Arizona Cardinals Find a Way to Win
Week 2 of the National Football League season is in the books. After a week of questions about which direction the team would go, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves tied for first place in the NFC West. They got there after a hard-fought road win against the Indianapolis Colts. The game against the Colts was not pretty, but a win is a win in the NFL. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Arizona’s overtime victory in Indianapolis.
The Offensive Line is Awful
It may only have been the second game of the season for Arizona, but it was also the second straight game where the offensive line struggled to protect quarterback Carson Palmer or open any holes in the run game. The line was without their starting left side as guard Mike Iupati and tackle D.J. Humphries were out with injuries. Recently signed Alex Boone filled in for his former 49er teammate at guard, but looked sluggish and lost most of the game. At times, he looked comfortable on plays in which Arizona ran behind him, but little else looked good behind him. John Wetzel took over at left tackle and performed admirably in relief. The line gave up four sacks on the day in addition to eight quarterback hurries.
The run game failed to get going with just 83 yards rushing. Running back Kerwynn Williams struggled to 22 yards on just nine carries, most of which came in the first half. Chris Johnson was the most productive running back for Arizona with 44 yards on 11 carries. The veteran signed with Arizona earlier in the week after spending the preseason with the team. Johnson looks like the guy moving forward. The line struggled to open holes against a large and athletic Colts defensive line. Iupati may return to the lineup but is currently questionable. Humphries will likely miss this week. The line will need to do better or it will be a long season on offense.
The Carson Palmer Rollercoaster
Carson Palmer’s play has seen many ups and downs this season and has often left fans feeling nauseous. For much of the game against the Colts, Palmer missed receivers. It may have been partially due to the pressure, but Palmer completed just 52.8 percent of his passes, down from 56.3 percent in Week 1. The plus side for the offense was Palmer’s ability to not turn the ball over too often. That said, the lone interception was bad. From first and ten from the Indianapolis 26, Palmer feels pressure from the inside and lofts a past towards the end zone targeting J.J. Nelson. Safety Malik Hooker played over the top and made the pick. Palmer rushed the throw and offered a duck into double coverage. It was not needed and cost the Cardinals at least a field goal. Not something a 15-year veteran should be doing. The good Palmer moved the offense down the field with consistency in the fourth quarter.
The only Arizona touchdown came in the fourth quarter. About midway through the quarter, from the Indianapolis 45-yard line, the Cardinals used play-action as Palmer had the time to deliver a perfectly thrown pass on a deep post to Nelson for a much-needed touchdown. The score tied the game and provided the spark needed for both sides of the ball to finish out the game. Palmer played safely the rest of the game and the Cardinals picked up the victory in overtime.
Defense Comes Up Huge
The Arizona defense was going up against a quarterback making his third career start. Jacoby Brissett had only been with the Colts for two weeks. This was the game to take over for the defensive coordinator James Bettcher and his unit. The Arizona defense may not have had the game they had hoped for, but they were dominant for long stretches of the game and looked like the Arizona defense from just a couple years ago. The Indianapolis offense got out to a relatively quick start in the first quarter on the back of a Frank Gore rushing touchdown. That was about the end of the highlights for their offense as the Cardinals began clamping down on the run and putting consistent pressure on Brissett. Both Markus Golden and Chandler Jones had little issue getting to the quarterback on the day. Golden missed twice on Brissett, costing him two sacks in the process. Jones took over with six tackles and two sacks.
The secondary effectively shut down the wide receivers which forced Brissett to rely primarily on tight end Jack Doyle. Doyle found success with eight receptions for 79 yards. Rookie linebacker Hassan Reddick was the guy who followed Doyle for most of the game and often struggled. The defense did well to adjust as they began to mix in a safety to help with Doyle as well as using an edge rusher to chip the tight end on the release. As the game grew later the defense got stronger, culminating with Tyrann Mathieu’s interception in the overtime period. The play set up the game-winning field goal and was the icing on the cake for the defense. The unit will need to continue their stellar play and carry the offense moving forward.
*all stats courtesy of NFL.com