Entering Week 4 of the 2012 NFL season, the NFC was 8-4 in games against the AFC.
This comes as a surprise because in previous seasons (Super Bowl aside), the AFC reigned supreme over the NFC in regular season match-ups.
With two cross-conference games scheduled today, the lead will grow or narrow.
After the San Francisco 49ers pummeled the New York Jets 34-0, the remaining AFC/NFC clash for this week pitted the 1-2 Miami Dolphins, traveling to Glendale, Arizona against the 3-0 Cardinals.
First-year head coach Joe Philbin was hoping his rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, banged up running back Reggie Bush, and a ferocious Dolphins defense could put the clamps on Kevin Kolb of Arizona and take away their perfect record.
Through two quarters, it looked as if Miami would end the day with a .500 record.
With Ryan Tannehill playing lights out, throwing for 219 yards while setting up two field goals and a one yard rushing touchdown, Miami found themselves ahead 13-0 as the first half expired.
For Arizona, the offense just wasn’t clicking. Kevin Kolb was sacked three times, threw and interception, and the offense as a whole managed just 103 yards.
Unfortunately for Miami and their fans, two quarters and an overtime period remained. This story is a tale of two halves. Miami bullied Arizona through the first 24 minutes but Arizona was not yet ready to throw in the towel.
Thanks to a quarterback who wasn’t willing to accept defeat and a defense that buckled down, Arizona was able to tie the game in regulation then kick the game-winning field goal in overtime.
Final score: Arizona Cardinals 24, Miami Dolphins 21.
HERO OF THE GAME
With two quarters on the books, Kevin Kolb looked like his old self. The Dolphins attacked him early and often, bringing heavy pressure, knocking down his passes, sacking him multiple times and causing his first interception of the season.
That is why I am giving the nod for “Hero of the Game” to Second Half Kevin Kolb. Coming out of the tunnel to begin the third quarter, it was clear that Kolb had not lost confidence. With little help from his running backs, No. 4 relied heavily on wide receivers Andre Roberts and Larry Fitzgerald, hooking up with both six and eight times respectively.
A three-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald got Arizona on the board for the first time in the game. To begin the fourth quarter, Andre Roberts was on the receiving end of a 46-yard pass giving the Cardinals their first lead at 14-13.
Not much longer after that, cornerback Patrick Peterson gifted the Cardinals’ offense the ball three yards from the Dolphins’ end zone after a fumble recovery and 60-yard scamper with the ball.
Looking to extend the lead, Kolb threw an ill-advised interception in the end zone, which Miami would turn into an 80-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline and two-point conversion, giving themselves the lead again 21-14.
On their next drive, Arizona punted the ball away to Miami. Thanks to a Ryan Tannehill fumble, Kevin Kolb was given the chance to rectify his previous gaffe. Down seven with 2:51 remaining on the game clock, Arizona took over at their own 49-yard line.
On the 10th play of the drive, facing 4th and 10 from the Miami 15-yard line, Arizona was down to their last chance. For the second time of the drive, Kevin Kolb converted of fourth down. This time he did so by completing a 15-yard pass to Andre Roberts for the game-tying score!
Kolb displayed excellent composure and a short memory in the second half, especially in the final drive. In the second half, his 243 passing yards and three touchdowns brought Arizona back from a deficit twice.
After a 46-yard Jay Feely field goal, the Cardinals took down a tougher than expected Miami Dolphins team. Arizona improved to 4-0 on the year and gave the NFC a 10-4 record versus the AFC in 2012.
GOAT OF THE GAME
As with our hero of the game, our “Goat of the Game” goes to the second half performance of Ryan Tannehill. During the first two quarters, Tannehill spread the ball around to his running backs and wide receivers, moving the ball up and down the field. The first quarter saw no points but in the second quarter, the rookie put his team in position for two field goals and a touchdown.
The third quarter again saw no points for the Miami Dolphins. For the quarter, Tannehill produced just 72 yard passing – his lowest per quarter output of the game as well as throwing his first interception.
While he did manage an 80-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline in the fourth quarter to give Miami a seven point lead, his untimely fumble on a sack allowed the Arizona Cardinals to have one more crack at scoring and they did so with a game-tying touchdown with 22 seconds remaining in the game.
Arizona started overtime with the ball and quickly their drive stalled forcing a punt. With the ball and a chance to win the game, Tannehill made the worst play possible in that situation. He dropped back, fired the ball and watched it land in the hands of waiting Arizona Cardinals defender Kerry Rhodes. Three minutes later, kicker Jay Feely pushed the Miami Dolphins to 1-3 on the season.
For the game, Tannehill amassed 431 yards on 26 completions and a touchdown, an excellent stat line under most circumstances. However, when you throw two interceptions and fumble the ball away to Arizona in the second half, taking away your team’s chance for victory, you are the goat.