Another comeback in OT has Cardinals at .500Posted: Updated:
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)—Another stumbling start. Another fantastic finish.
The Arizona Cardinals followed a familiar script and, as a result, are .500 for the first time since the second week of the season.
Big plays by Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald set up Jay Feely’s 22-yard field goal that gave the Cardinals a 20-17 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
After a six-game losing streak, Arizona (7-7) has won six of seven—three in overtime—and still has a shot at the playoffs. All seven victories came after the team trailed in the second half.
“Yeah, it’s pretty stressful,” said coach Ken Whisenhunt, who became the winningest coach in franchise history with his 43rd victory. “I wish we could find a way to do better than that, but I’ll take every one of them.”
Both teams were without their starting quarterbacks because of concussions. John Skelton stepped in for Kevin Kolb and completed 28 of 46 for 313 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
Skelton’s 32-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald, which followed Peterson’s 32-yard punt return, led to Feely’s chip-shot field goal to win the game.
“It wouldn’t be a win if we didn’t do it that way,” Skelton said about the Cardinals’ knack for playing sloppy early, then pulling it out at the end. “It’s a fun and exciting game, but it shouldn’t have to come down to that.”
The Browns (4-10) blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead en route to their fourth loss in a row and seventh in eight games.
The theme was the same—playing close but coming up short.
“It always happens,” Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden said. “We just have to figure out a way to get it fixed.”
Quarterback Colt McCoy didn’t even make the trip to Arizona after sustaining a concussion on a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from the Steelers’ James Harrison. McCoy, as has been well documented, returned to the game a short time later after no concussion test was administered. Later, he began showing symptoms and didn’t practice last week.
Seneca Wallace stepped in for his first start of the season and promptly drove the team downfield for a touchdown after the opening kickoff. He had Cleveland up 10-0 until the final 19 seconds of the first half. When he connected with Greg Little for a 76-yard touchdown—the Browns’ longest play in four seasons—Cleveland led 17-7 with 3:01 left in the third quarter.
Wallace was 18 of 31 for 226 yards.
“We had them on their heels and when it gets to that point, it is about not making mistakes,” Wallace said, “not turning the ball over and giving them some easy points, and making plays. They played well on defense and made some plays. I need to help us out a lot more and make some more plays for our team.”
Coach Pat Shurmer was asked if he would stay with Wallace, regardless of McCoy’s status.
“It’s too early to tell,” Shurmer said. “That decision is made when you’ve got both guys healthy.”
Arizona became the ninth team in NFL history to win three overtime games in a season and just the second to win all three at home.
“We have a flair for dramatics,” Fitzgerald said. “Today was kind of typical Cardinals fashion.”
Little caught five passes for a career-best 131 yards for the Browns. A healthy Peyton Hillis gained a season-high 99 yards on 26 carries for Cleveland.
Arizona scored the final 13 points.
Skelton was 5 of 7 for 82 yards in the 11-play, 87-yard drive that culminated in Beanie Wells’ 1-yard touchdown run that cut it to 17-14 with 8:33 remaining in regulation.
A holding penalty on Cleveland’s subsequent kickoff return pinned the Browns at the 10, and O’Brien Schofield got Arizona’s first sack of the day on the elusive Wallace to push Cleveland back to the 5. Schofield got through on the next play as well, grabbing Wallace by an ankle and spinning him to the ground as the quarterback lost the ball.
Initially, Wallace was ruled down on the play, but Whisenhunt challenged and the call was reversed. Replays showed the ball coming loose well before Wallace fell backward onto the turf. The Cardinals took over at the 5, needing only to punch it in to take the lead.
But Jabaal Sheard got his second sack, and Cleveland’s fourth of the game and Arizona settled for Feely’s 33-yard field goal that tied it at 17 with 5:40 to play.
Cleveland won the coin toss to get the ball first in overtime, but the Browns managed only one first down before having to punt. Brad Maynard had artfully kicked the ball away from Peterson, the spectacular rookie whose four punt returns for scores have tied an NFL record.
“I thought we did a very nice job, even on that last punt,” Shurmer said. “We had a guy down in his face and you know we were trying to kick the ball out of bounds or try to pin him down there and the guy in his face thought he saw the fair catch.”
He doesn’t know Peterson very well, then. The rookie disdains the fair catch, especially with the game on the line.
He fielded it near his left sideline and ran across the field before making a run for it near the right sideline. He took it to the Cleveland 40 and, two plays later, Skelton found Fitzgerald, more open than he’d been all day, far downfield.
Both teams play on Saturday, Arizona at Cincinnati, and Cleveland at Baltimore.
Notes: Little’s TD catch was his 55th reception of the season, surpassing Eric Metcalf for second-most by a Browns rookie. Kevin Johnson has the team’s rookie record with 66 in 1999. … Cleveland lost three players—LB Titus Brown (knee), WR Jordan Norwood (concussion) and LB Ben Jacobs (concussion).