Week 1 Game Recap: Arizona Cardinals 19, New York Giants 42
What you need to know
Though it may be hard to believe, The Cardinals led this game 13-7 at halftime and were unsuccessful on a two point conversion that would have tied the game with 7:04 left in the third quarter. Willie Ponder returned the following kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and the Giants never looked back.
Arizona came out throwing early and continued to throw often throughout the game. Kurt Warner and backup Josh McCown combined to attempt 56 passes in the game. The Cardinals were forced to throw because they could not establish any running game. Rookie J.J. Arrington had a nice 12 yard run on the Cardinals’ second play from scrimmage. However, the Cardinals only gained 19 yards on the ground for the remainder of the game.
Larry Fitzgerald set career highs with 13 receptions for 155 yards. Fitzgerald was clearly Warner’s preferred option throughout the game. Fitzgerald added a one yard touchdown catch to pull the Cardinals within two points in the third quarter.
Kurt Warner appeared comfortable running the Arizona offense. Warner was solid in the game. He finished 27 completions out of 46 attempts for 264 yards with one touchdown and one interception. McCown played just because the game was out of hand.
The Cardinals’ kick coverage units were a huge factor in the game. The Giants immediately regained the momentum in the game after the Cardinals had pulled to within two points midway through the third quarter. Willie Ponder returned the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown after the Cardinals had stopped him at the Giants’ 17 yard line, but were forced to re-kick after Antrel Rolle was ruled offside. Later, the punt team allowed a 52 yard touchdown return to Chad Morton.
The Giants marched 81 yards on their first possession. Eli Manning hit Jeremy Shockey in stride over the middle for a 20 yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead in the game. Manning was three out of five for 37 yards on the drive. Tiki Barber gained 16 yards on the ground. While rookie, Brandon Jacobs ran hard for 28 yards on the drive.
The Giants’ offense only managed two first downs for the rest of the first half. Manning threw a number of balls short of his receivers. The Giants’ offensive line also allowed three sacks before halftime. Two of Manning’s passes were intercepted by Karlos Dansby. Dansby returned the first for an 18 yard touchdown after the ball went through the hands of receiver David Tyree. The second interception resulted from a ball that was batted into the air at the line.
Things improved dramatically for the Giants after halftime. They scored 35 second half points, including the last 21 of the game. Special teams played a big part in the turnaround. Willie Ponder returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and Chad Morton scored on a 52 yard punt return in the fourth quarter. The Giants played turnover free ball and did not allow a sack in the second half.
Rookie Brandon Jacobs had six carries for 39 yards and a touchdown in the game. He looked great and it is likely that Jacobs will continue to take some carries away from Barber, especially in short yardage situations. Barber did have the majority of the carries, 13 for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Punter Jeff Feagles took over the record for most career punts in the game and is on pace to break Jim Marshall’s NFL consecutive games record later this year.
What you ought to know
|QB Kurt Warner, Pass: 27 - 46 - 264 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 11 - 0|
If this game is any indication, Warner will be throwing often this season. The Cardinal run game was nonexistent, so Warner was forced to put the ball in air 46 times. He completed 27 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald was his favorite receiver. Fitzgerald finished with 13 receptions for 155 yards and the Cardinals’ only offensive touchdown. Warner threw one interception on a pass that did not get anywhere near his intended receiver. It appeared the ball might have slipped. Warner had two other passes that were nearly intercepted. For the most part Warner did a good job of getting rid of the ball fairly quickly. The Giants did sack him three times and forced him to scramble for short gains a few other times. This offense suits his talents much better than what he was working with in New York. A positive first outing.
McCown relieved Warner after the game was already decided and completed five out of ten passing attempts for 52 yards with an interception. He made what was likely a touchdown saving tackle on Frank Walker after he threw the interception in the game’s final minute. There is no QB controversy. This was a move from Coach Green to get his starting QB off the field with the game well out of reach.
Even after only one game, Palmer's play in the season opener quickly reinforced GM Steve Keim's decision to trade for the veteran signal caller. With a QB rating of 96.6, Palmer found success throwing at every level while spreading the ball around, never locking in on just one read. Two perfectly placed touchdown throws to Larry Fitzgerald and a 44-yard jump-ball brought down with a spectacular one-handed catch from Michael Floyd were the highlights of the passing day, but Palmer was sharp throughout, consistently finding Andre Roberts and guiding the team to a 50% conversion rate on 3rd downs. Palmer's lone interception appeared either to be a mix-up with WR Larry Fitzgerald, or simply an under-thrown ball and despite seemingly constant-pressure off the left edge, Palmer often had a clean pocket to step into. Palmer was able to continually fit the ball into tight windows showing great accuracy, with his only bad miss apart from the interception coming on a wheel route to rookie RB Andre Ellington, throwing to Ellington’s outside shoulder while the running back was looking for the ball on the inside.
Arrington had one 12 yard carry. His other seven attempts netted a loss of 17 yards. Arrington also contributed 4 catches for 22 yards. Arrington split time pretty evenly with Marcel Shipp. It is important to note that Shipp did however get the nod in goal line situations. Arrington did not look much better than he did in preseason where he was unimpressive.
|RB Marcel Shipp, Rush: 7 - 10 - 0, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)|
Shipp split time with rookie J.J Arrington at tailback. The television announcers theorized that he provided Warner with better pass protection than Arrington. It is important to note that Shipp and not Arrington was the tailback for the goal line offense. But with only ten yards on seven carries, Shipp certainly did not do anything to make Cardinal fans forget about Arrington. Both backs were ineffective.
Ayanbadejo had two carries and five receptions. He played extensively at fullback as starting fullback James Hodgins injured a knee early in the game.
Jackson had one carry for three yards.
While Dwyer never found the end zone like Taylor, he certainly seems entrenched as the number-2 back behind Ellington. Dwyer’s 7 carries nearly doubled that of Taylor’s total touches, and his additional 3 targets in the passing game hammered home that point. Dwyer did save his best run for last, picking up 7 yards on his last carry to pick up a first down and allow Arizona to run the clock out, but other than that he was mostly terrible. This made the decision to run a direct snap to Dwyer for a two point conversion all the more confusing, and was predictably stopped. In an effort to take some pressure off Andre Ellington, neither Dwyer nor Taylor really showed much.
Ellington was a bit of a mixed bag in his first game, and it’s a bit more difficult assessing his play without truly understanding how bad his foot injury is, and the degree in which its effecting his play. Credit must also be given to the San Diego defense, which moved well laterally and swarmed to Ellington when he had the ball, even managing to strip him midway through the first for a costly fumble just outside San Diego’s red zone. There were instances when it appeared he wasn’t able to cut or push off his injured foot with as much confidence and force as he’d have liked, and yet other plays-most notably his 18-yard run late in the forth- where he looked like the same dynamic back as last year. Ellington again caught the ball well, hauling in all five of his targets including an impressive one handed catch swinging out of the backfield, but just wasn’t able to find as much open space as you’d like to see. Again, The Chargers defense deserves some credit here for that. Its doubtful Ellington will get the 25-30 touches per game that Coach Arians was boasting about early in the offseason, but the dynamic back appeared to manage the pain well and should continue to see plenty of action going forward.
Johnson looked quick and proficient in his limited duty on Sunday, spelling Ellington initially before finishing the game as the lead back once Ellington got hurt. He may no longer be the 4.2-40 back he was at the onset of his career, but in this role and with an improving offensive line, he is more than capable of giving this team the running threat it needs going forward in Ellington’s absence.
For most rookies, their “welcome to the NFL” moment comes in taking their first big hit. David Johnson went about his in a slightly different fashion. In his first offensive possession of the game, Johnson caught a pass out of the backfield in which he took 55-yards for the game sealing touchdown. Leading by five with less than 2 minutes in the game, the Cardinals simply needed a first down to clinch the victory, and even then, with the Saints only having one timeout remaining, bleeding a fair amount of clock would have made any perspective Saints comeback very difficult. On 2nd-8 from their own 45, conventional wisdom would have the Cardinals running the ball. Bruce Arians has never coached for conventional wisdom. Palmer lined up in the shotgun, with Johnson to his left and Fitzgerald and John Brown split wide to his right. Brown went into motion for what appeared to be a jet-sweep, which Palmer did fake while Johnson slipped out the backfield down the right side. As the defense followed Brown, Palmer found a wide-open Johnson who picked up the first down with ease, but then hit another gear as he sprinted down the sidelines and into the end zone. Johnson’s role will certainly expand in Ellington’s absence, but Arians made clear they do not want to put too much on the rookie too soon. He will backup Chris Johnson for the time being as we will just have to wait and see if he can maintain his stellar reception: touchdown ratio.
Stepfan only ran the ball once Monday night, but surprisingly made his presence felt in the passing game scoring The Cardinals’ first touchdown of the evening. Taylor, the lone back in a 3-WR set was meant to be a last-read outlet in the flat for Palmer, but once the play broke down forcing Palmer to scramble to his right, Taylor moved with him and created some separation from his defender giving Palmer a clear target in the front corner of the end zone. Taylor only had 4 touches on the night, so fantasy owners shouldn’t be making a mad dash to the waiver wire, but it was an impressive play by the second year running back to make the most of his limited opportunities.
The rookie looked fantastic for having missed most of training camp and the preseason. Wells had a very good initial burst, great footwork through the hole, a second gear, and he even carried a pile five yards at the end of his best run. Wells also got two goal to go snaps and one goal to go carry when the Cards were in the red zone (the one time they got down there). Try to trade for him while his stat line conceals his real value.
Fitzgerald, the second year receiver started off the year with a bang establishing career highs with 13 receptions and 155 yards. Early in the game Warner looked to him mostly on short routes. He later stretched the defense for longer gains, including a 30 yard reception on third and 19. Fitzgerald scored Arizona’s only offensive touchdown with a one yard catch in the third quarter.
Boldin had four catches for 62 yards. Early in the game Warner looked to Boldin on longer routes while Fitzgerald worked mostly underneath.
Johnson had two catches for 27 yards, but was targeted 12 times.
Lee had three targets, but no catches.
Brown looked like a rookie often and early in the game. He dropped what should have been a third down conversion and ran the wrong route on a hot-read. He finished the game with only two catches on his five targets, but those catches showed exactly why The Cardinals are so excited about this kid. His first catch was a beautiful sideline grab, dragging his feet after gaining separation from fellow rookie Jason Verrett, and his go-ahead touchdown late in the forth on a 13-yard screen featured the quickness, speed vision coaches have raved about. With some excellent blocking from TE John Carlson, LT Jared Veldheer and RG Paul Fanaika to lead the way, Brown both juked defenders and stayed patient while his blockers set up in front of him. Brown struggled with early game jitters and drops throughout preseason, and that carried over some into last night’s contest, but as the season goes on and that begins to settle, big games are on the horizon for John Brown.
As advertised all off-season, Floyd’s big play ability was immediately on display in week 1. A “top-10” worthy one-handed catch on a 44-yard bomb was the highlight of Floyd’s afternoon, but the 38 yards Floyd managed on his 3 additional catches nicely displayed his ability to help move the chains and provide Palmer with a big, consistent target opposite Fitzgerald. Already an integral part of the passing attack, Floyd’s targets should continue to grow as more and more teams shade additional coverage over to Fitzgerald’s side.
Bergen had one reception for 10 yards. He was the target on an unsuccessful two point conversion attempt.
Edwards had one target.
Caught the only pass that Leinart threw to him on the night. Also a third or fourth option in the passing scheme.
Fells’ 89-yards were the most by a Cardinals TE since 1989. There probably is just as much bitterness to the sweetness of that stat, but Fells looked every bit like the rapidly improving TE many thought he would be. In the offseason, Pro Football Focus called Fells the Cardinals “secret superstar” and recently listed him among the 25 breakout stars of the 2015 season. Optimism in Fells is high and Sunday he showed why. Fells accumulated 3/4ths of his yards on two receptions, a 48-yard catch and run and his 17-yard touchdown. On his touchdown, Fells was able to beat the linebacker guarding him on a post route to the pylon, but it was the 48-yard catch and run that showed off Fells’ true potential. Facing a 3rd-2 from their own 34, Fells lined up as the outside man of a 3-WR set to Palmer’s right. With Fitzgerald and Brown running clear-out routes, Fells ran a simple crossing route of the middle of the field for a wide-open catch, accelerated down the left sideline and using an effective stiff-arm along the way. Credit must be given to fellow TE Jermaine Gresham who blocked two Saints defenders as Fells raced down the sideline. With so many weapons in the offense, it is hard to gauge how consistent Fells will be week in week out to recommend him as a viable fantasy starter, but its fair to say the Cardinals haven’t been this excited about a TE since, well, 1989.
Gresham was only targeted once on the day, but having missed all of preseason recovering from a back injury, he should be more involved in the offense as the season continues.
Former Panther Jeff King stuck it to his former team, catching a long touchdown pass as Kolb rolled away from pressure. On the play, King found himself wide open as LB Jon Beason injured himself in pursuit. King strutted unopposed into the end zone for an easy score.
Rackers had a perfect day converting one extra point and field goals of 24 and 42 yards.
The Cardinals’ rush defense was not good. The Giants rushed 25 times for 121 yards (4.8 average). The rush defense gave up two touchdown runs. Brandon Jacobs scored from five yards out and Tiki Barber broke a run for 21 yards to the end zone. Middle Linebacker James Darling, left the game with an injury. He was later listed as okay to return.
Arizona’s pass defense was mostly good. They allowed 172 passing yards and two touchdowns to Eli Manning. Other than a 44 yard pass to Plaxico Burress, the pass defense did a good job. The Cardinals sacked Warner three times. Bertrand Berry, Orlando Huff and Karlos Dansby each contributed a sack. Dansby was all over the field. He also had two interceptions and a sack. Dansby returned the first interception 18 yards for a touchdown. The second one was a beautiful one handed, diving catch.
Manning’s game was up and down. He was solid on the Giants’ opening drive, leading them 81 yards and hitting Jeremy Shockey for a nice 20 yard touchdown pass. After the opening drive Manning finished the first half going two for eight with two interceptions. In his defense, both interceptions were deflected and one should have been caught. A high number of Manning’s passes came up short. It is possible that the elbow injury he suffered in the preseason is still affecting him although he commented after the game that his elbow felt great and gave him no trouble whatsoever. Plaxico Burress was clearly Manning’s favorite target. Burress had five receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. He was the target on 11 of Manning’s passing attempts, more than twice the number of targets of any other Giant receiver.
Eli Manning’s backup, Hasselbeck came in for two kneel down plays to run out the clock.
|RB Tiki Barber, Rush: 13 - 62 - 1, Rec: 2 - 60 - 0 (2 targets)|
Barber was the Giant’s primary tailback. He had a nice all around game with 62 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. The touchdown run was a 21 yard burst up the middle. Barber also contributed in the passing game with two receptions on screen passes. The first went for 29 yards, the second for 31. Barber is likely to have fewer carries this year. New York used rookie Brandon Jacobs to spell Barber, especially in short yardage situations.
Jacobs contributed with six carries for 39 yards, including a five yard touchdown run and a 21 yard burst around the right end. Jacobs, who weighs about 260, but is remarkably fast and nimble was the choice for short yardage situations and will likely take away some touches and scoring opportunities from Tiki Barber.
Ward had four runs for 23 yards, including a 12 yard gain.
Fullback Jim Finn did not carry the ball. He was the target on two unsuccessful pass attempts.
Rashad Jennings struggled to find running room against the Lions on Monday, save for a few decent runs later in the game. The Giants gave him a lot of simple dive plays up the middle against Detroit but most of these plays were stuffed at the line of scrimmage by the strong Detroit front 7. Jennings was frequently met at or near the line of scrimmage and had nowhere to go. Jennings also dropped an easy pass in the flat from Manning which easily could have been converted into a first down. Jennings found some room from the shotgun and was able to show some burst up the middle with a delayed handoff, getting a nice push from his offensive line also. Jennings had a shot at a goal line carry in the first half but there was too much penetration from Detroit and he had no room to work with. Jennings showed more reliable hands later in the game as he caught a short pass in the flat from Manning and found a lot of open space down the sideline to set up a redzone opportunity. Jennings later converted this redzone chance as he dove for the goal line and outstretched the football just enough for the refs to signal a touchdown. Jennings played a decent game overall, considering the passing game was not a threat and the Lions could focus on stuffing the run at times. He was clearly the lead back in this offense and stayed on the field in obvious passing situations, showing his versatility out of the backfield as a receiver.
Vereen's debut was solid but his production level was not terrific. He was used in passing situations and key third down plays as was predicted and held up well. Vereen showed ability as a blocker for Manning and as a receiving option out of the backfield as he caught 4 passes. Vereen got his hands on a lot of screen passes from the backfield and followed his blocks well for decent gains. Vereen showed terrific patience late in the game as he followed a handoff to the rightside but noticed more space on the left and cut in that direction to pick up a big first down. Vereen could be used as a low tier running back in a point per reception league but is unlikely to be very productive for the Giants. The Giants lead rushing back will be Jennings unless injury occurs but Vereen is easily the best back to have in for passing situations, which the Giants will have a lot of this season. Vereen could be a good option in the redzone for Manning but there were too few redzone chances in this game to see that happen in this game.
Free agent prize Burress was clearly Eli Manning’s favorite target in the opening game. Burress had five catches for 76 yards. Burress had a 13 yard touchdown catch to help put the Cardinal’s away in the fourth quarter. Burress also had a 44 yard catch that set up Brandon Jacob’s five yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half. Manning targeted Burress on 44% of his pass attempts for the game.
Carter caught one short pass for seven yards.
Toomer had the second most targets among Giant receivers, but did not catch a ball.
Tyree was targeted two times. Tyree had a ball go through his hands resulting in an interception and 18 yard touchdown return by Cardinal linebacker, Karlos Dansby.
Beckham Jr. did not produce as some people expected on Sunday night but most of that was not his fault. The Dallas cowboys paid a lot of attention to him on and double covered him for most of the game and in important situations. They played one cornerback close at the line of scrimmage to play physical with him and then a safety shaded to his side of the field to prevent a deep pass play, which worked for the most part. Beckham Jr. took a big hit early in the game as he got his hands on a mid slant pattern over the middle but the ball got knocked loose by a Dallas defender. Beckham Jr. was mostly used on short patterns and underneath routes as Dallas played him conservatively. Beckham Jr. got a lot of curls and quick out patterns but was unable to turn them into big plays as Dallas swarmed the football well. Beckham Jr. has a level of quickness and speed that demands almost constant coverage by a corner and safety over the top, as he successively caught a ball between a corner and linebacker using his quickness on a slant. He also showed excellent concentration and hands catching a ball in a very tight window between two Dallas defenders on a curl route in the redzone. Beckham Jr. was simply contained well by Dallas and the Giants struggled to pass the ball with a newly constructed offensive line but no doubt bigger games are ahead for him so fantasy owners shouldn't be worried.
Victor Cruz and the entire Giant offense looked very rusty
and out of synch vs. the Cowboys. Cruz started the game with some
short, efficient catches for good yards including an excellent play
down the sideline for 26 yards. However, mistakes then dogged Cruz and
he had 3 drops in the game. Cruz showed poor concentration and a
desire to run with the ball before he had secured the catch which cost
him a lot of production. Cruz was still the #1 target in the offense
but looked like he didn’t deserve to be necessarily and simply was
because nobody else on the Giants offense stepped up. The Giants did
not run block well and a lot of the offense was placed on Manning and
the passing game. Cruz possesses the agility and speed, usually in a
combination with terrific hands that makes him a lethal threat out of
the slot and likely had some week 1 rust to get rid off against the
Cowboys. The Giants failed to have many receiving options outside of
Cruz on Wednesday and the running game also put more pressure on Cruz.
Jennings caught one pass for six yards.
Rookie Hakeem Nicks had just two catches in Week 1. Nicks did get behind the defense and showed surprising speed on one deep route. Just when he was starting to show some promise and rise up the depth chart, he got rolled up on from behind by a Redskin defender after his second catch in the fourth quarter. The injury at first appeared rather bad as he was tackled from behind, but he was able to get off the field on his own power but noticeably limping. Nicks returned to the game after x-rays on crutches and results of the films showed no broken bones. Nicks will likely be out for a few weeks and then will have to re-start his assault on the depth chart to get more playing time.
Sterling Shepard had a very nice start to his rookie season and showed some serious talent that the Giants could take advantage of all season long. Shepard showed incredible quickness and an ability to separate from defenders as he got wide open on a slant pattern inside over the middle from the slot. Shepard then made a terrific play on an underthrown ball to the back of the endzone for his touchdown catch. Shepard was open on a fade route to the corner of the endzone and secured the ball at its highest point, despite a defender coming into contact between him and the ball. This touchdown was highly impressive to watch as he fought hard to keep control of the ball and had excellent awareness to make the necessary adjustment. Shepard was somewhat responsible for a silly turnover from Manning as Shepard appeared to give up on his route early and was not in a position to break up the errant throw from Manning to the sideline. Manning found the rookie once again on an in breaking pattern over the middle as Shepard was given ample time to find the soft spot in the zone before settling down and providing a huge window to throw into.
Shockey caught a 20 yard Eli Manning strike as he beat his man for a touchdown on the Giant’s first drive. He had one other catch for nine yards. Late in the game while blocking, Shockey had his leg rolled upon and appeared to suffer a sprained foot or ankle. He did not return to the game and was visibly upset on the sideline. He stayed in uniform on the sidelines and ran off the field with his team after the game. He was favoring his ankle but was able to jog.
Larry Donnell might have had his somewhat breakout game against Detroit on Monday as he caught 5 passes including a touchdown pass. It looked like Manning and Donnell developed chemistry throughout the offseason and the Giants offense featured the tight end often. Donnell’s first catch was a big catch down the seam from Manning who threw it perfectly in stride for Donnell who was able to hang onto the pass despite being flipped upside down from the tackle. Donnell got a pass thrown his way on a corner route in the endzone which he was able to get his hands on but unfortunately placed his foot just out of bounds and the pass was ruled incomplete. The Giants clearly liked the matchup however and the size advantage that was present as Manning threw a high fade pattern up for grabs to Donnell who was able to secure the score more easily the second time. Donnell got another big play down the middle on a post pattern from Manning as he got a free release at the line of scrimmage and found the soft spot in the zone coverage to haul in the big first down. Donnell and Manning had some miscommunication however late in the game. Manning threw his way while Donnell was running a different route and the ball hit his leg before being tipped into the air just enough for a Detroit linebacker to pick it off. Donnell found a soft spot in zone coverage again later in the game on a short seam pattern up the middle to pick up another big first down to keep the offense alive. Donnell looked dangerous and was able to get open often against Detroit and the Giants targeted the young tight end often so perhaps this performance was not a fluke and a possible indication that the Giants found a new weapon.
Fells is a backup tight end for the Giants but competed well for targets with Donnell who has been unspectacular lately. Fells was used in the short passing game and showed good hands catching quickly thrown balls. He picked up key first downs for the Giants early but then somewhat disappeared the Giants needed bigger production. Fells is a reliable pair of hands for Manning but offers little else as an athlete and shouldn't be started in fantasy.
Will Tye made only minor contributions on Sunday. Tye was somewhat overshadowed by his more talented teammates. Tye was also playing in the full back role at times in the running game which kept him busy. Tye made some solid pickups on curl routes and short grabs over the middle, giving his quarterback an easy check down option if required. Tye will find it hard to compete for touches in this offense, especially as teammate Donnell is more talented and a bigger redzone threat. He belongs on the waiver wire for the moment.
Feely did not attempt a field goal. He hit all six of his extra point attempts.
The Giants’ rush defense was tremendous. The Giants held the Cardinals to a total of 31 yards and a 1.5 yard average per attempt with a long gain of 12. The Cardinals tried to establish a running game, but were consistently overpowered at the line. Antonio Pierce had a nice debut with the Giants, contributing seven tackles, four assists and a half sack. Michael Strahan and Carlos Emmons also had seven tackles each.
The Giant pass defense gave up 316 passing yards. The Cardinals were forced to throw the ball 56 times and the Giants held up reasonably well allowing less than 5.7 yards per pass attempt, while playing without stating cornerback Will Peterson, who was declared inactive in warm-ups with a troublesome knee. The pass defense contributed two interceptions, one by Gibril Wilson and one by Frank Walker very late in the game. The Giants sacked Kurt Warner three times. Michael Strahan had one and a half sacks, William Joseph had a sack and Antonio Pierce contributed a half sack.