Quarterback John Skelton (19) comes off the field after throwing an interception in overtime during the Cardinals' 19-16 loss Sunday.
That's the thing about playing on the edge all the time. There's always the threat of falling over the side and into the abyss.
The Cardinals' overtime magic ran out Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, just as it seemed to be picking up proper momentum as the regulation clock wound down. Instead, the Buffalo Bills hung a stunning 19-16 loss on the Cards, the team's second straight defeat, and what looked like a win wasn't.
"If we make more plays early in the game, then we don't have to live on the edge," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "The stress of it is pretty tough on everybody."
Kicker Jay Feely crushed a 61-yard field goal to tie the game – his career-long – but had a 38-yarder glance off the left upright on regulation's final play after it was tipped. Backup quarterback John Skelton, who engineered both drives at the end of the game after starter Kevin Kolb left with injured ribs, threw an interception in overtime. The Bills' winning field goal after that was merely epilogue.
Just like that, the Cards were beaten. It snapped a seven-game winning streak the Cardinals had complied in home overtime games.
"You go from on top of the world to feeling about as low as you can feel when you have an opportunity and you don't come through, regardless of how it happened," Feely said.
After their 4-0 start, the Cardinals (4-2) are now tied with the 49ers and the Seahawks for first place in the NFC West, with the Rams a game behind, all with the most difficult part of the Cards' schedule about to get underway. Kolb too must undergo X-rays to look at the extent of his ribs and chest issues.
It wasn't supposed to play out like that, not with the running game reenergized behind running back William Powell (13 rushes, 70 yards) and Kolb's scrambles (five rushes, 66 yards.) Larry Fitzgerald surpassed the 10,000-yard mark for his career during a six-catch, 93-yard, one-touchdown game.
Plus Patrick Peterson made what looked like the game-saving interception in his own end zone with a little more than three minutes left in regulation with the Cards down by three points. The script was set up just how the Cards liked to play it. It's normally Academy Award-winning stuff, especially when the Kolb injury twist was thrown in.
With Skelton active for the first time since his ankle injury put Kolb back in the lineup, he got a chance to play. Kolb's scrambles were a big reason the Cards still had a chance, but it was a busted play – Whisenhunt said Powell went the wrong way on a draw play – left Kolb to run unexpectedly. The Bills' tackle sandwich he became part of left Kolb leaving the field very slowly.
Whisenhunt wasn't sure afterward how severe the injury will turn out to be. Skelton, however, had a chance to flip the storyline from the opener, when Kolb relieved him after an injury and provided the game-winning drive.
Skelton couldn't get the winning points, but he convert a fourth-down play to set up Feely's gigantic and normally improbable 61-yard game-tying shot.
"You don't think there's any way a guy is going to make a 61-yarder," Bills coach Chan Gailey said.
Skelton tried to make Feely a hero times two. He hit Fitzgerald for a 28-yard pass after a Bills' punt to set up Feely again on the final play. But it was tipped – Bills defensive end Alex Carrington was credited – and the ball glanced off the right upright. Feely said he hasn't had a kick blocked or deflected since 2006, and while Stats LLC said Feely had one in 2009 while with the Jets, the significance remained.
"It's been a long time," Feely said.
It shouldn't have mattered. "We prefer overtime," Fitzgerald said. "We like it. We relish the opportunity. I think guys really like playing in crunch, pressure situations and thrive in it." The Cardinals even stopped the Bills to begin overtime.
But running back LaRod Stephens-Howling dropped a second-down screen pass that Whisenhunt felt was primed to pick up big yardage. On the next play, Skelton threw a pass down the middle to waiting Bills safety Jarius Byrd, Byrd's second interception of the game. The ball was returned to the Arizona 6-yard line, and the game was basically over, the Rian Lindell field goal to end it a formality.
The Cardinals will head to Minnesota next week, a place that hasn't been kind to them in recent years. Depending on Kolb's injuries, Skelton may find himself back in a starting role.
"All you can ask for is to give yourself an opportunity," said Skelton, who was 2-for-10 for 45 yards. "We gave ourselves an opportunity."
Linebacker Daryl Washington had a career-best 14 tackles and linebacker O'Brien Schofield had his first two-sack game of the season. The Cards still haven't allowed more than 21 points in a game.
But this time, the Cardinals couldn't hold their balance while teetering on the edge.
"You don't look at too much good stuff – the good stuff doesn't matter when you lose the game," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "All that matters is wins and losses.
"We thought we had a chance (after Feely's 61-yarder) but it shouldn't have come to that. I know in my heart we are a better team than them, and we let them play a better game than us today."