Kicker Jay Feely (3) and holder Dave Zastudil (9) celebrate Feely's 61-yard field goal Sunday against the Bills.
While the stands were still empty before Sunday's game, and morning turned to afternoon inside University of Phoenix Stadium, Jay Feely started moving backward.
With small groups of ushers watching on, Feely stepped off more yards with every made field goal. He finally found himself staring at a 63-yard kick. Good.
As he does after before every game, Feely went to coach Ken Whisenhunt with a number. On Sunday, it was 55, meaning Feely felt good enough to try a field goal from anywhere up to 55 yards. After Feely made a pair of 49-yard field goals in the first three quarters against the Buffalo Bills, both of which cleared the uprights with enough cushion to make Whisenhunt confident enough, Feely – his effort in warmups still in his mind -- jogged onto the field with 1:14 left in the game.
The Cardinals trailed, 16-13, and faced a fourth-and-10 at the Buffalo 43. Add on the 10 yards in the end zone and the eight yards Feely steps off before his kick and he was facing a career-long 61-yarder.
"I felt that I had been hitting the ball well all day and if I hit it well that I could make that kick," Feely said. "Obviously I was thrilled to make it, but all I care about is winning. The fact that we didn't win the game negates everything else."
Soon after, Feely was back on the field on the final play of regulation for a 38-yard attempt that would've been the 10th game-winning kick of his career. But Bills defensive tackle Alex Carrington got enough of a hand on the kick to redirect it off the left upright. The Cardinals lost, 19-16, in overtime.
Feely's last blocked kick was 2009 by the Atlanta Falcons when he kicked for the New York Jets, according to Stats LLC.
In a matter of 82 seconds, Feely experienced the high of a career-best kick to a low he hasn't felt in six years. It also smoked the Cards' franchise record of 55, held jointly by Feely, Neil Rackers and Greg Davis.
"Obviously, I was excited," he said. "It was one of the best kicks I've ever had. Like I said, it negates it when we don't win the game."
CAREER DAY FOR WASHINGTON
Daryl Washington was everywhere Sunday. The linebacker finished with a career-high 14 tackles -- all of them solo -- and forced a fumble in the first quarter, but he wasn't able to bask in the accomplishment in the locker room.
"I thought I played well. I could've played better," he said. "There was some miscommunication. I'm knocking myself for that. You never know what could've happened.
"The stats don't matter once you lose. It's OK. I got whatever many tackles. In a loss it's a bad taste in your mouth."
On the drive after the Cardinals took a 13-9 lead with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter, Washington made a tackle on three of the Bills' next four plays.
"I think just trying to get to the ball and hustling every play," Washington said. "At the same time just trying to do my job and just making those effort plays when you needed them.
Every team has trick plays scattered throughout their playbooks. They're usually the pages with the most dust on them. On Sunday, the Cardinals didn't turn to one of those plays. They created one on the fly.
With 1:40 left in the first half, the Cardinals faced a fourth-and-2 from their 33. The punt formation looked normal but the snap went to safety Rashad Johnson, who was lined up just behind the offensive line, instead of punter Dave Zastudil. Johnson ran untouched to the right side for 24 yards and a first down.
"It was a lot of fun," Johnson said. "As a defensive player you always want to get your hands on the ball. It was something that actually wasn't in the game plan like that. It was something we saw on the field and saw from the pictures we were getting back and we decided to call it.
"We talked about it on the sideline and I am glad Coach Spencer had enough faith in me and the rest of the unit to make that call."
GAY GOT THE POINT
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton had to wait 10 days to see if he made a point to William Gay. Against St. Louis, Horton reduced the cornerback's playing time in the second half and said his week there was a reason behind it.
"Message sent, I believe," Horton said Friday.
Message taken by Gay. On the first play Sunday against the Bills, Gay recovered a fumble by Bills running back Fred Jackson and in the second quarter he nearly had an interception but it went right through his hands. Gay finished with four tackles and a pass deflection, as well.
"I mean I just missed it," Gay said. "Bottom line, but just credit to the pressure.
"At the end of the day you got to make those. We got off the field at third down and that was important as well. I'm more about team than anything. We got off the field."