Palmer, Cardinals too much for Jaguars

Danny Aller, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It has taken 11 weeks, but the Arizona Cardinals may have finally found a recipe for winning.
And it has everything to do with their 33-year-old quarterback.
NFL veteran Carson Palmer passed for 419 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, but most importantly he did not throw an interception for the first time this season in the Cardinals' 27-14 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That was a welcome sign for Arizona fans after Palmer began the season with 13 picks in his first eight games and Arizona got off to a 3-4 start. But in Palmer's last three outings -- all wins -- he has thrown just two interceptions and was on-point all day Sunday, feeding rookie wideout Michael Floyd for six catches for 193 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that broke the game open.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians loved what he saw out of Palmer on Sunday.
"He has a total understanding of what we're doing," he said. "It's starting to click."
The Jaguars' quarterback situation, meanwhile, isn't shaping up to be as promising.
Chad Henne, who led Jacksonville (1-9) to its first win last week at Tennessee, had his most effective half of the season when he was 13-for-15 passing for 139 yards and a TD before intermission. But he finished 27-for-42 with 255 yards, threw two fourth-quarter interceptions and was sacked twice. The Jags were also a dismal 2 of 14 on third-down conversions and were held scoreless for the final 50 minutes of the game after jumping out to an early 14-7 lead.
Jacksonville's first score came on a 62-yard catch by tight end Danny Nobles on fourth-and-1 on the Jags' opening drive, followed by a 1-yard rushing score from franchise running back Maurice Jones-Drew on their second.
Nobles' first catch of his career was his only grab and he led all Jags' wideouts, while Jones-Drew continued to disappoint, finishing with just 24 yards on 13 carries -- and he still hasn't broken 75 yards in a game this season.
"We started off strong, went down and scored and had some big plays, but after those two scores, we struggled," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "We were let down defensively after that, and on offense we had a couple of big penalties, two interceptions -- and those are just things we have to learn to overcome."
After Jacksonville's two quick scores -- the Jaguars' first touchdowns at EverBank Field this season after being outscored 89-11 in four previous contests -- it was all Cardinals (6-4), who scored 27 unanswered points and have now won three in a row for the first time since starting 4-0 last season.
It began with an 80-yard drive on Arizona's first possession that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and it continued one drive later when running back Rashard Mendenhall tied the game 14-14 on a 5-yard score. The Jags had a chance to take the lead before halftime, but kicker Josh Scobee -- who came into the game a perfect 12 for 12 this season on field goal tries -- missed a 59-yarder wide left.
Arizona did all the scoring after intermission, including two Jay Feeley field goals (21 and 32 yards) and that spectacular third-quarter, 91-yard catch-and-run by Floyd, who snagged the ball 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, darted into the middle of the field and broke three tackles en route to the end zone. The passing touchdown was Arizona's longest since 1988.
The Cardinals' 24th-ranked rushing attack, however, regressed as Mendenall finished with just 14 yards on 13 carries as the Jaguars held Arizona to a season-low 24 total yards on the ground.
"We were going to have to throw the ball and throw the ball to win this game," Arians said.
The Jaguars' defense was without star linebacker and leading tackler Paul Posluszny, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week who was ruled out before kickoff with a concussion. In his place, Jonathan Cyprien led the Jags with eight tackles, while cornerback Jerraud Powers paced the Cardinals with six stops and a pick.
Down just 24-14 late in the third quarter, Jacksonville twice appeared to have chances to narrow the gap following Cardinals mistakes. But both times, the Jags were on the wrong end of controversial calls. The first ruling came after Arizona's Patrick Peterson muffed a punt at his own 5-yard line, but after a scrum for the loose ball -- which appeared on replay to show the Jags pouncing on it cleanly -- it squirted out of the pile and into Peterson's hands. Bradley challenged the call, saying the Jags had a clear recovery, but he lost.
The final dagger came two drives later when Palmer appeared to be picked off deep in Cardinals' territory by linebacker Russell Allen. But after the Jaguars began running to the sideline to celebrate, officials said that Arizona had called a timeout prior to the play -- drawing the ire of Jaguars fans, many of whom headed to the exit after that call.
"There were many situations where I felt like we were bold in our decision-making and aggressiveness, and we have to continue that," Bradley said. "Sometimes, it just doesn't go your way."
NOTES: Sunday's game against the Cardinals was the Jaguars' only home contest in November. After playing six of its first nine games away from Jacksonville (including the game vs. the 49ers in London, which counted as a home game) and then facing road games the next two weeks, the Jaguars will play three straight games at home in December. ... The last meeting between the two teams prior to Sunday was in 2009 when the Cardinals won 31-17 behind former quarterback Kurt Warner's NFL-record completion percentage (24 of 26, 92.3 percent). ... The all-time series is now tied 2-2 after the Cardinals won Sunday. ... The Cardinals are now 2-0 in their trips to the East Coast this season after beating Tampa 13-10 in Week 4. ... Following Sunday's loss, the Jaguars are 8-34 since 2011.

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