Sunday night’s tilt against the New England Patriots illustrated some important truths about the Arizona Cardinals. The most important truth is the Cardinals are a good football team, and a two-point loss to another good football team isn’t going to change that. The Pats found a way to stymie the Arizona offense and Carson Palmer, and we’ll have to wait to see whether they’ve produced a blueprint.
The second important truth is that a unit is only as strong as its weakest link. Weak links in the middle of the offensive line held David Johnson to just 3 yards per carry aside from one 45-yard run. A weak link in the secondary allowed the Patriots to march nearly unopposed down the field and take the teeth out of the Honey Badger. A weak link on special teams most directly contributed to the loss.
The third important truth is that it’s hard to win games in the NFL. Bruce Arians’ winning so many one-score games in the past four seasons is a statistical anomaly. While it’s all right to be disappointed, and it’s possible this loss will feel as bad as when the Cards lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers lead by Landry Jones, it’s not time to hit the panic button.
Michael Floyd, WR The haters gonna hate (hate hate hate hate), but Michael Floyd is the secret key to this offense. Getting him involved early was important, and each of his three receptions resulted in a first down or more (plus a defensive holding penalty that resulted in a fourth first down). Floyd being an effective weapon on the outside allows Fitz and John Brown to operate in the middle of the field.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR I’m excited to tell my grandchildren that I was around to see Larry Fitzgerald play. He’s made difficult catches look effortless his entire career and continued to do so last night. It’s remarkable how he makes cuts so violent and so smooth at the same time.
Rodney Gunter, DT Gunter seems like he’s going to benefit immensely from the transition to defensive end. While he didn’t show up in the initial stat sheet, he was a disruptive force when on the field and offered confidence in a future without Calais Campbell.
James Bettcher, DC I’m betting that Bettcher is going to want this one back, particularly at the end of the season. A quarterback making his first NFL start missing his most talented target and with a makeshift offensive line absolutely dismantled Bettcher’s defense. It’s clear that there are some structural problems that still need to be worked out.
Carson Palmer, QB It’s weird that a performance with a 65% completion percentage and no INTs will land Palmer on the Goat list, but the Cardinals offense looked listless almost all night long. Several potential INTs bounced off Patriots’ hands, and Palmer started to get antsy when the deep passes weren’t connecting.
Brandon Williams, CB The Arizona Cardinals don’t have 8 weeks to wait for Williams to develop into maybe a below-average starting cornerback. The rookie corner was a Superfund site last night from the first drive. The problem isn’t that teams go after Williams all night long; the problem is that teams feel comfortable going directly at Williams when they need a play.