Each week, CardinalsSource goes in-depth on a play, drive, quarter or half from the latest Arizona Cardinals' contest to provide additional perspective about why certain plays resulted in particular outcomes and to determine which players aided or impeded the team's progress.
In Arizona's third preseason contest Sunday, the Cardinals' first team offense labored through two drives that resulted in interceptions, but marched right down the field on one of its series that resulted in a touchdown.
We went back and broke down the film on the touchdown drive to see what led Arizona to success.
1st and 10: The Cardinals begin with the ball at their own 25-yard line after a touchback, and come out in 11-personnel, but use an empty set. Carson Palmer has twins to his left including running back David Johnson, and trips to his right with tight end Darren Fells about a yard outside of the right tackle. The Texans have a single high safety, but keep close to eight players in the box which means Palmer should expect to have to get rid of the ball quickly. At the snap, Fells gets a clean release on a seam route, and Jaron Brown catches the middle linebacker's attention with a quick in route. As soon as Palmer reads the linebacker, he delivers the ball over the middle to Fells who does a nice job anticipating where the route needs to be run. Fells catches the ball around the 39-yard line, and maintains his balance after a tackle attempt from the Texans' safety.
1st and 10: Arizona sticks with 11-personnel, as it will do throughout the drive, but bunches Fells and a pair of receivers close to left tackle Jared Veldheer in a trips set. At the snap, both Veldheer and Fells execute ideal blocks, and Brown and fellow wide receiver Michael Floyd have a great running lane set up for Johnson. Unfortunately for Johnson, the off-tackle run is stuffed at the line of scrimmage by a Texans linebacker who left guard Mike Iupati missed a one-on-one block against. If Iupati gets his block, Johnson could run free for at least a seven-to-eight yard gain.
2nd and 9: The Cardinals split two receivers out to the right and keep Brown as the lone receiver on the left with Palmer under center. Almost immediately, Palmer comes under fire as Evan Mathis struggles with his block at right guard, and can't contain a defensive end stunting toward the B-gap. As a result, Palmer's pass is hurried and is thrown well beyond the reach of J.J. Nelson who had a step on his defender about 30 yards down the field.
3rd and 9: Fourth play of the drive, and the fourth different look Arizona has shown out of 11-personnel. Without substituting their players, the Cardinals put Palmer in shotgun and split two receivers out to the right, with Brown standing a yard behind and a yard outside of Nelson. At the snap, Brown waits for Nelson to release before cutting inside of him, and before Brown is even turning around, Palmer is already in his throwing motion because he knows where he wants to go with the ball. A step into his break on an out route, Brown reaches up and catches a dart from Palmer right at the first down marker on a really well timed, well executed play for Arizona.
1st and 10: The Cardinals now have the ball inside the Texans' 25-yard line, and send Brown in motion from left to right to balance the formation which now has twins on the left. Palmer stays under center, and hands off to Johnson on a lead play to the right where Johnson has to wait for Iupati to pull through the hole. Humphries does an excellent job getting off the ball and blocking down on a linebacker to create a lane for Iupati, who makes contact with another linebacker filling the gap and falls downs. The linebacker who stunned Iupati grabs hold of Johnson's leg, and the back can only drag him for a two-yard gain.
2nd and 8: Arizona lines up in a regular ace set with twins to the left, and a tight end and receiver out on the right. The Cardinals don't do anything complicated with their run-blocking scheme on this play, and that works out fine because the Texans only have six men in the box and keep two safeties back. Furthermore, because a Texans' lineman basically takes himself out of the play against Mathis, center A.Q. Shipley works directly to the second level to seal off a linebacker and open the hole for Johnson. Johnson bursts through the lane, breaks outside, and gains 16 yards to move the Cardinals down to the six-yard line.
1st and goal: The Cardinals bunch Brown and Fells together at the end of the line of scrimmage on the left side prior to the snap in order to gain a numbers' advantage. Arizona wanted to run behind Iupati and Veldheer, while having Brown and Fells seal off the edge for Johnson. Both linemen hit their blocks, but Brown stands no chance walling off Jadeveon Clowney who makes a great play to drag Johnson down from behind after a three-yard gain.
2nd and goal: Arizona opts to go with the hurry-up technique down by the goal line and stays with all of its personnel for the eighth consecutive play of the drive. The Cardinals once again bunch together skill position personnel on the left side of the line of scrimmage, and the Texans stack the box to get a numbers advantage inside the guards. Iupati and Shipley both lose ground at the line of scrimmage, but Johnson makes a sensational lateral cut look easy as he bounces a run bound for an inside track outside. With a cornerback racing off the edge, Johnson makes a second cut straight upfield and wills his way into the end zone. This was a highly skilled run from Johnson that proves why he's such a dynamic back, because he turned a play from a likely goal line stop into a three-yard touchdown run.