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Cardinals Reverse Offense Against Raiders

Posted Aug 30, 2015

Starters struggle but backups rally in a 30-23 win in Oakland

Cardinals running back Andre Ellington juggles a catch Sunday night in Oakland. Ellington made the reception during a 30-23 win.

OAKLAND – One by one, the Cardinals brought in quarterbacks Sunday night, and with one chance each, they led their team to a touchdown.

But it was the first guy who had the most trouble – and that was the most troubling.

The Cardinals ended up with a 30-23 win over the Raiders at O.co Coliseum during their “Sunday Night Football” appearance, but didn’t quite get their first-team offense clicking – other than coming out of it relatively healthy, which is always the primary goal.

Otherwise, “I just thought we were out of sync,” coach Bruce Arians said.

Starting quarterback Carson Palmer was only 8-for-22 for 103 yards and two interceptions. A large chunk of those yards came on a 39-yard bomb to John Brown and a nice 26-yard catch-and-punishing run by Larry Fitzgerald. But it was 15-3, Raiders, at the half, which fittingly ended with a Kahlil Mack sack of Palmer.

Pressures, sacks and miscommunication were the rules rather than the exceptions, certainly not what Palmer or Arians were looking for heading into the regular season.

"It just wasn’t good enough,” Palmer said. “For us to not go down and score points is disappointing. There were some good things to happen in the game, and some bad things. We’ll learn from them and get ready for Denver, but really with our eyes set on New Orleans coming in (for the regular-season opener).”

Arians said the second interception was a mistake in what Palmer expected rookie J.J. Nelson to do. While the pressure was constant, Arians also said there were times when Palmer held the ball too long.

“Pass protection is not an issue,” Arians said before he even had a chance to ask about it.

“Our goal is to make big plays and keep moving the chains,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “We weren’t able to do that. … We need to keep that momentum going and it was tough to do that tonight with the first unit.”

But as the second half started, it was as if everything flipped. Undrafted rookie cornerback Cariel Brooks got the Cardinals (1-2) close when he took a terrible screen pass from Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr and returned it 81 yards for a touchdown.

Then No. 2 quarterback Drew Stanton engineered a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive culminating in an eight-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back David Johnson – even with the Raiders’ No. 1 defense still on the field.

Backup right tackle Earl Watford said the second unit offensive line has been the most consistent in terms of the same bodies in the lineup, which helped their chemistry.

“We were able to click,” Watford said. “It was good to be able to move the ball.”

Rookie Phillip Sims got a drive and led the Cards to a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kerwynn Williams. Then Logan Thomas got his shot in a tie game, and despite taking a vicious shot to his knee at the drive’s outset, calmly led a two-minute drill down the field that ended in Marion Grice’s 11-yard game-winning touchdown run with 31 second left.

The quarterbacks not named Palmer finished 14-for-18 for 152 yards, two touchdowns and only one sack.

Arians was effusive in his praise for Thomas, and the third quarterback battle will go down to the play in Denver. He was happy with the starting defense too, which was warranted given the way the game unfolded.

As far as the starting offense, there certainly wasn’t panic.

“We’re always working on everything,” Palmer said.

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