The Arizona Cardinals had the Cleveland Browns in the dirt through the first 29 minutes and 57 seconds of Sunday’s game.
But, on the last play of the first half, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield launched a Hail Mary to the Cardinals end zone.
Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones went up and made the catch to go into halftime trailing 23-14 with the roar of the crowd back into the game.
“We were angry,” defensive end J.J. Watt told NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero during an on-field postgame interview.
The Cardinals went on to win big 37-14, as the defense shut out Cleveland in the second half. It showed the strength to overcome a potential game-altering play and make it a footnote.
It took Mayfield launching the ball 66.4 air yards to complete it, according to Next Gen Stats, but there were not enough defenders around the ball when it was caught.
This is where everyone was down the field when the ball was in flight:
Browns players out-numbered Cardinals in the end zone.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph took the blame for not coaching that situation correctly.
"I probably should have been in victory, but I didn’t think he was going to reach the end zone from there," Joseph said. "First of all, he can’t pop the pocket. Once he pops the pocket, I knew that was going to be a bad deal because now it’s 6-2 guys for the corners.
"That’s on me. I didn’t coach that well enough."
Joseph said his players at the midpoint should have turned around and ran with the Browns receivers once the play was clearly a Hail Mary.
Cornerback Marco Wilson was the only Cardinal to defend the pass.
Mayfield nearly did not get the pass off. Edge rusher Markus Golden, who had two sacks Sunday, almost reached the quarterback’s ankles.
Instead, he threw the longest completed pass since the start of Next Gen Stats (2016).
Ultimately, it did not matter.
The Cardinals defense was smothering all game, allowing under 300 net yards and just 73 rushing. It picked up five sacks, forced three turnovers and stopped the Browns on three of four fourth-down tries.
Joseph's unit has not allowed more than 20 points in five of six games.
But the Hail Mary provided another lesson for this team, which is easier to learn from after a big win.