Despite some solid performances (some expected, some not) the Cardinals fell to the Houston Texans 31-21 and dropped yet another road game in the year 2017.
Who were the game’s winners and losers?
Let’s take a look:
Winner: Budda Baker
Arguably the biggest winner of the day, there was no better player on the field for either team than the young rookie making his first NFL start.
Budda Baker through three quarters: 13 tackles, two forced fumbles, sack, fumble recovery.— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) November 19, 2017
He got a 99.9 grade from Pro Football Focus and had an incredible strip-sack and fumble recovery that showcased why he was such a good playmaker in college, and what he could be in the pros.
Budda Baker is phenomenal pic.twitter.com/JJ13wbNhaa— Seth (@SCoxFB) November 19, 2017
The future looks bright for one Cardinals rookie, indeed.
Loser: Adrian Peterson and the rushing attack
14 carries for 26 yards, averaging 1.9 yards per carry.
No, that’s not Chris Johnson’s numbers, but Adrian Peterson’s.
The Cardinals have been inept at running the football, and today exacerbated that again where the offense, despite having good pass protection, couldn’t get a yard on the ground with the game on the line.
The playcalling was banal and predictable as well (more on that later) but it falls on players to execute and the Texans ultimately were the ones who controlled the line of scrimmage in the game.
Winner: Blaine Gabbert
You knew this one was coming.
Gabbert, arguably, outplayed Drew Stanton and threw for a personal best three touchdowns in the game and showed smart decisions up until the fourth quarter.
Now it wasn’t all roses—Gabbert and the Cardinals struggled on third down, going 1-7 on the day (a lot of drops and no run game for 3rd and short will do that) but he showcased part of why the Cardinals are so intrigued with him and why he’s likely earned the start next week against his former Jacksonville Jaguars.
Loser: The pass rushing, for both teams
Jadeveon Clowney made some noise in the run game but was limited when it came to rushing the passer, as was Chandler Jones and rookie LB Hasson Reddick, the latter of whom combined for 1 tackle total.
Tom Savage was only under duress when Bettcher blitzed his safeties, and had a decent game overall without a ton of defensive line work from the Cardinals. If Arizona wants to win football games, they’ll have to do more than just blitz the QB, especially with a top 3 outside linebacker like Jones on the roster.
Winner: Ricky Seals-Jones
The Cardinals rookie tight end (recruited as a wide receiver in college) got to see some extended playing time after being called up from the practice squad earlier in the season to replace the injured Ifeyani Momah.
And the Houston native made quite the splash, catching two touchdowns from Gabbert in his debut.
Ricky Seals-Jones had played one snap on offense before today. He has three catches for 54 yards and two scores.— Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin) November 19, 2017
We love “feel-good” stories at Revenge of the Birds and it’s notable that Seals-Jones not only made his debut in front of his family nearby his hometown but also added two touchdowns.
He has a rapport with Gabbert from the preseason that could very well continue over the next few weeks.
Loser: D’onta Foreman
Foreman would have made the “winners” portion of this list before his final snap, which was a touchdown that ended in a season-ending achilles injury.
The poor guy had been having an excellent afternoon running the football, including a long touchdown run he broke to the outside that all but sealed the victory for the Texans.
Speedy wishes to the young rookie in his recovery.
Winner: Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien
It’s been tough sledding for O’Brien in Houston but he’s always managed to find a way to get to the playoffs even without a talented quarterback on the roster.
This year, he found that guy in Deshaun Watson only to lose him to an ACL in practice of all things.
He proved his value to the Texans today with a well-designed game plan that outdid Cardinals DC James Bettcher’s efforts and came away with a win despite a hampered team missing a lot of players. With how badly both teams could have used a win, he pulled one out and that’s a promising thing for the Texans moving forward.
Loser: Arians and the Coaching Staff
While there wasn’t a special teams blunder, Bruce Arians decided to go for it on 4th and 1 on his own 34 yard line with a run up the middle that went for no gain, and the Texans scored on the very next play to put the game all but out of reach.
When the run up the middle hasn’t worked all day and Arians has a weapon like Andy Lee as a punter, it makes more sense to trust a defense that has forced two turnovers or a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, and Arians did neither.
It was an odd move that didn’t seem much like what Arians has done in his career. Look at the touchdown pass he did to David Johnson against the Saints in a similar situation in 2015 versus the still “conservative” play of running the football. The Texans played like they knew what was coming in the run game, and that reflects poorly on the offensive game-planning.
Speaking of game-planning, James Bettcher had extra time to prepare a gameplan for Tom Savage and still struggled to contain him on defense, much as the defense has struggled to stop the pass all year long.
It opens up the door with a lot of questions as this was a game the Cardinals were favored in, and might be the last game of that nature until they play the New York Giants on Christmas Eve. While Gabbert’s time in Arizona might be beginning (if the team re-signs him after the season) Arians’ time in the desert seems to have more of a finality to it.
Although perhaps there’s a little bit more magic that he can produce before 2017 is in the books, like he’s concocted with resurrecting the career of a quarterback many had considered to be washed and done at 28 years old.
Who were your winners and losers?
Sound off in the comments!