NFL Nation: Carson Palmer

Three things we learned at combine: Bears

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
6:00
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace met Wednesday with the media at the NFL combine, and several other interview sessions commenced Thursday involving general managers and head coaches around the league. Here’s what we’ve learned about the Chicago Bears:

Arians
Arians
Revisiting Bruce Arians: In explaining that quarterback Carson Palmer was nearly a month ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, Arians knocked on the lectern here at Lucas Oil Stadium and said, “Don’t jinx me, baby.”

Engaging, detailed and surprisingly open about Arizona’s needs in free agency and the draft, Arians wowed the crowd in Indianapolis more than any other coach or general manager conducting sessions with the media, which begs the question: How did former general manager Phil Emery spend several hours with him in an interview setting and come away thinking he needed to hire Marc Trestman?

We can’t say with any real certainty that Arians would have been more successful than Trestman. But Emery’s decision to go with the latter over the former after firing Lovie Smith coming off a 10-6 season will always register as one of moves that ultimately doomed him in Chicago.

Some teams would love Chicago’s QB problem: Seeing most of the league’s 32 teams represented at the combine in interviews with general managers and head coaches helps to put Chicago’s issues with Jay Cutler into proper perspective.

At Tampa Bay, Lovie Smith recently released Josh McCown and the Buccaneers currently have only one quarterback on the roster in Mike Glennon as they eye the possibility of adding Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota with the No. 1 pick. “If you have to be in the position [holding the No. 1 pick], you’re always looking for a franchise quarterback,” Smith said. New Buffalo coach Rex Ryan, meanwhile, praised EJ Manuel despite the Bills bringing in McCown for a visit. “This league’s proven when you’ve got a great quarterback, it’s rare that you don’t go to the playoffs,” Ryan said.

Quarterback issues in Cleveland led up to Browns general manager Ray Farmer on Thursday apologizing for his involvement in the texting scandal that could lead to a suspension and the team possibly losing a draft pick as well as receiving a fine.

So if you’re thinking the Bears have it bad at the quarterback position, think again. Most of the teams referenced above would love to have Cutler.

Willie Young, Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston will be LBs: At least, that’s where the Bears plan to play the defensive ends initially in the new 3-4 scheme. Bears coach John Fox was asked specifically whether Young and Allen were now linebackers.

“We’ll line them both up there. What they become is up to them,” Fox said. “In Willie’s case, he’s coming off an Achilles surgery. You know, same thing with Lamarr Houston coming off an ACL. You know, I had two guys a year ago, Chris Harris and Von Miller coming off ACLs, and they both had Pro Bowl seasons. So that’s all part of the process, you know, getting guys healthy medically and getting them ready to play. We’re working on that as we speak daily.”

Young, Allen and Houston combined in 2014 for 16.5 sacks. Young led the way with a team-high 10 sacks.
While his combine news conference was dominated by Larry Fitzgerald's new two-year contract, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said the man throwing to Fitzgerald may be back sooner than expected.

Keim said at the combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday that quarterback Carson Palmer could return from ACL surgery as soon as this spring.

“We anticipate that not only is Carson ahead of schedule, we think there’s a good chance he could potentially be ready for OTAs even,” Keim said.

Palmer expressed a similar sentiment to ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder on Tuesday, saying he’ll “definitely” be prepared for training camp. But that won’t keep Keim and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians from evaluating this year’s crop of 15 quarterbacks.

Outside of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, who are widely projected to go first and second, in any order, in this year’s draft, the quarterback crop isn’t as deep as in past years.

“We’re always going to evaluate quarterbacks in the draft,” Keim said. “That is a position that we have talked over and over about -- supply and demand. When you get your starting quarterback injured, and then you go through your second quarterback … we have talked a lot about there’s not 32 good ones, let alone to go to 64 to play with your backup, to play with your third-string quarterback.

“So, it was a unique situation this year.”
TEMPE, Ariz. – Carson Palmer's recovery from ACL surgery appears to be going smoothly.

Palmer told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder that he’s “feeling great” more than three months after suffering the injury in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams.

Palmer also told Werder that he expects to be cleared for on-field work and running in the next few weeks. The 35-year-old feels he’ll be ready to participate in minicamp and said he’ll “definitely” be prepared for training camp.

But that’s only if the Cardinals will allow Palmer to take the field for minicamp and OTAs.

Palmer missed 10 games last season – three for a nerve injury in his right throwing shoulder and seven games after his ACL injury. Palmer suffered the knee injury just two days after signing three-year extension worth $50 million extension.
PHOENIX -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is two months removed from surgery to repair his left ACL and is already “so far” ahead of schedule, coach Bruce Arians said.

Palmer
Arians said on SiriusXM NFL Radio from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, that Palmer could return to the field by spring.

“He’s hoping to be back for the mandatory minicamp,” Arians said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t put it past him to be to be out there in some of the OTAs.”

A typical recovery from an ACL surgery can take anywhere from six to nine months, depending on a few factors including age and severity of the injury. Palmer was initially expected to return in June or July.

Arians also said backup quarterback Drew Stanton “should be ready to go” after a right knee injury caused him to miss the last three games of the season, including Arizona’s wild card loss.
 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With every incomplete pass, with every interception, with every empty run, the minutes ticked away, bringing the Arizona Cardinals closer to next season.

And next season couldn’t come soon enough.

The Cardinals entered Saturday’s wild-card game against the Carolina Panthers with their third-string quarterback, two former practice-squad running backs and a former college basketball player turned tight end on offense.

And it showed.

[+] EnlargeRyan Lindley
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonRyan Lindley and the Cardinals had just 13 total yards in the second half against Carolina.
 The Cardinals walked out of the rain at Bank of America Stadium with the fewest offensive yards (78) in NFL postseason history and a 27-16 loss to the Panthers. Even though -- in a weird twist of fate only the playoff gods could come up with -- quarterback Ryan Lindley, on a pass to Darren Fells, and running back Marion Grice, who both started the year on San Diego’s practice squad, scored both of Arizona’s touchdowns in the first half.

The misfits led Arizona to a 14-13 lead at the intermission. In the end, however, Lindley showed he wasn’t Carson Palmer, and neither Grice nor Kerwynn Williams, another practice-squad running back, were Andre Ellington. The Cardinals gained 13 yards in the second half.

Yet, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he didn’t believe his team ran out of players.

“We have to make game plans to win games and ask players to do things we think they are capable of doing to win games,” Arians said. “I never buy into injuries losing games.”

But they did. And they lost a season.

The Cardinals started 9-1, winning a game after Palmer was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. But they limped to the finish at 2-4 and hobbled into the playoffs. The hot start, however, got them to the wild-card round Saturday afternoon.

And those few hours, under a bit of rain and a misting fog, could be the best thing to happen to this team when they get their injured teammates back.

“Everyone [will] remember the feeling, right now, to make it and come up short in the first game,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “It’s tough. Especially, you’re in here and hear hooting and hollering outside.

“Just feels like a bunch of salt in the wound. It’s tough. I think if we know what we need to do and come back strong and have that experience to be able to make that run and not fall short.”

Veldheer said it didn’t matter who started in Palmer’s place, losing him was tough.

Arizona has eight players on injured reserve, including it starting quarterback, tailback, defensive end, defensive tackle and punter. There’s also a tight end (Troy Niklas), whose role in the offense would have grown, and a defensive tackle (Ed Stinson) who would be Darnell Dockett’s replacement if he’s not brought back next year.

But the offseason will be among the most critical in the franchise’s history.

A decision will be made on Larry Fitzgerald’s future. He is due an $8 million roster bonus in March and carries a $23.5 million cap hit next season. Dockett’s future will also be decided because the 33-year-old will be earning $6.8 million with a $9.8 million cap number. Arizona will also await the future of suspended linebacker Daryl Washington, who could receive another four- to six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy in 2013.

Give Arians and general manager Steve Keim another draft to continue to mold the roster and stock the positions they need to win, and the playoffs -- and another 9-1 start or better -- will be expected.

“We definitely have a lot to build on,” Fitzgerald said. “We were decimated by injuries this year, losing a lot of our key components to make our team go, and we didn’t ever make that an excuse.

“But, obviously, it’d have been great to have those guys on our team. And coming out to the offseason, we’re going to be able to get some guys healthy and be able to hopefully make a good run again next year.”
Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley Getty ImagesRyan Lindley, right, will start his third game after the Cardinals lost Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to injuries.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- What Bruce Arians has done this season -- playing four quarterbacks and making it to the playoffs -- has been impressive, daunting and worthy of his second coach of the year award in three seasons.

It isn’t new to the Arizona Cardinals' head coach. But it’s not exactly old hat, either.

After years of working with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, Arians has been forced to play four different quarterbacks in one season twice in the past few seasons.

The other time was in 2010, when he was the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The circumstances this season have been different, though.

The Steelers, coming off a 9-7 season, headed into 2010 knowing Roethlisberger would be suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. (His ban was later reduced to four games.) Arians spent training camp that year pulling double duty. He was preparing Roethlisberger for the long haul while also getting Byron Leftwich ready to be the starter in Roethlisberger’s absence. The two split first-team reps while Dennis Dixon, then a third-year quarterback out of Oregon, was the third-stringer.

Veteran Charlie Batch was also in camp but wasn't getting many reps. Batch had been a Steeler since 2002, watching Arians move from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator. He knew Arians’ offense as well as anyone else on the roster, including Roethlisberger. Batch wanted a chance to show he was worthy of being considered for a roster spot.

“I kind of took it as, maybe since I know the offense, he has enough confidence in me. If something were to happen, I don’t need the reps,” Batch remembered. “I’m like, I need the reps to make sure I have an opportunity to make the team.”

He was given six reps in the Steelers’ first preseason game, didn’t play in the second and then played in the final 10 minutes of the all-important third preseason game, throwing a 7-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown with 7:11 left. Batch thought that touchdown was his last of the preseason -- that Leftwich, Roethlisberger’s replacement, would get the majority of reps in the preseason finale, followed by Dixon, his backup.

That plan changed early in the second quarter in the last preseason game when Leftwich sprained his left knee and left the game. With that, Dixon became the Steelers’ starter, and Batch, who had been the fourth-string quarterback all training camp, became the backup. Dixon finished the drive on which Leftwich got hurt, and Batch took over and finished the game.

[+] EnlargeBruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene PuskarBruce Arians had to work with four quarterbacks in the starting lineup as offensive coordinator of the Steelers during their Super Bowl season in 2010.
Dixon’s starting role lasted about two weeks. At the beginning of the second quarter against Tennessee in Week 2, Dixon injured his left knee and left the game, sending Batch into the game without time to warm up, he remembered, and into the starting lineup for the next two games.

He went 2-1 before handing the Steelers back to Roethlisberger, who took them to the Super Bowl, which they lost to Green Bay.

When Batch took over, the offense had not changed much from when Roethlisberger was the starter.

“One thing about Bruce is the fact that what you get in training camp is the same thing you’re going to see in the course of a game,” Batch said. “He’s going to be aggressive in his play calling. You have to know the system. If he doesn’t trust that you know the system, you won’t be around.”

But if Arians does trust a quarterback, he’ll turn to him in a time of need. And there have been plenty of those in Arizona this season.

This season's Cardinals lost Palmer for three games after he suffered a nerve injury in his right shoulder during Week 1. He returned in Week 6, only to tear his ACL in Week 10. Drew Stanton, who was Palmer's backup, went down with a knee injury in Week 15.

Enter Ryan Lindley, who started the last two games of the regular season and will start Saturday’s wild-card game at Carolina. Thrown into the mix was rookie Logan Thomas, who played the final quarter and a half in Week 5 at Denver when Stanton suffered a concussion.

“The biggest thing with that situation is kind of the same thing here,” said Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who was an offensive assistant in Pittsburgh in 2010. “BA doesn’t change his philosophy. He wants to run it some, and he’s going to put the ball down the field. I think the biggest thing there, we had a great defense, kind of like we have here. Guys just bought into what we were doing. Everybody believed in the defense.

“That was a magical season because when you get situations like that, you got to have some things go your way. We’ve had that this season.”

The two major differences between 2010 and 2014? Pittsburgh got its starter back for the bulk of the season (Arizona did not), and Pittsburgh’s injuries all happened in the beginning of the season and Roethlisberger returned in Week 5.

“It’s sort of the same mindset here: It was just, we don’t care,” said Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote, who played for Pittsburgh from 2002 to 2008 and then from 2010 to '13. “With Drew, when he came in and went to New York and won, and we saw him beat San Francisco, we didn’t mind.

“With Lindley, we know he can throw the ball.”

Getting his backup quarterbacks ready to play has been as simple as Arians just keeping them prepared, Batch said. During practice, Arians has been known to begin quizzing his quarterbacks, asking them to recite progressions and identify protections.

With the exception of Thomas, whom Arians named the starter before he changed his mind a couple of days later leading into Week 17, Arizona’s backups have been ready to take the field at a moment’s notice.

“It’s been crazy,” Lindley said. “There is no way to think of it, just to be thankful, not only with this game but with the opportunity I find myself in right now. It’s such a blessing from God. Starting off, not really knowing how much longer I get to be in the National Football League in September, to be honest. It’s been a journey, but I’m excited to be here.

“Going through these valleys and these peaks is what makes you really appreciate not only life but the game itself.”

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Lindley is in one of those unique positions that can define a career.

If he leads the Arizona Cardinals to a win in their wild-card game Saturday against the Carolina Panthers, the third-year quarterback who has a 1-5 career record as a starter will join a rare, but not-so-distinguished club: He would become the third quarterback since the NFL merger in 1970 to win a playoff game with one or fewer regular-season wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think it would be a great story, obviously, if they could win a playoff game with their third-team quarterback,” said ESPN “Monday Night Football” commentator Jon Gruden, who will be calling Saturday’s game in Charlotte, N.C.

Cue the dramatic music.

A victory would put Lindley in football lore. It would allow him to write a storybook ending to a season that started with him on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.

He could also convince the Cardinals to write a check.

If Lindley leads Arizona to a win Saturday, the Cardinals could have a backup quarterback controversy. Drew Stanton has been more than effective as Arizona’s replacement for Carson Palmer this season, going 5-3 before his own knee injury caused him to miss the last two regular-season games and Saturday's playoff game.

But with $3.2 million scheduled to come Stanton’s way in 2015, is he worth it as a backup? Especially because Lindley has shown marked signs of improvement the last three weeks?

Stanton is due a $500,000 roster bonus and a $250,000 workout bonus on top of his $2.45 million base salary.

Lindley made $234,706 for seven weeks of regular-season work, which would have equaled $570,000 for the entire season. That’s an increase from the $480,000 he earned in 2013 as the third-string quarterback who didn’t get a snap.

Trading or cutting Stanton at the end of training camp would cost Arizona just about $750,000 and would save Arizona $3.2 million against the cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

With Palmer scheduled to earn $10.5 million next season, will a $3 million backup be worth it?

Not if Lindley wins Saturday and gives Arizona a date with either Seattle or Green Bay in the divisional round. The vitriol toward Lindley when he was named the starter before Arizona’s Week 16 game against Seattle came from all directions. It continued after a dismal performance against the Seahawks -- the No. 1-ranked defense in the league -- but subsided after he played the best half of his career against the 49ers.

There are areas in which Lindley needs to improve, such as his decision-making and deep passes, but that comes with experience and reps. He showed off his arm strength and touch last Sunday against San Francisco. His poise has also been lauded all week.

But if he beats the Panthers, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians might want to take a step back and evaluate his quarterback room aside from Palmer. Stanton will be 31 by Week 1 next season. Lindley will be 26 and Logan Thomas will be 24.

As much as he’s progressed in a few weeks getting the first-team reps, the upside is with Lindley.

During Stanton’s second stint, the offense slowed to a crawl after he threw two touchdowns in the first quarter against Detroit in Week 11. He didn’t throw another for the next 10 quarters. With Lindley’s NFL-record streak of passes without a touchdown over, it’s not weighing on him anymore.

Neither Lindley nor Stanton were effective against Seattle, as was to be expected. But Lindley and the offense showed enough progress against the Niners to earn some confidence. Put Lindley against the defenses Stanton faced against New York and San Francisco (in the first meeting) and he'd win as well.

If Lindley wins Saturday and puts a playoff victory on his resume, there should be no question about his status heading into the offseason.
Carson PalmerTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsCoach Bruce Arians hopes to have Carson Palmer back from his second torn ACL by July 1.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The recovery and rehabilitation Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer remembers after tearing his ACL in 2006 isn't the same as what he's about to embark on for the next eight or nine months.

Orthopedic philosophies and rehab techniques have changed in the past eight years, but the toughest part of Palmer's process, experts say, may be dealing with a second ACL injury at age 34.

“There's no question that our ability to recondition after an ACL reconstruction will change as we get older,” said Brian Cole, team physician for the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.

Recovery, Cole said, is inversely related to age. But since Palmer's first ACL injury, doctors have become more aggressive during rehab to get athletes back on the field or court, he added. That's been obvious with Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu's return and defensive end Darnell Dockett's ahead-of-schedule recovery.

ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell said success and return-to-activity rates for a second ACL are still high but it may take longer than the typical eight months to get back. She said Palmer may need as much as nine to 12 months to be cleared for everything. Palmer hopes to be back by organized team activities but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said July 1 may be more realistic -- putting his recovery at less than eight months.

Palmer's road back to the field began Tuesday, when he had surgery to repair the ACL using his patellar tendon. Cole said 75 to 85 percent of team physicians opt to use patellar tendons if they're sturdy enough. In 2006, Palmer's ACL was replaced with a cadaver ligament.

By using a patellar tendon, Palmer will likely face a more strenuous recovery early in the process, Bell said. One significant part of his rehab will be getting his kneecap moving as soon after surgery as possible so he doesn't develop scar tissue and “unusual stiffness” around the kneecap.

“It's a strong graft,” she said. “That will be something that will be different for him because he wasn't concerned with that when he did the other type of graft before. But other than that, it's probably more straightforward for him.”

While he's trying to get his range of motion back, Palmer will be looking at a series of mental hurdles, said former Carolina Panthers and New York Giants receiver Domenik Hixon, who tore his right ACL twice within 14 months.

Soon after the second injury, which he suffered in September 2011, Hixon said he began to doubt whether he was going to get another chance to play. He also was worried about defenders around his knees and going across the middle.

But recovering from the second surgery was easier than the first, he said.

“The unknown is gone, you've done it once before, you know what's expected,” Hixon said. “I knew the timetable where I'm supposed to be at and why they were measuring certain things and you're not going into it blind.

“I think that helped out a lot from the mental aspect.”

One significant change in rehab philosophy since 2006 is not using a clock to determine when an athlete will return to action, Cole said.

Since 1998, there have been 1,254 NFL players with knee-related injuries that were placed on injured reserve, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of those, 249 were identified to have ACL injuries. And just nine injured -- before Palmer -- the same one at least twice.

Palmer's tearing the same ACL -- or a revision, as it's called in the medical community -- almost nine years after the first tear is rare, Cole said. Retear rates range between 2 to 7 percent depending on the sport and graft, Cole said.

“This is a little unusual in that it's a later failure,” Cole said. “In some respects you can argue this is an entirely new injury.”

His surgery Tuesday went “great” and “very, very small cartilage” was repaired, Arians said. Cole said retorn ACLs tend to have more cartilage damage than initial injuries.

Since the last time Palmer had his ACL replaced, doctors have an increased understanding of tunnel placement in the knee because, Cole said, they've become more educated in the “normal anatomy” of a knee with an original ACL.

With Day 1 of Palmer's recovery over, he already has benefited from the improvements and advancements of philosophy. He's on the verge of finding out how different his recovery and rehabilitation will be eight years after his first ACL.

“I'm mentally prepared,” Palmer said last week. “I'm mentally strong and I'm going to grind this thing out. I know the mindset you need to take, and that's the one-day-at-a-time thing, and it's baby steps and it's doing calf raises and small, little incremental movements and all these little tedious things that you don't feel like are doing anything but you have to do them.

“But you have to do what they tell you to do.”

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Soon after Arizona Cardinals backup Drew Stanton scrambled for four yards on a second down in the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, coach Bruce Arians had some choice words for him.

The message was clear, however he chose to relay it: Slide. Arizona couldn't afford for Stanton to get hurt, and not just because starting quarterback Carson Palmer was already out of the game with what ended up being a season-ending knee injury and third-string Logan Thomas was inactive. With Palmer out of the equation for the rest of the season, the Cardinals are left with two quarterbacks on the roster.

Thomas
One is a rookie.

Asked Monday, after announcing Palmer's injury, if Arizona will sign a third quarterback, Arians was non-committal.

"We're going to examine those possibilities, yeah," he said.

When Arizona was in a similar position earlier this season after Palmer went down with an axillary nerve contusion in his right shoulder, the Cardinals signed Dennis Dixon for a week.

But with Palmer out for the rest of the season, the Cardinals will have to look at finding a third-string quarterback for the long haul. Dixon is an option again, maybe the Cardinals' best choice at this point in the season. He played for Arians in Pittsburgh from 2008-11, and understands the offense as well as anyone.

Another choice would be former Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley, who spent all of 2013 and the 2014 offseason with the Cards until being cut in August.

With seven games left, home-field advantage on the line and the NFC West heating up, those are the Cardinals' two best options at this point. Their familiarity with Arians' offense can help in the time of a crisis -- but if Arizona is down to their third-string quarterback at any point from here on out, crisis may be an understatement.

Another reason Lindley or Dixon are Arians' best choices is because they can continue to mentor Thomas with their knowledge of the scheme. And since he's worked with both of them, Thomas is familiar and comfortable leaning on them for advice.

Arizona can't afford to keep just two quarterbacks on its roster, especially with how much Stanton likes to run.

And with NFC North leading Detroit coming to town Sunday, the Cardinals need to solidify their quarterback corps, and Dixon or Lindley are the best fits.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals are still waiting to find out the severity of Carson Palmer's knee injury.

General manager Steve Keim said during his weekly Monday morning appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Palmer will “go through a number of tests” Monday morning.

“We should have some more information at a later time today,” Keim said.

Palmer went down with about 11:21 left in the fourth quarter of Arizona’s 31-14 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday with what’s officially labeled as a left knee injury. There have been reports that he tore his left ACL, the same knee he injured in 2006.

After the game, coach Bruce Arians said the team may not know more about Palmer’s injury until Tuesday.

Arians meets with the media at 2:15 p.m. Monday.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – When Carson Palmer went down early in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s 31-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals didn’t have time to ponder the possibility of losing their quarterback.

They had a game to finish.

“In the game, you don’t have time to blink,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “I think coming in here [to the locker room] after the game, it sinks in a little more. Obviously, it’s a blow right when it happens, but the game moves so fast, you need to keep focused.

“It’s tough, as an offensive lineman it kinda makes you a little sick to your stomach when that stuff happens. Got a big win, but it doesn’t feel good when that kinda stuff happens. It’s like go to war, but you lose a brother.”

Coach Bruce Arians went to check on Palmer while he was on the turf, something Arians doesn’t do often. He said two weeks ago, after Patrick Peterson lay motionless for a few minutes after getting knocked out for a moment against Philadelphia, that it takes a serious injury for him to leave the sideline.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriWith an awkward twist to his left knee, Carson Palmer was out. But the Cardinals responded well Sunday against the Rams.
That’s when the potential impact of Palmer’s injury began to set in at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“Anytime your quarterback goes down and he gets hit like that, you think it’s going to be serious,” Arians said. “I wanted to go out and just see. It’s always different for your quarterback than it is for anybody else.

“It’s always next man up, but for me it’s a little bit different.”

Watching Palmer get helped off the field caused receiver Larry Fitzgerald to pause for a moment.

“Yeah, we’re human,” he said. “You see a guy, your captain on offense, one of your big leaders on the team, you see him lying down on the ground. We’re human. Long before Carson’s our quarterback, he’s our friend.

“You know his kids; you know his wife. Those types of things, you think about. You want him to be able to play and perform, to play with his kids every day. We understand the risks of playing football. Those things do come to mind, but then you look up there on the clock and you look at your teammates. You understand that we’re on a journey together and there’s going to be bumps on the road and you have to weather through those rough times.”

When Drew Stanton took over on Arizona’s next drive, he got in the huddle and told his charges what was next on their agenda: to score. Four plays later, they did.

“I got in there and said, ‘We need to go down there and get a touchdown. There’s no reason why we can’t,’” Stanton said.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson said the defense got angry after Palmer's injury.

“After Carson went down, obviously it was a non-contact injury, but after he went down, we just wanted to win this ballgame that much more and go out there and try to tee off on their quarterback as well,” Peterson said.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The fourth quarter has become more than just the final 15 minutes of the game to the Arizona Cardinals.

It’s turned into the real difference between winning and losing. Heading into their ninth game, the Cardinals have scored 122 points through three quarters. But so have their opponents.

Palmer
Remember the cliché used by youth coaches that the game is 0-0 at halftime or the end of the third quarter? It’s become a reality for the Cardinals. They have outscored opponents 70-34 in the fourth quarter this season, largely because of quarterback Carson Palmer. And their plus-36 point margin in the fourth is the best in the NFC and trails only Kansas City’s plus-37 for the highest in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information,

Palmer is second in the NFL in fourth-quarter total QBR (86.1) and fourth-quarter touchdown percentage (8.7), according to ESPN Stats & Information. In his five games this season, he’s one of four qualifying quarterbacks without a fourth-quarter interception. The other three are Buffalo’s Kyle Orton, Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon and Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater.

In the fourth, Palmer is completing a higher percentage of his passes than the previous three quarters (65.2 vs. 60.6), and is averaging more yards per attempt (7.65 vs. 7.27). He’s thrown four touchdowns in the final quarter this season, compared to seven combined in the first three.

"We’ve been a second-half team since I’ve been here, as long as I can remember being a Cardinal," Palmer said. "We were a second-half team last year. We were really a second-half-of-a-season team last year, obviously, but we’ve been really good in the second half.

"And it’s good and bad. It’s good because that’s when games are won, but it’s bad because you leave teams hanging in the first half when you don’t go out and execute the way you expect to. From that standpoint, there are a lot of things we can clean up. We started hot and started fast as the season started, but we haven’t started games fast, and that’s something we all are looking to improve."

Palmer gets some help in the fourth, however.

Arizona’s defense looks like a different unit during the final 15 minutes:

.

Six of the Cardinals’ 12 interceptions, three of their eight sacks and three of their four fumble recoveries have come in the final quarter. Their plus-8 turnover margin is the final quarter is the best in the NFL.

In the fourth quarter Sunday in Dallas, Arizona held the Cowboys on fourth-and-1 with 9:41 left in the game, giving the ball back to the offense, which then extended a 14-10 lead to 21-10. It added another touchdown later in the game.

"That’s the way it’s been all year," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "We kind of do some things, and I’ll take some shots sometimes that if we don’t hit, they’re going to put us behind the chains. We’ve been doing a better job of still making first downs after those, but we have to do a better job."
CardinalsRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesAndre Ellington and the Arizona Cardinals keep on finding ways to win.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Arizona Cardinals can't get by like this all season.

Sure, it's worked thus far. They are 7-1, lead the NFC West and sit atop their conference. But how long can the Cardinals' offense go through stretches like it did throughout the third quarter and into the fourth Sunday without it coming back to bite them? How long can the offense rely on the defense to have its back?

The Cardinals shot themselves in the foot on their first three drives of the second half before the defense made a game-changing stop and handed the offense the ball with the a breakout drive just begging to be finished.

Arizona's first drive of the third quarter ended with a punt three yards behind where it began. On the Cardinals' next drive, they gained 32 yards before punting. And their first drive of the fourth quarter started and ended at its own 19.

Each drive was highlighted by a self-inflicted would:
To Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, any big play in the third quarter started to feel like it was brought back by a penalty.

"It was a getting a little frustrating but our defense hung in there really, really well especially after the one bad field position that they got the ball up around the 45," he said.

"That's just the way our defense has played all year and our offense has hung in there and ‘boom,' they'll make the plays."

That's what made Arizona's first touchdown drive in the fourth impressive. When the Cardinals needed a score, the offense came through. Finally.

It was given the ball back by the defense, which stopped Dallas running back DeMarco Murray on fourth-and-1, at its own 35. Then Arizona took nine plays to go 65 yards in 3:36 to put the Cardinals up 21-10 and send the Cowboys grasping for a win at AT&T Stadium.

"It was big," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "Anytime you get a chance to have a sudden change in possession like that and the defense has a big stand, we have to answer with some power, as well offensively.

"We were able to do that and I think that really kinda swung the pendulum in terms of the game and the momentum."

Arizona flipped the field on one play that drive. After seeing the safety bite on the inside seam, Palmer hit Ted Ginn on the outside seam for a 27-yard gain along the Cardinals sideline. Ginn, who had four catches this season coming into Sunday, barely kept his feet in bounds.

Watching from the sideline, Arians thought Palmer was going to target John Brown. But Ginn made the catch and Arizona hurried to the line of scrimmage to avoid a replay and Dallas got caught with 12 men on the field after Ellington broke off a 17-yard run.

Ellington said frustration never crept onto the field because, for the second straight week, the Cards found ways to make a big play after the offense stalled.

After the defense stopped Murray, Arians watched his offense jog onto the field. Palmer said this team believes there's nothing too big for it overcome. It showed on that drive.

"They walked out there with a purpose," Arians said. "It wasn't a time to sit back and run the ball. We had to continue to attack and got ourselves in some good, favorable plays and Carson made some good decisions."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald had already done his part.

By the time Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer gave rookie receiver John Brown a secret signal on third-and-5 late in the fourth quarter that led to the winning touchdown, Fitzgerald had already had the third-best receiving game of his career.

With a running game that yielded only two plays of 10 yards or longer, Palmer turned to the pass to get Arizona by the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20.

"We were a little stagnant offensively," Fitzgerald said. "Not just in the second half but throughout the course of the first half.

"I've been saying this for a couple weeks, but we have to do a better job."

Andre Ellington, who had 24 carries last week, had 23 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown on Sunday as Arizona's lone rusher.

Fitzgerald finished with 160 yards on seven receptions, which included an 80-yard touchdown catch and run that proved the 31-year-old isn't out of gas just yet.

"I haven't lost anything," Fitzgerald said. "That's all I'm saying. No, I haven't lost anything."

The play was sprung by a Ted Ginn block that was a tick away from being a flagged as a pick. Fitzgerald made the catch, cut back to his right and took off. As he was sprinting down the right side of the field toward a 14-7 lead, he saw he was pulling away from Eagles defensive backs when he looked up at the videoboard.

"It was nice and clear," Fitzgerald said. "So, I was able to see where the guys were behind me and not look back."

Fitzgerald and Brown showed how dynamic Arizona's passing game can be with Palmer leading it. After Fitzgerald's touchdown, Palmer, who threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns on 20-for-42 passing saw the Eagles start keying on the Pro Bowl receiver more often, which, in the end, may have helped give Brown the opportunity he needed.

On third-and-5 from the Arizona 25 with 1:33 left and the Cardinals trailing by three, Palmer saw the coverage he wanted and gave a signal to Brown. He faked an in route, made a double move and took over. As soon as he saw the defensive back flat-footed, Brown said he knew he had him beat. After splitting Philadelphia's Cary Williams and Nate Allen, Brown initially thought Palmer overthrew him, but Palmer had seen Brown's extra gear before and knew the rookie would catch up to it.

"We're a pretty well-built offense," Palmer said. "I think we have a lot of things you can't key on. There are a lot of guys you have to worry about. Obviously, Larry is going to get a lot of that key from a defense that is going to be very keen on where he is in a formation because his motions and adjustments are right before the snap."

Brown's touchdown capped his first career 100-yard game. He finished with 119 yards on five catches.

"He's had that opportunity for that catch twice and didn't quite make it," coach Bruce Arians said. "Now, it's more time at practice.

"It was a great throw, but again, it was a great, great catch of him adjusting to a Willie Mays' catch over his shoulder."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals' 24-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles:
  • Brown
    Wide receiver John Brown has been compared to some of the best small receivers in league history, but linebacker Sam Acho went one step further: "People compare him to Marvin Harrison. I think he's better and I loved watching Marvin Harrison, but [Brown]'s unbelievable."
  • When Cardinals coach Bruce Arians took the podium Sunday, he wanted to keep his comments to a minimum for a reason. "I'll be brief so you can get to the guys that actually won the game, not the one that almost lost it," Arians said.
  • On their winning touchdown hookup, Brown said quarterback Carson Palmer gave him a signal that the ball was coming to him after seeing a favorable coverage. But Palmer refused to give the signal, even after being pressed for it a couple of times. "We have a lot of signals," Palmer said. "Some are dummy signals, some are live signals. I guess it's too late to call it a dummy signal."

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