Cardinals' offense saves defense

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
11:15
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It got repetitive last season.

The defense would always be there, following behind the offense with a broom and dustpan cleaning up their weekly mess. That clearly didn't work out well, especially if the defense also had a bad game. Just look at Seattle, when the Seahawks took it to the Cards, 58-0.

This year, it's different for the Arizona Cardinals. The offense is more than capable of not just holding their own but putting the defense on its back when necessary, as was the case Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsIn the Cards' OT win at Tennessee, Carson Palmer threw for 20 completions, 231 yards and one TD.
Arizona's pass rush was stagnant and the secondary was working through communication issues that accompany a new rotation. All the while, after recovering from a slow start, the offense was steady and effective, scoring 30 points in the Cardinals' 37-34 overtime win. The other seven came on an interception return by Antoine Cason.

"The defense bailed us out before and this week we got the opportunity to save them," left guard Daryn Colledge said. "It's going to take everybody on this team to win the games we need to."

But it doesn't always happen that way.

The difference this season is the Cardinals are making plays when they need them most, and on Sunday they didn't come in chunks. Quarterback Carson Palmer threaded two passes to running back Andre Ellington that took advantage of a wrinkle in the passing game. He hit Ellington deep for 26 yards in the first quarter and then in the third for 38 yards.

While Palmer went to Larry Fitzgerald six times throughout the game for 49 yards, two passes in the fourth quarter kept a drive going that eventually put the Cardinals up by 10. All night, the offense was slow and steady, not turning the ball over, which has been an Achilles' heel for them all season.

And it saved Arizona.

"They did a good job with that," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "They had our back this game, which we expect that. But, I think defensively we have to do a better job starting a game fast."

In a reversal of roles, the defense let the Titans back in it in the fourth quarter after it went into a prevent defense. And it almost prevented the Cardinals from winning.

Arians said Todd Bowles went through every play on his play list trying to find something that would work. But the offense, which also went conservative at Arians' direction because of the Cards' penchant for turning the ball over, watched from the sideline helpless.

Then, ironically, thanks to Cason's second interception, the offense moved easily on Tennessee's defense for a winning field goal in overtime.

"Good to get a win like this," Palmer said. "Last couple weeks we've kinda been cruising through the last quarter or so with big leads. It's good to get one in overtime when there's a little more pressure.

"We might have got a little too comfortable at the end of this one, but the important thing was defensively we stepped up and made the play."

The defense might be saying the same thing about the offense.

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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