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 defense was put in a compromising position to start the game following a Carson Palmer interception. Arizona surrendered a short touchdown drive to Houston on its first defensive series, and when the Texans returned to the field, the Cardinals were able to limit them to a field goal.
We went back and broke down the film on the field goal drive to see what the Cardinals did well, and who stood out.
The situation: Houston gains possession at its own 25-yard line after a touchback with the score tied 7-7 and 8:48 remaining on the clock in the first quarter.
1st and 10: The Cardinals put seven men in the box and have safety Tyvon Branch lined up pressed against the Texans' slot receiver at the line of scrimmage. Houston uses 11-personnel, and at the snap, the Texans' center immediately bolts away from the A-gap toward a defensive lineman which frees the lane for linebacker Kevin Minter. Without any hesitation, Minter races into the backfield and drags down Brock Osweiler for an eight-yard loss. Minter timed the blitz so well that because there was a play-action fake, Osweiler had barely turned around by the time Minter ran him over.
2nd and 18: The Texans align in an empty set, with three receivers to the right and twins to the left. Arizona has just five players in the box as Markus Golden is walked out over the slot receiver on the right, which is a rare sight to behold. Additionally, Chandler Jones is aligned over the slot receiver on the left, which means both outside linebackers are giving a coverage look. Jones walks down to the line before the snap, and the Cardinals rush four against Osweiler. The Texans' quarterback delivers a quick pass to a receiver on the right running an out route, and Minter does an outstanding job tracking him down and not allowing him to gain any yards after the catch. This is a tough cover for Minter, but he makes the play anyway.
3rd and 12: The Texans line up in 10-personnel with no tight ends and three receivers to the wide side of the field on the left. Arizona has its nickel package in the game, and surprisingly, Osweiler opts to get the ball out quickly on an underneath route from DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins lost Mike Jenkins in coverage on the short cross, and shakes Jenkins as he cuts up field with seven yards to go until the first down marker. Jenkins takes a tumble and ultimately tears his ACL in a terribly unfortunate sequence for the Cardinals' corner, as it was a non-contact injury. Jenkins' missed tackle didn't hurt the Cardinals as much as Branch's subsequent miss did though, as Branch had every opportunity to stop Hopkins in front of the first down marker and couldn't bring him down.
1st and 10: Against a 12-personnel set, the Cardinals put six players in the box and safety Tony Jefferson is lined up just outside a tight end on the boundary side of the field about six yards off the ball. Minter and fellow linebacker Deone Bucannon both blitz at the snap, and the Texans try an off-tackle play to the right. Minter does a really nice job working off the block of the center, and pulls down the running back after a three-yard gain that was otherwise blocked fairly well.
2nd and 7: The Texans rotate back to 11-personnel, and the Cardinals bunch Golden and Calais Campbell right next to each other in the C-gap on the left side of the line of scrimmage. Neither player generates much pressure, and Osweiler heaves the ball downfield for rookie Will Fuller V on a streak route. Fuller has cornerback Justin Bethel beat with ease, as Bethel never even turns his head around on the 35-yard gain.
1st and 10: With the ball now at the Cardinals' 25-yard line, Houston brings a fullback in the game and again tries to run off-tackle to the right. Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker breaks into the backfield immediately at the snap, forcing the running back off of his track and allowing Golden, who began the play on the left side of the Texans' offensive line, to track the play down from behind and drag the back down for a two-yard loss.
2nd and 12: The Texans come out in an empty set, and the Cardinals only keep five men in the box. Arizona uses four down linemen and keeps Minter in the box, and Osweiler hits a receiver running an out route from the middle of the field. Minter makes the play, but was a step behind, and a flag determined the receiver pushed off of Minter, who was probably in pretty good position prior to the penalty.
2nd and 21: After the penalty, the Texans use a double twins set with a halfback standing next to Osweiler in the shotgun. Arizona has a six-man box, with three down linemen plus Jones at the line of scrimmage. Jones and Rodney Gunter fail to execute a long-developing stunt, and that gives Osweiler all day to read the field. He ends up finding Hopkins on a bullet in front of rookie corner Brandon Williams, who was asked to remain in man coverage far too long against an elite receiver like Hopkins.
3rd and 3: The Texans again align with a double twins set against a six-man box for Arizona, as Houston has moved inside the 20-yard line. The Cardinals play a matchup zone coverage, which works brilliantly because it freezes Osweiler just enough. In a third and short or medium situation, inexperienced quarterbacks often see one thing and try to make quick decisions based on an early read, and it comes back to haunt Osweiler on this play. He sees a man-to-man coverage on the inside slot receiver on the left, and he's ready to deliver the ball, but he didn't see Minter lined up in a zone over the middle where his receiver's route worked toward. The split-second of hesitation allows Jones to come in off the edge and sack Osweiler for a loss, as Jones used a great speed rush to beat the left tackle. Osweiler probably thought he had an easy first down on this play, and the Cardinals ended up with a sack to force a field goal attempt.null