The third quarter had only a total of 5 drives combined by both teams, and the Cards featured a 14 play drive that started from their own 8 yard line. At this point of the Game the receivers had not been a factor, and all pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at this point in the game had not even been targeted on a pass.
This drive was by far the best drive down the field all day, and the Cardinal receivers were the highlight, Fitzgerald was moved around and got his first catch of 9 yards and then he caught another on the same drive for 21 yards and then a slant route of 11 yards against Darrell Revis.
On the other side, Michael Floyd gets 3 big catches, including a big 27 yard post route in between two defenders; the emotions of the two big wideouts were flying high as they begin to get the better of the defensive backs of the buccaneers. Fitzgerald caught 3 passes for 41 yards and Floyd 3 for 52 all on the same drive; this is what Coach Bruce Arians calls chunk plays and these two receivers looked unstoppable.
The drive got down to the 11 yard line of the Buccs after Floyd’s last catch down the middle. And as usual a patented perfect timing false start by left tackle Levi Brown put the Cardinals in a longer passing situation in the red zone where they have had their problems all season long.
This drive was a perfect drive until that penalty because it forced Carson to have to pass down inside his 15 yard line rather than mix in a run play, and sensing that urgency Palmer tried to get another chunk play and threw a pick to rookie Jonathan Banks who snagged the ball out of mid air with one hand jumping a route.
This play was not a bad throw like I thought it was initially, after looking at the tape I see Banks lined up outside against running back Andre Ellington, next to him was Michael Floyd in the slot position.
When the ball was snapped the route that Ellington ran was suppose to clear out space for Floyd to get one on one in the corner of the end zone, but the rookie displayed great ball skills and faded back into the route leaving Ellington wide open, and Palmer did not see him, he thought Banks had went with Ellington, he threw the pass as a timing route and just let it go, rather than read the coverage.
Bad throw? Maybe, but understandable, not expecting a rookie to read that play so quick, had Banks went with Ellington inside, that throw would have yielded a Michael Floyd touchdown, but great play by the rookie corner out of Mississippi State, getting his first interception of his career.
The Cardinals second possession also ended with a Palmer pick, this time by Darrell Revis. Palmer forced this ball because of the rush from the outside, he needs to know when to eat the ball or throw it away rather than force it down field. Had the Cardinals been playing a team with a veteran quarterback running their offense, these turnovers surely would have cost them the game Sunday.
Fortunately for the Cardinals their defense was stout and able to close the door on Tampa’s offense the entire third quarter. Stay tuned for the fourth quarter breakdown in the next story; it’s a great Cardinal finish on both sides of the ball.