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Carson Palmer Does Number On Offense

Posted Nov 18, 2013

Quarterback play improving as Cardinals head to stretch run

Quarterback Carson Palmer gets ready to fire a pass Sunday in Jacksonville.

The number that drew the attention was gaudy – 419, or the number of yards Carson Palmer threw for Sunday in Jacksonville.

It was the second-highest total in Palmer’s long career. It was the most by a Cardinal since Kurt Warner threw for 472 in 2008 in New York against the Jets, a day marked by the broken jaw of wide receiver Anquan Boldin. It was the most by a Cardinal in a win since Boomer Esiason piled up 522 in an overtime game in Washington in 1997.

And it came in the best overall game Palmer has had in his short tenure with the Cardinals.

But perhaps the number that should have drawn the attention was zero. As in, the number of interceptions Palmer didn’t throw Sunday, also a first since he became a Cardinal. Without a turnover, Palmer’s 30-for-42 passing day, with a pair of touchdowns, looked that much better.

“We didn’t go into the game thinking we would throw that much,” coach Bruce Arians said Monday, the day after the Cards won their third in a row with a 27-14 win over the Jaguars. “It’s kind of like when I was talking about running backs having a hit hand. (Carson) had a hot hand.

“He had a great look all week in practice. I really liked the practice we had Thursday, basically between he and (wide receiver) Michael Floyd. It didn’t surprise me at all that it carried over to the game.”

Floyd played a large role, gaining 193 yards on his six catches. Not only did Floyd have a 91-yard catch-and-run, he also had catches of 22, 22 and 37 yards down the field. Larry Fitzgerald also had a touchdown on a nice route and good pocket footwork by Palmer, and the offensive line had a solid day in pass protection.

“When you give Carson protection,” Floyd said, “he can make all the throws and we can make all the catches.”

With the win, Arians once again gave veterans the day off, so Palmer was not available Monday. But after the game, he spoke as he often does, as a groupthink.

“I thought we executed well,” Palmer said in an understatement, at least in the passing game.

The running game wasn’t good. Rashard Mendenhall had 14 yards on 13 carries and rookie Andre Ellington had just three yards on eight carries. Arians dismissed those issues Monday because the Cardinals were able to throw the ball, but admitted it would have been a big issue had the passing game not clicked as it did.

“It’s a problem, because we’re going to be playing some good teams coming up,” tackle Eric Winston said. “We’ve got to be there consistently. We can’t be sputtering, three-and-out, three-and-out and then all of a sudden go 91 (yards). Even when we are not scoring, we have to get a couple of first downs so we can keep the field position with us.”

It had been the running game that had helped Palmer climb out of his doldrums. Better running against Atlanta and Houston allowed Palmer to throw less. The calls from the fanbase for backup Drew Stanton to play instead have all but ceased.

In his last three games, Palmer has completed 63 of 92 passes (68.5 percent) for 832 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. That works out to be a passer rating of 109.5.

The Cardinals will need the running game to return. Expecting Palmer to throw 42 times without error is probably too high a bar to set, and it almost wasn’t spotless Sunday. Palmer actually did throw an interception on a play that was waved off because the official to whom Arians called timeout couldn’t find his whistle quick enough.

But it didn’t count. And Palmer had the kind of performance Arians had been counting on all these weeks in which he defended his quarterback.

“The way (Carson) grinds it out during the week, (he) really prepares as well as anybody I’ve ever had,” Arians said. “The things that have been biting him have been just one or two poor decisions during the ball game, or getting hit as he’s throwing. We were able to eliminate those.

“I almost stuck him in that situation (before) the timeout. I have to be a little more careful of putting him in that situation. I think we’re starting to hit a little bit of a stride offensively.”

EXTRA POINTS

Arians said there will be discussion among the coaches about using Tyrann Mathieu instead of Patrick Peterson on punt returns, although Mathieu’s heavy snap count on defense will play a role. …

Wide receiver Teddy Williams (torn Achilles) will be placed on injured reserve. Cornerback Justin Bethel will be evaluated all week with his concussion and his status for the Colts game this weekend is up in the air.

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