Inside the Numbers:
* Key Stat: The Cardinals under HC Bruce Arians are now 28-2 when they win the battle of turnovers.
* This was only the 2nd game this year that the Cardinals have won the turnover battle, the other was in their win versus the Jaguars two weeks ago.
* For the season the Cardinals are losing the turnover battle 17-20.
* The Cardinals have lost the turnover battle in 4 games this season: @ DET (1-4), @ LAR (1-2), home vs. SEA (0-1) and home vs. LAR (1-2).
* Total Yards: AZ 261 TEN 204
* Time Poss: AZ 33.49 TEN 26:11
* Ist Downs: AZ 16 TEN 14
* Turnovers: AZ 0 TEN 2
* The Cardinals committed 0 turnovers in only one other game this year---can you guess which game it was? Hint: it was a home game that the Cardinals lost.
* Key Stat: Cardinals won the rushing battle 136 (4.7 ypc) to 65 (3.0 ypc).
This game featured BA's offense versus his long-time colleague Dick LeBeau's defense---and because of that it figured to be a low scoring affair due to the five years in Pittsburgh where BA's offense practiced against DLB's defense. Anyone who has played football knows how hard it is to run your offense in practice when your own defense is so familiar with your offense.
Coming into this game, the Titans would have appeared to be the much stronger and more powerful rushing team, with RBs Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray rushing behind one of the better o-lines in the NFL.
And yet, the diminutive Kerwynn Williams, who was once again playing with cracked ribs, outrushed Henry and Murray combined as he rushed for 73 gritty yards on 20 carries (3.7 ydp.). Little used backup RB Elijaah Penny contributed 2 rushes for 11 yards (5.5 ypc) and 1 reception for 18 big yards on the go ahead drive...which was preceded by a nifty 33 yard jet sweep to rookie WR Chad Williams.
On the go-ahead drive, BA's play calling was superb. Chad Williams' 33 jet sweep got the Cardinals near mid-field and Eli Penny's 18 yard swing pass got the Cardinals into FG range.
The one play call BA likely regrets the most is the 3rd and 1 inside the Titans' 5 yard line that was stuffed for a one yard loss. Not sure why BA didn't bring in his short yardage package with FB Evan Boehm for that play.
But---BA was able to resist going for it on 4th down in favor of kicking the FG and narrowing the deficit to 1. That turned out to be a key decision on BA's part.
* Key Stat: Titans registered 8 sacks on QB Blaine Gabbert, but Gabbert did not surrender a fumble or an interception.
Gabbert struggled with his accuracy, especially in the first half. Balls were sailing over his targets because his passes were rushed. ironically, the only receiver Gabbert had chemistry with in the 1st half was J.J. Nelson (who previously with Gabbert had only 3 catches on 14 targets), while Gabbert twice missed a wide open TE Ricky Seals-Jones, who to this point, has been Gabbert's go-to guy.
In the second half, Gabbert took a straight-on hit on a sack that could have knocked him out. But, to Gabbert's credit he tried to maintain his poise and started to improve his accuracy. When he wasn't harried in the pocket he threw for 14/23 for 134 yards.
Gabbert's big miss was late in the game on the fade route to Larry Fitzgerald who had two steps and good separation on his man.
While questions remain as to whether Gabbert should be in the QB mix going forward, there are positives to be said about the way he handled himself and how he fought back from his early struggles.
BA can feel happy that he outfoxed his old colleague DLB.
Larry Fitzgerald can feel great about passing his mentor Randy Moss to becoming the 3rd time leading WR in career yards---it was especially sweet to achieve that milestone during a hard fought, gutsy win.
* Key Stat: DeMarco Murray 11/34/3.1; Derrick Henry 8/20/2.5
Credit James Bettcher and the Cardinals' defensive line for putting the hammer down on Murray and Henry. BA said after the game that other than the Rams a couple of years ago he can't recall many teams being able to run the ball against the Cardinals at home.
The stalwarts up front were DE Chandler Jones (who recorded his 14th sack---fastest Cardinal to 14 sacks in a season ever), DT Olsen Pierre, DE Kareem Martin and NT Xavier Williams (despite an off-sides penalty). Haason Reddick had a big sack late in the game when Mariota eluded Chandler Jones and flushed to his left while Reddick circled around the line from the back side and closed in on Mariota in a flash.
Karlos Dansby led the team with 8 tackles and had one of his best games...while Deone Bucannon struggled through a miserable 1st half. While Bucannon finally made a couple of tackles in the 2nd half, Josh Bynes came in to make one of the key defensive plays of the game with his interception. Safeties Budda Baker and Antoine Bethea combined for 10 tackles and most of the Cardinals more aggressive, sure tackles.
Josh Bynes is outplaying Bucannon, by a wide margin. Buccaneer is top heavy, slow to react and late to the ball to the point where he can't even arm tackle. But, James Bettcher seems to always go back to starting injured veterans over players who are currently playing well---like starting Rashad Johnson at FS in the NFC Championship game over D.J. Swearinger---and we know how that decision turned out.
Budda Baker continues to emerge as the catalyst of the defense as he is all over the field making plays. While he gave up a catch to TE Delaney Walker, later in the game Baker showed his closing speed on another target which led to an incomplete pass.
* Key Stat: Marcus Mariota: 16/31 159 5.1 0 TD 2 INT 3-20 sacks.
Again, credit James Bettcher for keeping the pedal on the metal in pass coverage. Aided by a good pass rush, the Cardinals' DBs turned up the heat in the 2nd half.
The star of the day was RCB Tramon Williams who played every aspect of the CB position with polish. Williams was looking back for the ball when Mariota thought Corey Davis was going to run the post. This interception was a huge momentum swing in the Cardinals' favor. And Williams' ball jarring stick on TE Delaney Walker, the Titan's key receiver at crunch time was the game winning exclamation point---not to be taken for granted because the Cardinals have given up late scores in tight games repeatedly this year.
Tyrann Mathieu made a nice third down stop late in the game after struggling to cover Eric Decker a couple of times earlier in the game. Patrick Peterson was switched over to Decker and Decker promptly registered a 29 yard reception off Peterson who quit on the play to complain to the refs that Decker pushed him off. Mathieu and Peterson continue to have their ups and downs in various ways and are recently being outshined by Budda Baker and Tramon Williams respectively. Peterson's tackling reluctance and total abandonment of tackling fundamentals were on full display once again in this game. Mathieu is a little more willing to tackle, but most of his efforts look tentative and not Honey Badger-like.
Yes, Phil Dawson missed yet another FG. He did, however connect on 4 out of 5. The curious news was that he told former Cardinals' kicker and now NBC sideline reporter Jay Feeley that he's been missing FGs because of the edge blocking schemes which, according to him, prevent him from following through on his kicks. If this is true---it is yet another indictment on STC Amos Jones. One has to wonder what the players are saying and thinking about Jones and his rocky tenure behind the scenes. On the flip side, Dawson should be putting his head down and following through regardless because that's his job. if the blocking doesn't hold up, like last week versus the Rams, then that's on the linemen and on the STC.
But, the ST's play of the game has to be Josh Bynes' well assisted stuff of Mike Mularkey's fake punt. It was so infuriating to watch the official right there on the scene take the football and spot it a yard ahead of where the ball was stopped. That official should be reprimanded and disciplined by the NFL, because he was standing right there when the whistle blew. Great for BA to challenge and win that call.
Playing for Contracts:
Making strong cases for 2018: CB Tramon Williams, LB Josh Bynes, DE Kareem Martin (as run stuffer), S Tyvon Branch, WR Jaron Brown (STs, esp.), RB K. Williams, TE Troy Niklas, T John Wetzel
On the Bubble: QB Blaine Gabbert, G Alex Boone, C Earl Watford (this was his best game of the season), Deone Bucannon ($8.7M?)
2018 Question Marks (players under contract): QB Carson Palmer, RB Adrian Peterson ($3.5M?), C A.Q. Shipley, T Jared Veldheer (pay cut or retire?), G Mike Iupati (same as Veldheer), DT Josh Mauro, S Tyrann Mathieu, K Phil Dawson.
BA versus AFC South: 7-1
BA at U of P: Never has lost two home games in a row in 5 years.
2017 BA versus NFC:
3-6 (two wins versus 49ers and one versus Bucs). Sweeping the last three (@WAS, vs. NYG and @ SEA) would get the Cardinals to 6-6 versus the NFC and would be a nice way to move the arrow in the right direction.
2017 BA in 1 PM (EDT) starts: 1-4 (can the team reverse that trend versus Washington?)