Arizona may not have scored in the first quarter on Sunday against Tampa Bay, but the team left little to be decided in the second half as the Cardinals jumped out to a 24-0 halftime advantage against the Buccaneers.
Quarterback Carson Palmer indicated the team left last Sunday's contest against New England knowing it had left a victory on the table, and Palmer said he and his teammates had to fight the urge to get back on the playing field and correct their mistakes for the duration of a long week.
"We had a great week of work, great preparation, it was one of those weeks where it doesn't matter who you're playing, as soon as Sunday night ended, you couldn't wait for today," Palmer said. "You had to fight that urge that you couldn't wait to get back on the field and you have to go through your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on. After what happened last week, we were ready to play and couldn't wait to get back on the field."
Palmer completed 18 of his 31 passing attempts on Sunday for 308 yards and three touchdowns, and did most of his work in the first three quarters as he was lifted late in favor of backup Drew Stanton with the game well in hand.
The 14th-year NFL veteran credited the play of Arizona's offensive line, which gave up just a lone sack on Sunday, for setting the pocket well and allowing Palmer to pick apart Tampa Bay's defensive backfield.
"We were just on fire on defense, we were aggressive, on offense we were nasty and we were extremely physical up front," Palmer said. "The pockets were just perfect all day, it was just one of those games, like I said, we couldn't wait to play for seven days. It was just one of those weeks where you had to fight that urge."
Palmer hit seven different receivers against Tampa Bay, and no player made more of an impact in the passing game than veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald who nabbed six receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Even in the final stages of his career, Fitzgerald continues to turn heads with his play-making abilities and fundamental approach. The top receiver in the franchise's history has experienced a Renaissance of sorts over the last year, and he credits the diversity of playmakers in Arizona's offense for helping open up the team's offensive options.
"You never know who's going to be the guy to make the play," Fitzgerald said. "Anytime David Johnson touches the ball, you don't know what's going to happen with him. He had two plays today where you just sit back and scratch your head. He had another little draw play on the left that should have been like a five-yard loss that turned into a seven-yard gain. Then he takes a little check down and turns it into a 60-yard gain, it's fun watching him."
Johnson finished Sunday with his second consecutive 140-plus total yard effort, after cementing his status as the Cardinals' top offensive weapon in week one against New England. Though Johnson only rushed 12 times for 45 yards against Tampa Bay, his three-catch, 98-yard performance through the air reflected Arizona's determination to incorporate him into the team's passing game more often this season.
"There's not too many backs that can do what he (Johnson) does, that catch he made on the left hand sideline, that over the shoulder catch, that's a catch that a lot of receivers, a lot of guys that play receiver don't make," Fitzgerald said.
Johnson had the longest play of the day with a 58-yard catch and run off a check down pass from Palmer that featured one of Johnson's textbook stiff arms. The other 50-plus yard passing play belonged to wide receiver Jaron Brown, who scored the team's third touchdown of the second quarter when the Cardinals' offense was executing a two-minute drill.
Brown hauled in a 51-yard reception from Palmer right before halftime, as he cut up the seam and beat his man in one-on-one coverage to put an exclamation point on the Cardinals' first half performance.
"You don't want to force those situations," Palmer said. "I did not want to go for the big play on the one to Jaron (Brown), but when it happens it happens and when the coverage presents itself to take advantage of it. But we were thinking we really wanted to get a field goal out of this, I'm thinking let's get a field goal out of this. A touchdown is great, but you don't want to be too aggressive and give them a chance to get their hands on the ball and find a way for them to get a field goal or touchdown out of it."
Arizona finished the day with 416 yards of total offense, and averaged nearly 35 yards per drive. Though seven of the team's points were a result of a Marcus Cooper interception return for a touchdown, there's no doubt Arizona's offense made the strides the team was hoping to achieve after a frustrating week one loss.
"We had a lot of explosive plays too, Jaron's (Brown) play, David Johnson's play, we just had a lot of guys who were chipping in and it was a great team effort," Fitzgerald said.null