TAMPA, Fla. -- The Arizona Cardinals grumbled about staying in Sarasota, Fla., for a week in between road games.
They wanted their normal routine -- sleeping in own their beds and seeing their families. They wanted home-cooked meals and their own cars. But boy were they glad Arizona coach Bruce Arians insisted on the layover in the Sunshine State. By time Sunday’s game against the Tampa Buccaneers kicked off, temperatures were at 84 degrees and according to the National Weather Service, the humidity was approaching 70 percent.
By the fourth quarter, the Cardinals likely would’ve been on their knees and dragging if they had returned to Arizona after last Sunday’s game in New Orleans.
“I’m just thankful we had the chance to stay here this week because we needed that extra energy at the end of the game,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “It was very humid and we had a chance to prepare in the humidity.
“Had we gone to New Orleans, back home and then back out here, I don’t know if we would have had that same energy there in the fourth quarter and in the third quarter because it was an absolutely dog fight.”
After practicing in the brutal humidity at IMG Academy, it wasn’t rare for about 10 players to be given IV bags to rehydrate. It proved fruitful when the stakes were their highest on Sunday.
The Cardinals’ offense awoke in the fourth quarter of a 13-10 win, and began moving the ball down 10-0. Their comeback began with a 42-yard field goal by Jay Feely with 11:16 left, right around the time the Florida was at its hottest.
For the next eight minutes, the offense lagged again but was given an IV of its own when Patrick Peterson hauled in the first of two interceptions in the fourth quarter. One play later, with 3:12 left, Palmer hit Larry Fitzgerald for a touchdown and the Cardinals tied the game at 10.
“We had no excuses not to (do well),” Arians said. “The week helped us. I thought we were fresher. The heat didn’t bother us and then we couldn’t get our defense off the field, with our offense not helping them in the first half but they hung in there and crated turnovers.
“They didn’t look that tired in the fourth quarter so I think all that worked out for us.”
Peterson’s second pick came with 93 seconds left. It set up the Jay Feely’s game-winning field goal and the Cardinals went back to a humidity-less Arizona at .500 grateful they had a chance to adapt.
“Definitely staying here on the East Coast helped with this heat cause it was hot out there but we were used to it so it wasn’t as bad,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “It’s the same heat we were in all week. I think that really helped us.
“I think that when you’re in the game like that, where at the end of the game you have to come back and find a way a way to win it, I think the (heat) would’ve normally bothered us.”