The Carson Palmer era for the Arizona Cardinals started off with a 24-27 loss to the St. Louis Rams. Yippee.
Nearly all of the major problems with the Cardinals last year -- a mostly incompetent offensive line, sub-par running game, poor tackling, bad pass defense, and general sucking -- all returned for this season, with one exception. The difference this year is that the Cards' starting quarterback doesn't look like he should be battling for a backup position in the Canadian Football League.
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Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein hit a 48-yarder with less than a minute to go to win it, and here's what you need to know about what happened in-between:
- Jay Feely is a wiener
- Carson Palmer isn't a messiah
- Levi Brown still sucks
- Honey Badger kicks ass
- Rushing the ball is still rocket science
- People not named Patrick Peterson don't defend passes very well
On the Cards' first drive, they drove all the way to St. Louis' 29 yard line. After two runs for negative yards, Palmer got sacked on third down, leaving them back at the 39. Although Feely hit from 51 yards and 61 yards last season, it looks like this 56-yarder was too much for him. Bruce Arians sent out Dave Zastudil instead, so he could punt the football for 27 yards. Twenty-seven yards. The Cardinals scored a touchdown on the next possession, and Feely kicked off 44 yards down the field. A forty-four yard kickoff. Feely successfully kicked a 30-yard field goal (yay!) in the third quarter, but missed a 50-yarder on the next drive. Sigh.
It's great to have Carson Palmer. Dude was 26-for-40 with two touchdowns and an interception. Good enough, if you've been a Cardinals fan for a while. We need not mention the names of those who have chucked up footballs and prayers for the Cardinals since Kurt Warner, but Palmer's better than all of 'em. He also threw to Larry Fitzgerald (14 targets, and eight catches, with two touchdowns), and not out of desperation. One of those passes was the glorious fade route in the endzone -- a former Kurt Warner specialty.
Just to be clear, left tackle Levi Brown still sucks, and will never figure it out. Palmer was sacked four times, and Brown was responsible for three of those blind-side blows, including one in which Palmer was stripped, and the Rams recovered. To the rest of the line's credit, they generally held up in pass protection.
Had the Cardinals won this game, the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, would have gotten the credit. Early in the game, Sam Bradford had a sure TD to tight end Jared Cook for 50-plus yards, but Mathieu kept chasing him, and punched the ball right out of his arm, a few yards before the endzone. The Cardinals recovered the ball, which led to the Cards' first touchdown drive. Mathieu had seven tackles; only Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby had more, with eight.
The Cardinals haven't been able to run the ball at any point in recent history, and Rashard Mendenhall probably won't change that. Mendenhall had 60 yards on 16 carries. As a whole, the team had 86 rushing yards.The Cardinals were last in the league last year in rushing with 75 yards per game (23 teams averaged more than 100 yards per game), so it looks like the Cardinals have an, um, improved rushing game.
It's been well established that Patrick Peterson is what the youngsters would call "da bomb." The problem is, most people on the Cardinals who defend passes aren't named Patrick Peterson. Peterson's main match-up, Chris Givens, had two catches for 27 yards. The rest of the receivers had 25 catches and 272 yards, with two touchdowns.