to catch up."
Winning games they should is a good start, like Sunday against the Jaguars – who won for the first time in their previous game but haven't won back-to-back games since 2010. Special teams as a unit struggled much of the day, and Jacksonville came out with touchdown drives on their first two possessions for a stunning start.
But it wasn't poor defense as much as a defense surprised. The first score came on a 62-yard play-action pass on fourth-and-1 – after the Cards had snuffed out runs on second- and third-and-1 – to tight end Danny Noble. The second touchdown, which was set up by a pass to a player who faked coming out of the game, came only after safety Yeremiah Bell was flagged for a questionable taunting penalty after the Cards had forced a field-goal attempt.
"They came out, throw every trick play they had to get momentum and get their fans in it, they ran out of trick plays, and then they had to play football," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said.
After the two touchdowns, the Jaguars had 12 more possessions, managing just nine total first downs and 144 yards. And, of course, no points.
"I thought the guys had the energy," said cornerback Jerraud Powers, who had one of the Cards' two interceptions (Bell had the other.) "Nobody panicked. Once we settled down … I mean, they are a team with nothing to lose. But once we calmed down, we were good."
Offensively, the Cardinals clicked in the passing game. Palmer should have thrown an interception, but it was canceled because Arians had called time out and the official was slow to get his whistle. Palmer completed 30-of-42 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He was the first Cardinals to throw for 400 yards since Kurt Warner had 472 in New York against the Jets in 2008, the infamous outing when Anquan Boldin broke his jaw.
Floyd was spectacular despite his sore shoulder following last week's injury. Floyd caught six passes for a career-high 193 yards, as the Cardinals ended up with six completions of at least 21 yards.
"We had some bigger chunk plays that we hadn't had in the past," Palmer said. "We did a good job up front. I had a really clean pocket for the most part. I stepped into a lot of throws and guys did a good job of finding the voids in the zones."
Tight end Rob Housler had another good game (six catches, 70 yards) and Larry Fitzgerald had a touchdown among his six receptions for 61 yards.
The Cards needed it. While the Jaguars weren't running either – they had just 32 rushing yards, including 23 on 14 carries by Maurice Jones-Drew – the Cardinals weren't happy with their 14 rushing yards even with the win.
Ellington had his worst game, and Rashard Mendenhall had just 14 yards on 13 carries despite a five-yard TD run.
"We have spurts where we look damn good but we are not there consistently," tackle Eric Winston said. "We just didn't run the ball well today. That's an ugly day. Obviously you have that many (defenders) in the box it will open up some big plays and we got them, but eight-man box, you still have to be able to hammer out three and four yards and we weren't doing that."
Such concerns are easier to digest in a win. The Cardinals now will face a pair of playoff contenders – Indianapolis at home and then Philadelphia on the road – as they push toward the end of the season.
"I feel good about the chemistry, more than the record and all that," Dockett said. "This is the NFL, everybody has talent, everybody can play. I'm more happy with our chemistry. You get chemistry, the football will take care of itself."