An early missed FG by Chandler Catanzaro, albeit from 55 yards out, capped a decent opening drive for the Cardinals that saw John Brown and Chris Johnson getting all the touches. Carson Palmer was sacked on a 3rd down play, which set up the long kick. On the ensuing possession with a short field, the Ravens used a short passing attack and a few decent runs by Justin Forsett to get into field goal range and capitalized on a 44-yd field goal by Justin Tucker to take an early 3-0 lead. The Cardinals quickly countered, going 80 yards on 3 big plays, capped by a 26 yard TD run by Chris Johnson. The drive, which took only 1:26 off the clock, opened with a 21 yard pass to Jermaine Gresham, followed by a 33 yard pass to Michael Floyd. On the next play, Johnson broke through for the long scoring run, showing flashes of his 2,000 yard self. 7-3 Cards after one.
The second quarter saw each team put 7 on the board. After Gresham got smashed and dropped the ball on a 3rd down play, Baltimore was able to make some big plays and get down the field for a TD. Steve Smith kept getting open and getting first downs, and some big runs, capped by a Forsett TD run up the middle, gave the Ravens a 10-7 lead. After a Cardinals 3-and-out and subsequent punt, the Ravens fumbled on the return when Justin Bethel knocked the ball loose. The Cardinals recovered on the 12, and two pass interference calls put the ball on the 1. A quick slant to Michael Floyd put the Cards in the end zone and back on top, 14-10.
HALFTIME TAKEAWAYS: All I remember from the halftime show is a commercial that featured Charles Barkley dancing and the Lions promoting a guy named Jim Bob Cooter. Best. Name. Ever.
The Ravens got the ball to start the second half, but a patented Dwight Freeney spin move got him a big sack of Joe Flacco on 3rd down to force a punt. After an 11 yard return by Patrick Peterson, a big play down the sideline to John Brown for 35 yards put the Cardinals in the red zone, but they failed to reach the end zone and had to settle for a 21 yard FG. After a play-action pass by the Ravens confused the cameraman and the entire audience, Jon Gruden did a quick piece comparing Honey Badger to a bunch of legendary DBs and didn't mention Adrian Wilson. Sigh. Then... Chris Johnson ran left for 4 yards and went down... OR NOT!!! After everyone stopped playing even though the whistle was not blown, he got up and ran forever before being caught inside the 10 yard line. Unfortunately the Cards had to settle for another 21 yard FG to go up 20-10. Another nice play by Steve Smith near the end of the quarter had me wondering why he's so set on retiring after this season...
A big push on 3rd and 1 by Calais Campbell forced a punt, and the Cardinals took advantage of their first possession of the fourth quarter. After 4 straight positive plays by Andre Ellington, David Johnson picked up a big 1st down on a 3rd and 1. After a 16 yard screen play to Fitz, I pondered how terrible it must be to attempt to tackle a man so large. Two more nice plays to Ellington and then a 23 yard pass play to Michael Floyd left Baltimore's defense looking worn down and put the ball in the red zone again at the 5. This time the Cards wouldn't settle for 3, striking quickly with a TD pass to John Brown. A missed extra-point by Catanzaro would see the Cards leading 26-10 and looking good after forcing a quick three-and-out for the Ravens on the ensuing possession.
But wait, there's more.
In typical Cardinals-on-Monday-Night fashion it was time to make things interesting. So on 4th down they punted. And it was blocked. And recovered in the red zone with 4:31 to go. That missed extra-point was looming large at this point for anyone who could do basic math. After a very easy TD from Flacco to a fullback whose name I cannot spell and a successful 2-point conversion it was 26-18 Cards. Good thing they only needed a few first downs to run out the clock.
But a holding penalty made it 1st and 20 and I started remembering all the times I'd seen Flacco win or tie a game on a last minute drive. Then a pass to Gresham over the middle for 16 yards and a huge first down to Ellington calmed the nerves. That didn't last long, though, as Palmer threw one of the strangest passes I've ever seen in the direction of no one, while under duress, while in the pocket. One intentional grounding call later and the game was a lot more interesting than it should have been. The Cards were forced to punt again and it was tense, but Drew Butler managed to get it away and it was fair caught at the 24 yard line with 1:53 to go. The defense was able to get big pressure on Flacco on 1st down, thanks to the strong push of Freeney and Co. Baltimore converted a 4th and 1, then broke a HUGE play down the right sideline that had Cardinals fans biting their nails off. Another blitz opened up the middle of the field and Flacco floated a pass to Gillmore down to the 4 yard line, where Flacco spiked the ball with 18 seconds to go to stop the clock. But that didn't stop James Bettcher from dialing up another blitz, which forced Flacco to float another ball over the middle where... Tony Jefferson picked it off in the end zone to seal the victory for your Arizona Cardinals.
Final Score: Cardinals 26, Ravens 18