When Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer marched the Cardinals 93 yards on their opening drive Saturday in Minnesota, it was déjà vu all over again. For the second straight week, the offense looked smooth and consistent, except Palmer wasn't perfect on that first drive, going 3-for-6. But the offense ate up yards in a hurry, taking just 3 minutes, 26 seconds to score.
The rest of Saturday's game, however, wasn't a repeat of Week 1 against Houston. The defense struggled against Minnesota's pass rush and the second- and third-team offenses didn't tick at the rate Cardinals coach Bruce Arians would've hoped.
Here are five things we learned from Arizona's 30-28 loss to Minnesota on Saturday:
Tight ends are still one of the Cardinals' defensive vices. Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph caught four of his five targets for 89 yards and a touchdown. On his touchdown, Rudolph sliced through the Cards' secondary basically untouched for 51 yards. He would've scored on the drive before when he beat rookie safety Deone Bucannon in the back right corner of the end zone but the pass went off Rudolph's hands. That type of play was what the Cardinals were hoping to avoid by drafting Bucannon. Granted, it's his second NFL game. At 6-foot-6 and 259 pounds, Rudolph is the size of tight ends Bucannon will be facing all season.
Special teams will be working overtime this week because of four penalties, three of which will land the offenders on the mental error list. The Cardinals had two offside penalties on kickoffs, one of which was by Bucannon that extended a Minnesota return to its 44. On an extra point in the second quarter, Frostee Rucker was flagged for a false start. And in the first quarter, the Cardinals were flagged for an illegal block above the waist.
Alex Okafor is stronger than the he was in 2013, when he played five snaps in less than three games. He returned from a biceps injury bigger and stronger, and it showed in the second quarter Saturday when Vikings running back Matt Asiata took a handoff and tried to bounce around the right side. Okafor shed a block by Rhett Ellison and brought Asiata down in one fluid motion. Okafor's been showing enough during camp to be part of the outside linebacker rotation once the season begins.
While Feely needs to be more consistent on his kickoffs to win the job, special teams failed to make him look as good as they made Catanzaro look with their return coverage. All but one of Feely's kicks were returned at least 25 yards. Some of that was due to poor coverage and missed tackles, and some was due to low kicks by Feely -- one of Arians' points of emphasis. It's the preseason so coaches want to see what their returners and blockers can do, which is why the Vikings returned all five of Feely's kicks, including the two that were caught 4 yards deep in the end zone and the one that was fielded 8 yards deep. In the end, however, Feely's kicks need to be higher to allow the coverage to get down field.
Jaron Brown is doing everything he needs to make the 53-man roster. When he owns the two biggest plays for the Cardinals in a game, Brown is doing something right. Brown had a 51-yard catch and run and then a 35-yard catch.