JACKSONVILLE – They played with energy, and there was fight. A lot of it.
In the end, it wasn't quite enough.
The Jaguars took two first-half leads and showed life defensively throughout the second half. But throughout that same half, the Jaguars' offense struggled and the Arizona Cardinals pulled away for a 27-14 victory in front of 59,862 at EverBank Field.
Quarterback Carson Palmer completed 30 of 42 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for Arizona (6-4), which stayed very much alive in the NFC playoff chase with a third consecutive victory.
Chad Henne, making his fifth consecutive start at quarterback for the Jaguars, completed 27 of 41 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown during a first-quarter in which the Jaguars took a 14-7 lead.
The Jaguars are now 1-9.
The key play Sunday came midway through the third period. With the Cardinals leading 17-14, but with the Jaguars still very much in the game, Palmer passed deep to wide receiver Michael Floyd, who caught the pass and broke at least two tackles en route to a 91-yard touchdown.
That was the second-longest pass play against the Jaguars in their 19-year history.
The play also gave the Cardinals a 24-14 lead they never relinquished, holding it through a third-quarter in which the Jaguars twice appeared to have chances to get opportunities to pull closer.
On the series after Floyd's touchdown, Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson muffed a punt by Jaguars punter Bryan Anger. The Jaguars appeared to be all around the ball, and the crowd booed loudly when it was ruled Arizona had recovered. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley challenged the play, and officials upheld the ruling. FOX Sports later reported that the play was not reviewable under NFL rules.
On that same series, Jaguars middle linebacker Russell Allen – playing for injured starter Paul Posluszny – intercepted Palmer, but officials ruled Arizona had taken a timeout just before the play.
With the crowd booing and the energy high, the Jaguars' defense stopped the Cardinals on that series, but the Jaguars' offense – which struggled much of the second half after a productive first quarter – did not produce a first down on the ensuing series.
The Jaguars had just two third-quarter first downs, and did not score after the second series of the game – that after turning in one of their strongest starts of the season.
The Jaguars took the early lead, and gained the early momentum, with a touchdown on the game's opening drive. On 4th-and-1 from their 38, Henne threw to tight end Danny Noble, who was wide open behind the defense. He broke a tackle near the 10 to score the Jaguars' first touchdown at EverBank Field this season.
The Cardinals immediately tied it at 7-7, with Palmer capping a 80-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Jones-Drew's 1-yard run on the ensuing drive made it 14-7, Jaguars.
Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall's 5-yard run was the only scoring of the second quarter. He tied the game at 14-14 with 2:00 remaining in the half.
Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee's 60-yard attempt sailed just wide as the half ended.
The Cardinals controlled the game from pretty much the middle of the first quarter, but the Jaguars were still in, it trailing 17-14 early in the third quarter. On 3rd-and-10 from the Cardinals 9 – one play after a sack by Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch – Palmer threw deep to Floyd, who turned a 20-yard pass into a 91-yard touchdown, breaking tackles by safety Josh Evans and cornerback Will Blackmon en route to the second-longest pass play ever against the Jaguars.
- Noble's touchdown reception came on the first reception of his career.
- The Jaguars got a big break in the fourth quarter when Cardinals safety Yeremiah Bell was called for taunting following a third-down incompletion in the end zone. On the play, Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis had lobbied officials for defensive get it. Officials called Bell for taunting, turning fourth-and-3 into a first-and-goal from the 1. Maurice Jones-Drew ran up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown on the ensuing play for a 14-7 Jaguars lead.
- The Jaguars' rushing offense continued to struggle. After managing just 1.8 yards a carry in a victory over the Titans last week, they averaged exactly 2.0 yards a carry Sunday. Jones-Drew rushed for 23 yards on 14 carries.
LOOKING ON . . .
- Running back Jordan Todman has given the Jaguars a lift on kickoff returns the last two weeks. After struggling with three bobbles/fumbles in a loss to the 49ers in London, Todman had a 46-yard return in a victory over the Titans last week and had a 59-yarder to the Cardinals 46 in the first quarter Sunday.
2. Jaguars rookie wide receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders had one of his better games of the season, showing explosiveness on offense and special teams. He had eight receptions for 61 yards and returned six punts for an eight-yard average.
Wide receiver Mike Brown left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return.
Posluszny missed the game with a concussion, as did guard Will Rackley and wide receiver Stephen Burton. Wide receiver Stephen Williams missed with an Achilles injury.
Allen started for Posluszny in the middle and rookie John Lotulelei started in Allen's place on the strong side. Mike Brewster started for Rackley at left guard.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi, cornerback Jamell Fleming and defensive tackle Abry Jones were the other inactives.