Monday, November 18, 2013

Arizona Cardinals 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 14 - November 17, 2013

Three years ago, I visited Jacksonville to see the Jaguars host the Raiders in what was a barnburner of a game. I wrote about Everbank Field then, so I'm not going to rehash those points as it hasn't changed much. Unfortunately though, the Jaguars have changed for the worse. Much worse. Starting with their uniforms. Ugly black and teal combo with ugly black and gold helmets. Somebody should have realized that helmets are a single colour for a reason.

Anyway, the Jaguars are 1-8, and many fans want the team to sign a local hero. One person has enough money to rent a plane and fly the sign around.

Last time I was here, I drove in and parked outside downtown, taking a shuttle bus. This time, I was able to spend a couple of nights at a hotel on the south shore, which allowed me to take the Water Taxi there and back. At $5 for a 10-minute ride, it is ridiculously overpriced (the regular fare is $3, but they raise it for special events). Still, it beats the 40-minute walk through a hot and humid Jacksonville morning.

It also allows you to see the stadium from the water.

The Jaguars were kind enough to give me a ticket, so I was able to enter the stadium right away. Two of the gates actually open 3 hours before game time to allow fans to enjoy the entertainment zone on the south side of the stadium. There are a few things there, but not enough to spend an hour, unless you want to start drinking at 10 am.

My seat was in section 240, which is actually not that far from the field, as you can see above. I did the usual tour, but didn't see anything new. I did, however, take my usual panorama shot. I hope you like teal.

This was Jacksonville's only November home game, so it was their military appreciation day. We even had a couple of flyovers: one during the national anthem, and another at halftime when God Bless America was sung. Of course, the giant flag is a must as well.

The cheerleaders also got into the act, wearing military style uniforms throughout the entire game.

When I planned this trip, this was the game that I expected to be the least interesting and Jacksonville's early performance this season didn't change that expectation whatsoever. But once the game started, I was impressed. First, Jacksonville went for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 38 just three plays into the game and the Arizona defense was fooled by a play action pass. Danny Noble was open and caught the  pass around midfield and rumbled the rest of the way for an early touchdown. Amazingly it was the Jaguars' first touchdown at Everbank Field this season (they played one home game in London); it was also Noble's first career catch and his only play of the day.

The Cardinals responded with a drive of their own: 10 plays, 80 yards over 5 minutes, culminating in a 14-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald (#11 above).

On the kickoff, Jordan Todman (#30 above) took the ball back 59 yards to the Arizona 46. With the short field, Chad Henne led the Jaguars to the goal line where Maurice Jones-Drew scored (below).

Wow, 3 drives, 3 touchdowns, all in less than 10 minutes. This was shaping up to be an interesting affair but then both teams remembered that they aren't this good. The next six possessions ended in punts, until Arizona finally scored another touchdown late in the second quarter to send the game to halftime tied at 14.

The Cardinals got the ball to start the 2nd half and drove 77 yards behind the arm of Carson Palmer, but couldn't punch it home from the Jacksonville 3. A short Jay Feely field goal gave them their first lead of the day.

After Jacksonville punted again, Palmer connected with Michael Floyd for a 91-yard touchdown pass and run, which should have been stopped before midfield if the Jaguars could tackle. It was a surprising play, and essentially ended the game as Jacksonville's remaining possessions went something like this: punt, punt, punt, interception, downs, interception. That's Bryan Anger below warming up, he punted 8 times as did the Arizona kicker.

To honour the 16 total punts seen on the day, the cheerleaders performed the following routine:

Each team had 13 meaningful possessions, points were scored on just 7. The fans were not impressed and mostly gone by the fourth quarter as you can see below.

The final score, which doesn't look as ugly as it should. Just a tiresome game with a couple of big plays but few sustained drives.

Palmer finished with 419 yards passing, completing 30 of 42 attempts, which are pretty good numbers. Still, it was not a strong display by either club, too often drives stalled due to the lack of a running game. The teams combined for 46 yards on 40 attempts, with the longest a 9-yard gallop by Jones-Drew. Palmer at least made some decent plays, while Henne could not, and that was the difference at the end. Arizona is now 6-4 and a playoff contender, while the Jagaurs are 1-9 and the worst team in the league. The question now is who will they draft with their first overall pick in 2014?

I'm now off to Charlotte to see the Patriots and Panthers in what should be a much better game. Check back tomorrow for the update.



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