Solid Gabbert, turnovers not enough for Cardinals

HOUSTON — The Arizona Cardinals got what they wanted from their quarterback and defense Sunday afternoon at NRG Stadium. But it wasn’t enough.

The Cardinals forced two turnovers — an interception and a fumble recovery off a strip sack — that led to points, and Blaine Gabbert looked impressive through the first three-and-a-half quarters, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. But without an effective run game, thanks largely to an offensive line that struggled to give Adrian Peterson room, Gabbert was forced to throw more late, and that led to two interceptions and, ultimately, Arizona’s 31-21 loss to the Houston Texans. Gabbert finished with 257 yards on 22-for-34 passing, but he didn’t get the help he needed, with a handful of drops marring his performance.

What it means: The Cardinals fell to 4-6 and all but dropped out of contention for a playoff spot. They’ll need too many teams ahead of them to start going on losing streaks while they begin winning if they want a shot at the wild card.

What I liked: Bruce Arians likes to say he thinks rookies should be ready by Thanksgiving. Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones and safety Budda Baker have arrived right on time. Seals-Jones had two touchdown catches against the Texans, and Baker had a strip sack and recovered the fumble, in addition to 13 tackles. The youth on the Cardinals’ roster is starting to look like it’s not a bunch of rookies anymore. Regardless of whether Arizona is in contention for the playoffs, this is when the Cards can start grooming young players for next season. And by how Baker and Seals-Jones played Sunday, they’re progressing right on schedule.

What I didn’t like: The offensive line didn’t help Peterson much. Too often he found the Texans’ blue jerseys in the backfield before he could get room to either break through the line or even make a move. It was never more evident than on fourth-and-1 with 6:33 left when Peterson lost a yard when he had little room to maneuver after getting the snap, forcing a turnover on downs. Peterson finished with 26 yards on 14 carries.

Fantasy fallout: Anyone who picked up Gabbert this week should be celebrating. His three touchdowns were a career high, even if those two late interceptions drew away from his scores.

Fitz is fifth: Larry Fitzgerald’s climb up the all-time receiving ladder continued Sunday. He passed Tony Gonzalez for fifth on the career receiving yards list with a 20-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Fitzgerald entered the game with 15,066 yards. His 91 yards Sunday put him 51 yards behind tying Isaac Bruce for fourth on the all-time list.

What’s next: The Cardinals head back to Arizona for the start of a three-game homestand that begins next Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars and former Cardinals defensive star Calais Campbell.

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