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11/10/2013 9:42 PM EST
Palmer, Arizona send Texans to 7th straight loss
ARIZONA 27, HOUSTON 24

By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer knows
what his team's personality has become.

And it has nothing to do with his side of the ball.

"We're a tough, grind-it-out defensive team," he said.

That was apparent on the first play from scrimmage against
Houston on Sunday, when the Cardinals forced a fumble and
returned it for a touchdown.

It was a sign of what would come in the second half.

The Cardinals turned up the defensive pressure and sent the
Texans to their franchise-record seventh straight loss, 27-24
Sunday. Palmer threw two touchdown passes and Arizona held on
despite a late fumble.

The Texans (2-7) were without coach Gary Kubiak, who collapsed
on the sideline against Indianapolis last Sunday night with what
was diagnosed as a mini-stroke. Defensive coordinator Wade
Phillips is filling in as interim coach.

"All in all it seems like the same theme," Phillips said. "Team
is playing tremendously hard but not enough plays. One play
here, one play there, and they really dominated us in the second
half on their defensive side of the ball."

Arizona (5-4) got off to a quick start when linebacker John
Abraham knocked the ball out of quarterback Case Keenum's arm
and Matt Shaughnessy returned it 6 yards for a touchdown only 14
seconds into the game.

The Texans led 17-14 at the break, but managed just 41 yards in
the final two quarters

"As a defense, we just told ourselves `17 is the max,"'
linebacker Daryl Washington said. "`No more points to be scored.
Let's play nasty, let's play dirty."'

Keenum threw three touchdown passes, two on remarkable catches
by Andre Johnson.

J.J. Watt forced two fumbles, recovering both of them for
Houston. The second one set up Johnson's 5-yard TD catch that
cut the lead to three with 4:34 to play.

"We made good adjustments," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said of
the second half. "The running game was kind of gone. We felt if
we could get them in a one-dimension game we could get after the
quarterback, and we were able to do that."

Palmer completed 20 of 32 for 241 yards. Keenum was 22 of 43 for
201 yards no interceptions, but was just 7 for 17 for 42 yards
in the second half.

Arizona reeled off 13 consecutive points and Palmer's 19-yard
touchdown pass to Andre Roberts put Arizona up 27-17 with 6:42
to play.

The Cardinals, coming off a bye, had trouble holding on. Rashard
Mendenhall was stripped of the ball by Watt in a crowd on a run
up the middle and the standout Houston lineman recovered at the
Arizona 5.

On third down, Johnson gathered in Keenum's pass and was able to
get both feet inbounds for the touchdown. He had scored on a
similar catch in the first quarter.

"Those were two of the best catches I have ever seen in my
life," Keenum said. "You can't even describe it. You have to
watch it to see how awesome those catches are. `'

Houston got the ball back with just over two minutes to play
but, at third-and-3 at the 35, Keenum threw two incompletions.
Jerraud Powers knocked the ball away from receiver DeAndre
Hopkins on fourth down to seal the win.

After his first-play miscue, Keenum completed 4 of 4 for 44
yards in an eight-play, 49-yard drive. Johnson got his left foot
down then barely dragged his right foot inbounds on a 7-yard
touchdown catch and it was 7-all.

Arizona regained the lead with its only touchdown drive of the
first half. Recently signed tight end Jake Ballard had a 15-yard
catch, his first reception since 2011, and Rob Housler got his
first pro touchdown catch on a 12-yard screen pass to put the
Cardinals up 14-7 with 13:57 left in the half. It was Palmer's
200th career touchdown pass.

But Keenum responded, going 5 for 6 for 55 yards in a nine-play,
80-yard TD drive. Keenum threw 2 yards to wide open tight end
Ryan Griffin for the touchdown that tied it at 14-14 with 9:37
left in the half.

Arizona was pinned deep in its own territory after the
subsequent kickoff and Palmer tried to throw long to Housler.
But D.J. Swearinger intercepted, setting up Randy Bullock's
48-yard field goal that gave Houston its first lead, 17-14, with
6:31 to go in the half.

Arizona committed another turnover late in the second quarter.

With less than a minute left in the half, Watt knocked the ball
out of Palmer's hands and recovered at the Cardinals 22. Houston
couldn't move it from there, and Justin Bethel blocked Bullock's
40-yard field goal attempt. Bethel has two blocked field goals
this season.

Arizona tied it at 17 on Jay Feely's 35-yard field goal with
6:06 left in the third quarter.

Palmer's 26-yard pass to Housler gave Arizona a first-and-goal
at the Houston 5 in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Feely's 21-yarder put Arizona back on top 20-17 entering the
fourth quarter.

NOTES: The Texans were without running back Arian Foster and
won't have him the rest of the season after he decided to
undergo season-ending back surgery. During the game, Houston
lost starting cornerback Kareem Jackson (ribs), Griffin
(concussion) and backup cornerback Elbert Mack (hamstring). ...
Arizona lost wide receiver Michael Floyd in the first half with
a shoulder sprain.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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