What We Learned In Week 2: Cardinals Report Card
By Joe Darrah
On the heels of a competitive loss that justified the renewed optimism surrounding the Cardinals’ Week 1 performance in St. Louis, Arizona notched its first win of the Bruce Arians era with a 25-21 home victory against visiting Detroit. Despite yielding 116 yards and two scores to Calvin Johnson, the Cards were able to lock down their defense when it mattered most. They allowed just 84 yards of total offense in the second half, including a blocked field goal by Justin Bethel, with just 20 yards going to Megatron.
When Tyrann Mathieu stuffed Detroit wideout Nate Burleson on a 4th-and-4 from the Lions’ 43 with little more than a minute left in regulation, the D assured itself that it wouldn't let a second-half lead go by the wayside. The bigger story, unfortunately, may concern the departure of Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter. Fitzgerald said with all-due certainty that he would play this week in New Orleans, but subsequent reports have been increasingly less optimistic. He may be a game-time decision.
Here are our grades for the Week 2 performance:
Carson Palmer – C: Palmer spread the ball effectively in connecting with 10 different receivers and posting 248 yards and a touchdown, but he only completed 22-of-39 passes and put a lot of pressure on his defense to make the difference. He also got an assist from cornerback Patrick Peterson, who caught one ball for 17 yards and completed a 17-yard pass of his own on the series following Palmer’s lone interception of the game — a play that resulted in a pick-six. Palmer needs to be better than this, with or without the full services of Fitzgerald.
Jay Feely – A: Yeah, kickers are supposed to make field goals. But sometimes they don’t. And when they kick four on the day, two of those four are more than 40 yards in length and the last gives you a four-point lead that stands as the final margin of victory, you deserve extra credit. Feely made just as much a difference in the game as the defense did.
Running Game – B+: Rookie running back Andre Ellington stepped up with a team-high 42 receiving yards, a touchdown and averaged five yards per carry (20 yards, four attempts) to complement Rashard Mendenhall (94 total yards, TD). If Arizona can grind out close to 200 yards from its backs, the offense could be scary good.
Mathieu – A+: The Honey Badger backed up his impressive NFL debut last week with another great effort (six solo tackles, one for a loss, one pass deflected) and the fourth-down stop to seal the win. The gamble taken on him in the third round of this year’s draft looks like it will pay off for a long time to come.
This Week’s Assignment
The Cardinals might have to try to get by with a less-than 100 percent Fitzgerald or without him altogether. Still, the greater test will be on defense, as it tries to limit the damage of the Saints' Drew Brees, who ranks third in the league with 679 yards passing. The Saints’ D is no slouch, either. The unit is only giving up 320 yards per game after two weeks. This game may be less of a shootout than you’d be inclined to think. The defense most likely has to make the last statement.