With the Cardinals surprising win over the Jaguars on Sunday, there was great play and poor play alike on the field that led to the final result. The Cardinals made more plays and took advantage of the Jaguars’ mistakes to come away with the victory.
Let’s find out who were the winners and look at some of the losers:
Winner: The Cardinals Defense
The Cardinals limited the Jaguars offense to just 12 attempts for 25 yards from Leonard Fournette, and despite giving up two Blake Bortles rushing touchdowns and a long sideline run to the QB, they played strong all day and had a game-defining takeaway by Tyrann Mathieu to pin the Jaguars defense back deep as they were driving into field goal territory.
The defense’s pass rush came alive and Budda Baker had another strong week. If Mathieu keeps his improved play up, he might end up being a “Winner” for the entire 2017 season.
Loser: The Jaguars Defense.
The Jags defense dominated Ben Roethlisberger, forcing 4 interceptions from him.
Blaine Gabbert? Not so much. The pass rush only got to Gabbert a few times on the day hurrying throws, and he managed to step up in the pocket and find Ricky Seals-Jones or Jaron Brown deep the majority of the afternoon against a healthy Jaguars defense that had Jalen Ramsey and limited Larry Fitzgerald all day.
Their defense also gave up over 3 YPC to Adrian Peterson and they’ve got some areas to work on moving forward if they want to make some noise in the postseason and win their division against the Titans.
Winner: Blaine Gabbert and Ricky Seals-Jones (again)
Gabbert took another step forward, as did Seals-Jones showing he’s not just a one-game wonder. He led the Cardinals in receiving with 74 yards and looks to have star potential...but it was Gabbert who stole the show.
He didn’t convert as much on 3rd down (similar to last week) and threw a 4th quarter pick but when the chips were down he delivered two beautiful sideline throws, including an incredible one to young player D.J. Foster for a sideline catch that set up the game-winning 57 yard field goal from Phil Dawson.
Gabbert’s probably got a future as a starter in this league and will be paid as such. Should he be the Cardinals’ Option A moving into 2018? We’ll use the rest of the season to find out.
Loser: “I Want To Get Off Blake Bortles’ Wild Ride”
Ah, how quickly does the tables turn in the NFL. The Jaguars had finally gotten enough out of Bortles that some were questioning if he could be an Alex Smith type quarterback in his efficiency.
Bortles looked awful throwing the ball and while he wasn’t atrocious, it was his designed runs that were really the only offense the Jaguars were able to put up on the board the whole day. Jacksonville didn’t lose the game solely because of him....but he’s holding them back.
Bortles giveth and Bortles taketh away.
Winner: Chandler Jones
Jones had a monster game with two sacks, and five (FIVE!) tackles for loss on the day. He’s been worth every penny the Cardinals paid him.
He’s an elite NFL player and has made strides with his run defense in Arizona.
Oh and he also passed up the man below him on this list with 12 sacks to 11.5 for one...
Loser: Calais Campbell
This is a tough one because I almost want to put Calais as a winner.
While Calais didn’t have a sack on the day, his fumble recovery for a touchdown put the Jaguars up and seemed like it was going to be it for the game...he had a nice return to Arizona.
But that was all.
Fans weren’t talking about Calais’s monster day after the game but rather “Blaine Gabbert’s Revenge” as he was the one who stole the headlines with his play which included evading Campbell of a sack on several occasions.
Dave Pasch, the Cardinals play-by-play announcer even pointed out “As we’ve seen often in Arizona, Calais gets to the QB but can’t bring him down.” Ouch. But, he still is up there with the sack leaders and will be remembered as a Cardinal legend no matter what.
Winner: Bruce Arians
Bruce Arians did it with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer. Most scoffed at the idea he could make Blaine Gabbert into a viable NFL quarterback.
Well....perhaps Gabbert is going to be the QB who ultimately seals Arians’ legacy in the NFL.
You can’t find a better example of good coaching than a guy who takes a quarterback off the scrap heap who’s been considered an NFL bust by all means and have him throw for 5 touchdowns in two games and win a game against the #1 defense currently in the NFL. The excuse of Arians only having “elite” or “talented” quarterbacks that he was given doesn’t exist and fans should tip their cap to him and Keim for their move.
Loser: Doug Marrone
If Arians is a “QB Whisperer” than Marrone was a “QB Yeller” today in terms of how he has struggled to manage Blake Bortles when he’s needed on a game-winning drive. The Jaguars struggled TWICE when they had the ball and a chance to win the game or send it to overtime, ending in an interception and a botched pass call on second down that enabled an Arizona victory late.
Marrone and Co. will probably get another QB either in free agency, trade or the draft to upgrade this offseason, but their decision to pay Bortles his 5th year option looks silly, compared to Steve Keim and Bruce Arians’ decision to pursue a guy who might be a long-term upgrade for almost no cost.
Sure, it wasn’t ever going to be Gabbert, but the Jaguars consigned themselves to this fate and only time will tell if it will continue to backfire on them like it did yesterday.
You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter.