So some questionable officiating went the Cardinals’ way last night, and we can be happy with a win. We shouldn’t be satisfied, though. A persistent problem with the defense is the inability to get a stop when we absolutely need one. It turned out that the last team with possession won this shootout.
The last three weeks, Arizona has allowed their opponents to exceed their points per game average. The Cards are fortunate that when the turnover well went dry, the offense has been able to take their scoring to the next level.
J.J. Nelson, WR
Nelson seized his moment in the spotlight and responded with huge moments in a 4 reception, 164 yard night with a touchdown. It’s difficult to imagine Nelson getting a bigger share of the offense than the two-thirds of snaps that he got last night, but the Cards are in good shape if players like Nelson and Jaron Brown continue to answer the bell when it rings.
Bobby Massie, OT
Frustrated Cardinals fans have made Massie a whipping boy of the OL because he’s the lowest paid and the most likely to leave in 2015 free agency. Despite that, Massie played exceptional football Sunday night against a very good defensive lineman in Carlos Dunlap. Massie being able to contain Dunlap one-on-one allowed Arians and Palmer to spread the field with receivers.
Steve Keim, Super Scout
J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Rodney Gunter, Markus Golden, Deone Bucannon and David Johnson all appeared in big moments last night. Each of these players were risks taken by Keim in the draft on potentially underrated prospects. They could also be the young core of the team for the next two or three years if they continue to develop.
Calais Campbell, DT
The defensive captain played 95% of the defensive snaps Sunday night — which was surprising to me, because he was invisible for almost all of them. The Bengals have a good offensive line, but not this good. Campbell wasn’t able to consistently split double-teams or be disruptive against the run.
Alex Okafor, OLB
Can someone explain to me why Alex Okafor lead the outside linebackers in snaps Sunday night (70%)? Okafor has 2 sacks on the season and doesn’t get pressure regardless of where he lines up. Additionally, he’s a danger to give up the outside corner against a slow-developing run.
James Bettcher, Defensive Coordinator
As mentioned above, teams have had above-average scoring games against the Cards for the last month. Once the Carson Palmer stopped handing the ball back to the Bengals, Bettcher decided it was time for the defense to fall asleep. The entire linebacking corps is praised for trying hard while accomplishing little.