Arizona Cardinals: 2013 Week 4 ARI at TAM

Cards win, but offensive woes continue

September, 29, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- If the Arizona Cardinals could fast-forward their games to about the middle of the fourth quarter, their offense would look like the well-oiled unit it was touted to be.

It’s those first three quarters that are catching them.

Something was off from Arizona’s first play Sunday at Tampa Bay. Carson Palmer was sacked when Gerald McCoy was given a clear path to the quarterback. A play later, Rashard Mendenhall dropped a pass that’s usually a gimme. And on the Cardinals' next drive Mendenhall dropped a carry and fumbled the ball away.

The offense's woes picked up where they left off in New Orleans and continued until the Cardinals’ defense willed this team to victory, 13-10, late in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Before then, however, the defense was simply keeping the offense above water.

[+] EnlargeRashard Mendenhall
AP Photo/Reinhold MatayRashard Mendenhall and the Cardinals' offense were largely grounded until the second half.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted once in the first half, which ended with Arizona totaling just 87 yards of offense, three first downs and an 0-for-6 on third down. The Cardinals punted on six of their seven possessions in the first half. Mendenhall’s fumble was on the other possession.

“That was some ugly ball … that was bad ball in the first half all around,” said Fitzgerald, who was visibly frustrated, hanging his head after some plays. “Our defense kept fighting for us, kept the game manageable for us. We’re so thankful those guys played their tail off.”

Fitzgerald said he didn’t demand the ball at halftime or draw plays in the sand that could get him open. But when the Cardinals took possession for the first time in the second half, Fitzgerald was Palmer’s first target for a 9-yard pass. Then Palmer hit Michael Floyd for 14 yards and Fitzgerald again for 21. Arians began moving Fitzgerald around, and it helped the All-Pro get open. The offense was finally showing those flashes that offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin talked about last week.

But even then, the Cardinals’ offense figured out ways to stall. They began the third quarter with two impressive drives, both of which were curtailed after Palmer threw interceptions from the Tampa Bay 15- and 33-yard lines, respectively.

Palmer said part of the offense's struggles come from playing only four games together.

“You got a new system, a lot of new players in new spots,” Palmer said. “There is not a lot of continuity really anywhere.”

Yet Arians appears to accept the offense’s flaws as long as the Cardinals win. But would Patrick Peterson have been able to intercept a veteran quarterback twice, as he did against Bucs rookie Mike Glennon? Or would a seasoned signal-caller have been able to stretch a lead during the second and third quarters? They’re questions to ponder with Carolina’s Cam Newton coming to town.

That is why they play 60 minutes, Arians said, and as long as the Cardinals hang around long enough to win, he’s OK with some bumps in the road.

“Just win the fourth quarter and we’ll be all right,” Arians said.

“I thought the fourth quarter was some of the best football we’ve played all year. It was just a matter of doing it. It was there to be done.”

Locker Room Buzz: Arizona Cardinals

September, 29, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- Observed in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals’ 13-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pure exhaustion: One of the first things heard upon entering the Cardinals’ locker room was quarterback Carson Palmer asking a teammate if he was tired. Palmer then explained how exhausted he was. “It was a dogfight,” Palmer said during his news conference.

Stopping the run: The defensive line was extra curious about how many yards it allowed on the ground and began asking anyone who walked by. The answer was 80, the second most Arizona has allowed all season.

Waiting patiently: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted once in the first half, but he’s not the type of person to say anything about it. At halftime, he didn’t voice his displeasure with not being involved, nor did he suggest ways to make that happen. “I’m not a complainer,” Fitzgerald said.

D-Wash on the mind: Sunday was the Cardinals’ last game without linebacker Daryl Washington, who will be reinstated Monday after a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. And the Cards let everyone know how excited they were to have him back. Both head coach Bruce Arians and cornerback Patrick Peterson referenced Washington and how the defense will change with when he returns.

Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 13, Bucs 10

September, 29, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals13-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What it means: The Cardinals are starting to look like they're in real trouble offensively. Before the fourth quarter Sunday, they went without a touchdown for six consecutive quarters because of an inability to finish deep inside opponents' territory. But there are larger issues, such as the play calling. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted once in the first half. When he finally was, the offense started moving, only to stall out thanks to two interceptions by quarterback Carson Palmer. The inability to convert on third down continued, which prevented Arizona from sustaining drives. The Cards had the ball for just 10 minutes, 23 seconds in the first half.

Stock watch: No one player on the Cardinals’ defense played well enough to warrant being singled out, and too many played poorly. Patrick Peterson saved the day for Arizona with an interception late in the fourth that allowed the Cards to tie the game, then eventually go ahead for good. The defense kept the Cards in the game despite the circumstances. They not only came in without four starters but also lost Darnell Dockett and Jasper Brinkley during the game to groin injuries.

Picked off: Two of the Cardinals’ best opportunities to score were derailed by interceptions by Palmer. And both display his continued penchant for throwing short or wide. The first was with the Cards lined up at the Bucs' 15, Palmer was a few feet short of an open Michael Floyd. On the second, Palmer went a tad wide to Fitzgerald and was picked off by Darrelle Revis. Two passes that could’ve been completed had Palmer’s accuracy been a little tighter.

Mental mishaps: Maybe the Cardinals were still stuck in vacation mode, but some of their on-the-field decisions Sunday raised a few eyebrows. Palmer was flagged for an intentional grounding because he threw a pass into the feet of an offensive lineman instead of holding it during a sack. And Dockett’s taunting and horse-collar penalties helped the Bucs’ field position.

What's next: The Cardinals return home after a 1-1 road trip to host the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. MT Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.