Another week gone, another crazy finish at University of Phoenix stadium. In a gritty affair with the Cleveland Browns and their tough defense, the Arizona Cardinals came out on top 20-17 in overtime. The Cardinals were able to overcome two 10 point deficits, putting up the final 13 points, 10 in the 4th quarter and the field goal in overtime. This win was even more important because it kept our playoff hopes alive; a loss in this game would have ended aspirations of Cardinal football past New Years day.
Hit the jump for five positives from this nerve wracking victory1. Todd Heap
The signing of Heap in the off-season brought hopes that the hometown boy could provide a solid option at tight end, a position the Cardinals have recently neglected to utilize in their offense. However, up to this game Heap has been a disappointment. He has struggled to find the field this season while battling injuries, and in the few games he was in, he failed to produce consistently. This game was by far Heaps strongest showing in Cardinal's red. Heap was the leading receiver in both yards, with 69, and receptions, with seven, while at the same time providing solid chip blocks to help the much maligned Cardinals offensive line.
2. Offensive Line in Pass Protection
All things considered about our line, they actually played pretty good. Even though they gave up four sacks, they held up quite well in pass protection. On the sacks that were given up, it was either John Skelton holding onto the ball too long, or a well executed blitz by the Browns that they had no real chance at stopping. Skelton consistently had a good pocket when the Browns rushed four and because of this, Skelton was able to get good timing with his receivers. Add that great performance to that fact that they weren't penalized for the entire game and you can see why the offensive line was a positive in this game
3. Defense responding after the first drive
After the first drive in which Cleveland traveled 76 yard in roughly three and a half minutes, many Cardinal fans, myself included, were worried about the Cardinals overlooking the Browns team. Those fears were quickly put to rest as the Cardinals defense forced a three and out on the next Cleveland possession. On the next Cleveland possession, the Cardinals defense held the Browns to a 44 yard field goal, despite having the drive last for nearly seven and a half minutes. After those two scores on long drives, the Cardinals defense shut down the Browns offensively, save for a 76 yard touchdown on a mismatch between linebacker Daryl Washington and wide receiver Greg Little. The defense responded after being gashed early by Cleveland, allowing our offense to climb back into this game and win it in overtime
4. O'Brien Schofield
The Schohawk had to make a statement this week, after making ProFootballFocus's All "Had a Bad Day" team last week for his performance against the San Francisco 49ers. Boy, did he step up. Schofield provided both of the Cardinals sacks on the day, none bigger than the sack/forced fumble on Seneca Wallace giving the Cardinals offense the ball at the Cleveland five. After 2 negative gains and an incompletion, Jay Feely kicked the game tying field goal. Along with recording two sacks, Schofield played well all game on defense and special teams. Hopefully him and Sam Acho can provide the two stud OLBs that this defense desperately needs.
5. Playoff hopes remain alive
Before the Cardinals game was over, two important games, in regards to our playoff hopes, had already ended. In their early Sunday game, the Seattle Seahawks defense lead them to victory over the Chicago Bears, leaving the Bears at 7-7 and the Cardinals victory puts them ahead in the standings. Even more important, The Detroit Lions staged an impressive comeback in Oakland, scoring 14 points in the final five minutes to beat the Raiders 28-27. If the Cardinals had of lost this game, Detroit's victory would have ended our playoff hopes, but, thanks to a great punt-return by Patrick Peterson, and a clutch third down throw and catch, while on the brink of Feely's field goal range, from Skelton to Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals live to play another day.
With two weeks remaining in the NFL season, the Cardinals will need a lot of help to make the post season. Detroit will need to lose their remaining two games, against San Diego and at Green Bay, for the Cardinals to have a chance. What do you guys think? What other positives did you see in this game?