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Sunday, December 15, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

By Josh Weinfuss

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 37-34 overtime victory against the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: It hasn't happened often this season, but the Cardinals' defense had an off day and it nearly cost them. The late collapse can't be blamed on the offense this week. Despite the poor coverage and stupid penalties, the offense made the plays when it needed to. It was the defense that let Arizona down, but it was also the defense that saved the Cards. Antoine Cason stepped into a more prominent role and had two interceptions Sunday, the second of which led to Jay Feely's winning, 41-yard field goal in overtime. The pass rush wasn't up to its usual snuff but, unlike last season when the defense had a bad game and eliminated any chance of the Cards winning, this season, the offense put together some nice drives that resulted in touchdowns.

Stock watch: Andre Ellington had been quiet for a few weeks but he returned with a bang. His 71 rushing yards were his second most of the season and his 87 receiving yards set a new career high. He showed again how formidable the one-two punch of himself and Rashard Mendenhall could be. Ellington's athleticism was on display from the onset in both facets, receiving and rushing. He caught two passes threaded through the secondary from Carson Palmer, showing his value in the passing game, and he made a couple Chris Johnson-esque runs in front of the star back's home crowd.

Missing Mathieu: One of the primary concerns when rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu went down with a season-ending knee injury was how the secondary was going to be reshuffled. Mathieu played three positions: free safety, cornerback and nickel back. His versatility allowed the Cardinals to not substitute; however, on Sunday, the secondary looked confused and out of sorts throughout the game. Coverages were mishandled, allowing Titans receivers to be left open in the middle of the field, and linebackers, at times, were matched up on running backs and receivers. The first week will most likely be the hardest, but now the Cards can re-evaluate their substitution patterns and coverages and make the necessary changes.

Penalties add up: Although the Cardinals had just nine penalties for 69 yards, it was the stupidity of the penalties that will irk Bruce Arians. On one drive in the third quarter, Marcus Benard was called for roughing the passer on a senseless hit. Then on the next play, Rashad Johnson was flagged for a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver. In the fourth, linebacker Daryl Washington was flagged for taunting and Dan Williams received a late unnecessary roughness. All penalties that could've -- and should've -- been avoided.

What's next: The Cardinals head to Seattle for their second-to-last game of the season against the Seahawks at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday at CenturyLink Field.