Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer faced a ton of pressure in Minnesota.
The Cardinals' passing game has taken a nosedive this season, from the class of the NFL in 2015 to below average in 2016.
Critics point to a host of different issues, but mostly the focus has settled on quarterback Carson Palmer. He was elite a season ago, finishing tied for second in the MVP voting while posting a career-best 104.6 quarterback rating.
This year, Palmer has thrown for nearly 300 yards per game, but has only 13 touchdowns against 10 interceptions while guiding an offense that has sputtered more than it has cruised. Coach Bruce Arians was asked Wednesday what he thinks about the vitriol pointed at his 36-year-old signal-caller.
"They're wrong on that one," Arians said.
Arians understands he and Palmer will take the blame for the mistakes because they are in the most high-profile positions, "but Carson, he put a lot of trust in some guys that haven't come through for him."
The issues beyond quarterback are obvious.
The offensive line has dealt with season-ending injuries to left tackle Jared Veldheer and right guard Evan Mathis and is trying to stay above water.
Michael Floyd and John Brown, a pair of receivers who have eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in past seasons, have been shells of their former selves. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, the wide receiver corps has been disappointing.
"We thought that would be one of the strengths of our offense," Arians said.
While he may not deserve the brunt of it, Palmer takes the criticism stride, knowing it comes with the job description.
"You're the bum or the hero, depending on the win or loss," Palmer said. "That's the way the game is played. I learned that in, I think, fifth grade. When I started playing quarterback, that was one of the first things the coach taught us."
Even back then, a quarterback who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and become the first overall pick in the NFL draft took heat.
"Always," Palmer said. "Win or loss. There's always finger-pointing and it's easy to do that. I've got broad shoulders and I'm used to it. I need to play better. There's no doubt about that. I look forward to playing Sunday and playing better."
TYRANN MATHIEU COULD RETURN AGAINST FALCONS
Arians was matter-of-fact in his belief that safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) will return from a two-game absence on Sunday against the Falcons. Mathieu was a bit more cautious.
"I think I'm ready to go," Mathieu said. "We'll see how the week goes. If I continue to progress well and everything is OK, I'll be out there on Sunday."
The Cardinals had a long injury report on Wednesday. Guard Mike Iupati (ankle), linebacker Kevin Minter (knee), cornerback Patrick Peterson (illness), defensive tackle Ed Stinson (hip) and wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin) didn't practice.
Mathieu was limited, as were guard Earl Watford (shoulder), cornerback Justin Bethel (foot), safety Christian Bryant (groin), money linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle), defensive tackle Corey Peters (foot) and cornerback Tharold Simon (ankle).
Palmer and Fitzgerald were given their customary Wednesdays off.
For the Falcons, defensive end Dwight Freeney (not injury related) and punter Matt Bosher (hamstring) didn't practice, while wideout Julio Jones (shoulder), cornerback Desmond Trufant (shoulder) and safety Kemal Ishmael (shoulder) were limited.
THE NEED FOR TURNOVERS
The Cardinals returned to the top spot in the NFL in total defense after holding the Vikings to only 217 yards last week, but again the team lost. The last three teams to finish No. 1 in total defense made the Super Bowl, but at this point the Cardinals will be hard-pressed to even make the playoffs.
Mathieu said one thing the defense needs to do better is force turnovers. The Cardinals have excelled in turnover margin the past two seasons but sit at minus-1 through 10 games. They have not intercepted a pass since the Monday night game against the Jets Oct. 17 – a four-game drought.
"We've got to create more turnovers, and we've got to find ways to score or shorten the field for our offense," Mathieu said.
Images of the Cardinals serving a Thanksgiving meal to those less fortunate at Phoenix Rescue Mission on Monday