Monday, November 25, 2013
Patience rewarded with prolific offense
By Josh Weinfuss
TEMPE, Ariz. -- So this is what the Arizona Cardinals' offense is supposed to look like.
After eight months of studying the intricacies of Bruce Arians' scheme, the Cardinals are finally getting it. They understand the timing, the alignment and the philosophy behind it, and it's turned into four straight games of 27 or more points, including Sunday's 40-point showing against the Indianapolis Colts.
But through all the struggles, Arians has stayed patient -- but not quiet -- and waited for everything to click.
"We are getting to where we understand what we're trying to accomplish when we come out of the huddle every time," Bruce Arians said.
“I knew it was going to happen sooner or later,” Arians said. “I would have liked it to happen sooner. We are getting to where we understand what we're trying to accomplish when we come out of the huddle every time.
“We still make some misjudgements at times, but we're getting better.”
Arians admitted his patience wore thin in team meetings but he had to stay patient. He had no other choice.
It isn't an anomaly for a team to take a while to pick up on Arians' offense. The Colts started last season 2-3 before finishing 11-5. The Cardinals traded wins and losses to start 3-4.
It's a complicated scheme that players can only understand so much in practice. They needed the live reps to recognize what their coaches were setting out to accomplish. It wasn't easy, however. The struggles showed in games. During the first half of the season, it was common to see receivers confused about their position or to see them quickly reshuffling their alignment. Arizona had three illegal formation penalties and two illegal shift flags during the first five weeks. None since.
“When you come and install a brand new offense with brand new coaches, with new players in the offseason, there's no law or no rule that you're going to have it at this point or that you're going to have it this week,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “It's a work in progress and obviously you'd like to have it by midway through training camp or really be comfortable midway through the training camp.
“That's not realistic. It took us longer than we wanted but we're starting to really get that trust and that confidence in each other.”
As important as learning the physical part of the Cardinals' offense was, developing the trust between players made the offense tick.
The past four games is the result of the physical and mental parts converging.
“It takes some time to get cohesiveness and understanding what each guy does,” Arians said. “I think Carson, right now, can go out and throw certain routes to Larry (Fitzgerald) and Mike (Floyd) and Andre (Roberts) and now (tight end) Robbie (Housler), too, with a blindfold on.
“That's what you want. We want to be able to go out there and play with a blindfold on and know they're going to be at this exact spot when my back foot hits the ground, and then you're going to start clicking.”
And when this team started clicking, that meant third downs were being converted, drives were being extended, more points were being scored. If there's any question as to whether the offense is working, it shows in total yards. Arizona has topped 400 yards three times this season, including its past two games. For comparison, the Cards didn't have 400 yards in game from 2010 to 2012.
Rookie running back Andre Ellington has noticed fewer mental errors since the beginning of the season, however Arians said mental errors Sunday cost the Cardinals about 15 points.
Fitzgerald has watched the offense's maturation be spearheaded by Palmer, who spends extra time with his receivers on everything from their routes to their feet to their positioning when they catch the ball so they can get more yards up field.
“We were able to score 40 points (Sunday),” Fitzgerald said. “That shows that we're much more effective.”