An exciting fourth quarter between two of the basement teams in the NFC didn’t disappoint as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned in a 30-27 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, one which the Cardinals have plenty to blame as they had the game seemingly in control late in the fourth quarter.
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense decided to remain aggressive with a 27-23 lead trying to put the game away, but Murray snapped his NFL rookie record 212 pass attempts without an interception deep in Buccaneers territory to give Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay life. The Buccaneers made the Cardinals pay with a six-play, 92-yard drive that culminated with a one-yard run by Peyton Barber with 1:43 to play to give Tampa Bay its first win at Raymond James Stadium since Week 13 of the 2018 season.
The Cardinals then had questionable clock management in the final minute, letting the clock run 25 seconds on a fourth-and-5 before cornerback Vernon Hargreaves committed a pass interference penalty on a ball that appeared uncatchable to Christian Kirk. The Cardinals had the ball at midfield before a holding penalty pinned them back at their own 38-yard line and took them out of an opportunity for a game-tying field goal with no time left, Murray heaved a pass up to wide receiver Pharoh Cooper with no time left on the clock, but Cooper appeared to be hooked by Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean on the play. No penalty was called, and the game was over. If the penalty would have been called, the Cardinals would have been able to attempt a game-tying field goal from about 38 yards left. The officials didn’t review the play.
Murray finished 27-of-44 for 324 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, which was the one that helped Tampa Bay rally to victory. Christian Kirk had six catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had a sloppy game with 358 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, but still had a game-winning drive in leading Tampa to victory.
Why the Buccaneers won
The Buccaneers were able to take advantage of a Cardinals pass defense that entered the contest allowing 7.8 yards per pass (27th in NFL) and 280.7 yards per game (29th in NFL). Instead of chucking the ball downfield to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Cardinals used the two to set up running back Ronald Jones (eight catches for 77 yards) and tight end O.J. Howard (four catches for 47 yards, touchdown). The Buccaneers still had three turnovers, but also forced two Cardinals turnovers with Arizona in the red zone, taking a minimum of six points off the board. The final takeaway was the Murray interception that led to the 92-yard drive, which resulted in the winning touchdown. Winston went just 1-for-3 on the winning drive, but a 49-yard pass to Chris Godwin established the momentum for the Buccaneers to have the winning score.
Why the Cardinals lost
Two factors determined the Cardinals fate in this one: Running the football and crucial turnovers deep in Buccaneers territory. The Cardinals received nothing from David Johnson and Kenyan Drake as the pair combined for 15 carries for 37 yards. Johnson has just five carries for two yards in his first game back from knee and ankle injuries that caused him to miss two games. He also fumbled a ball on his only catch of the day with the game tied 20-20 in the third quarter. After Winston threw his second interception, Johnson fumbled the ball two plays later at the Buccaneers 11-yard line, giving the ball back to Tampa and taking away a minimum of three points. The second turnover was Murray’s interception at the Buccaneers eight-yard line with Arizona holding a 27-23 lead with 3:47 left. The Cardinals had this game won, but mistakes and a poor running game were their downfall.
Murray’s first giveaway since Week 4 of the season was the mistake many rookie quarterbacks make, but one we have not been accustomed to from Murray. With 3:47 left to play and Tampa holding a four-point lead in field goal range, Murray was blitzed on the right side, but panicked and threw the ball sidearm and off his back foot while he was attempting to backpedal. The ball was thrown in the direction of Trent Sherfield, but was no where in reach of the receiver and led to an easy interception by Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean. The Cardinals were facing a 2nd-and-10 at the Buccaneers 15-yard line when Murray made the errant pass, costing an opportunity to put points on the board and have Tampa force to tie the game instead of winning it. If the Cardinals scored a touchdown on the five-play, 41-yard drive, the game would have been over. A rare rookie mistake by Murray, who threw his fifth interception of the year. The Cardinals are 0-3-1 in games Murray throws an interception.
Play of the game
Kliff Kingsbury was feeling confident in his ability as a head coach when the Cardinals decided to execute a fake punt on a 4th-and-10 at their own 36-yard line. Trailing 23-20 with 8:39 to go, the ball was snapped to upback Ezekiel Turner, who pitched the ball back to a running Trent Sherfield, who tossed the ball back to Andy Lee for the pass attempt. With the Buccaneers off guard, Lee threw a pass to Pharaoh Cooper for a 26-yard catch (on a completion Cooper had to adjust). That gave the Cardinals life as they scored the go-ahead touchdown three plays later.
The Cardinals didn’t hold on for the win, but in a game full of exciting plays, that fake punt was the most creative.
“I believe they should’ve at least taken a look at it.” – Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks on the final play of the game where the officials didn’t review a potential pass interference penalty, via Cardinals broadcaster Craig Grialou.
Hard to tell Hicks’s emotion on the non-pass interference call, but the Cardinals have a case that the officials should have reviewed the final play of the game while Pharoh Cooper appeared to be hooked on Murray’s desperate heave with no time left on the clock. The Cardinals couldn’t have challenged the non-call since it was under two minutes, but the rule is in place for the officials to take a look at regardless of the situation. On the Buccaneers final possession, a non pass interference call was reversed under two minutes left and the officials got the call right. Just more inconsistent officiating by the NFL.
The Cardinals will travel to San Francisco to face the undefeated 49ers Sunday at 4:05 p.m. The Buccaneers will host the New Orleans Saints Sunday at 1 p.m.