Cardinals-Texans: What we learned
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If the Houston Texans didn't think they could fall any further, they found out Sunday that they could.
The Arizona Cardinals got two touchdown passes from quarterback Carson Palmer, scored a defensive touchdown and blocked a field goal while holding off the Texans 27-24 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Quarterback Case Keenum threw three touchdown passes for Houston, including two highlight-reel connections with wide receiver Andre Johnson, but it wasn't enough. The Texans (2-7) lost their seventh consecutive game -- the longest losing streak in franchise history.
"Thank you for that note there -- franchise record," interim head coach Wade Phillips said, sarcastically. "It's obviously upsetting to all of us. But this team is going to stick together, I can tell you that. They're going to come back and work hard and try to do the right things to change."
Already without head coach Gary Kubiak following his collapse last Sunday night upon suffering a mini-stroke, the Texans also learned they would be without running back Arian Foster for the remainder of the season as he prepares to have surgery to repair a bulging disk in his back.
Foster was ruled out of the Arizona game on Friday.
The Cardinals (5-4) earned their second consecutive win, and they remain in the hunt for an NFC wild-card playoff spot.
"That's where we wanted to be," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "Coming out of the bye week, we wanted the chance to be in the hunt. I think we are in the hunt, and we will just see how they fall each week."
Palmer completed 20 of 32 passes for 241 yards. He was intercepted once and lost a fumble when he was stripped and sacked by defensive end J.J. Watt, but he was effective.
Arizona outgained Houston 332-235 and held the Texans to seven second-half points.
"In our minds, we were never out of the playoff hunt, ever," Palmer said. "We are a tough, grind-it-out, defensive team. I think that is our M.O. We keep believing. We've won a lot of games in the fourth quarter and hung around long enough to find ways to win games."
What the Cardinals said
"I definitely thought I had the interception. It was an unbelievable catch by Andre Johnson. I couldn't get my other hand up because he was on my shoulder. ... But I thought I played pretty well today. I held him to 37 yards, I believe. Just those two touchdowns. He's an All-Pro. He gets paid the big bucks. It was a great matchup." -- CB Patrick Peterson.
What the Texans said
"It's terribly frustrating when I have to come in and look at the locker room and look at the guys. There are four or five plays that I could make that make a huge difference in this game and I didn't make them. That's terribly frustrating to me. It's something that I need to do. I have to make those plays." -- QB Case Keenum.
What we learned about the Cardinals
1. The defense continues to lead the way for a team that's still trying to discover itself, offensively. Arizona set the tone with a sack, forced fumble and defensive touchdown to start the game on the first play from scrimmage. It ended it by staving off any thought the Texans had of a last-minute comeback, forcing QB Case Keenum into bad throws and applying heavy pressure. If the offense can just start putting up bigger and better numbers and find a way to make more third-down conversions (they were just three of 10), maybe the Cardinals could be a surprise wild-card team. But it probably will be because of their defense.
2. Justin Bethel has a knack for blocking kicks. He did it multiple times in college and he's doing it again in the pros. Bethel raced in with an amazing burst to block a 40-yard field-goal attempt by Texans kicker Randy Bullock right before the end of the first half. It was his second blocked kick this season. "Justin Bethel is just outstanding blocking field goals," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "There are very few guys that can do that."
What we learned about the Texans
1. Already minus their head coach and their top running back, the Texans suffered a handful of injuries against the Cardinals that could set them back even further. They lost two cornerbacks in the first half in Kareem Jackson (ribs) and Elbert Mack (hamstring). Linebacker Joe Mays hurt his knee and strained his oblique. Receiver DeVier Posey (hip/back) was also injured.
2. Andre Johnson has always been considered one of the game's elite receivers, but a series of leg injuries in recent years seemed to quell his status as one of the greatest. The past two weeks have shown us, however, that he very much deserves to be in the same conversation as Detroit's Calvin Johnson. Andre Johnson now has five touchdowns in his past two games and Sunday, his two touchdown grabs were simply sensational. "I don't know how Patrick (Peterson) could have defended that last one any better," Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "Maybe if he were two inches taller or something."