Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown stays ahead of Buccaneers safety Chris Conte on his 51-yard touchdown reception during the Cards' 40-7 win Sunday.
Late last week, Kevin Minter noted that after everything surrounding the Cardinals' opener – which eventually became a loss – the team simply had to calm down and remember it was "just ball."
Sunday, it was just ball.
With the Buccaneers in town, the Cardinals played much better defense, forced five turnovers, were explosive offensively, lit up the scoreboard and may have just found an answer at the No. 2 cornerback position in a 40-7 rout at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"Everybody getting back to what we do," the linebacker said Sunday. "We are so talented, man, y'all just
saw a glimpse. We didn't even execute the way we wanted to. It feels like the season, now. Last week, you could see we were anxious for the game."
"Too much holding your breath (last week)," coach Bruce Arians said. "I thought we cut it loose today."
The Cardinals (1-1) built up a 24-0 halftime lead, although it started slow. That part Arians didn't love, with a scoreless first quarter. But all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson – who did a nice job on Tampa wideout Mike Evans most of the day – corralled his first interception of the season on the first Bucs possession, a deep bomb to Evans that Peterson played as if he was a receiver.
Minter said that set the defensive tone for a unit that underachieved in the loss to the Patriots. By the time the game was over, reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week Jameis Winston had struggled to a four-interception day (the Cardinals also recovered a fumble.)
Through two games, the Cards haven't turned the ball over once. Quarterback Carson Palmer was good, completing 18-of-31 for 308 yards and three touchdowns, while running back David Johnson was fantastic again with 152 total yards rushing and receiving.
"As soon as Sunday night ended, you couldn't wait for today and you've got to fight that urge," Palmer
said. "You've got to go through your preparation."
If the Bucs (1-1) had any hope of staying in it, Palmer slayed such thoughts late in the second quarter. Having built a healthy 17-0 lead, Arians wasn't content with less than two minutes left to sit on the ball. Palmer wanted to get a field goal.
Instead, on second-and-1 from his own 49 with 26 seconds left, Palmer heaved a bomb to a wide-open Jaron Brown for a 51-yard score – the longest of Brown's career.
The play wasn't necessarily designed to go to Brown, but "Carson, he sees everything," Brown said.
"You're trying to play for three, and you'll gladly take seven," Arians said.
The defense took over from there. Cornerback Marcus Cooper, getting defensive snaps for the first time since being acquired in a trade at the end of the preseason from Kansas City, made an interception early to set up a field goal. Later he grabbed a twice-batted Winston pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.
Cooper wasn't making any assumptions about his job status and Arians wasn't promising anything. The original plan was to have Williams and Cooper alternate series. But it's hard to see Cooper not have earning more playing time.
"Whatever the coaches want," Cooper said.
Arians said he was disappointed the Cardinals didn't set the tempo in the second half, and multiple defensive players had been hoping for fewer mistakes. The Buccaneers also lost star running back Doug Martin in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.
But the aggressiveness returned on defense and it showed after a loss when it felt absent.
"We hit the field extremely fast," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "Pat came up big, and usually, when someone gets an interception or makes a big play, when it rains, it pours."
With the offensively-challenged Seahawks getting upset in Los Angeles by the Rams and the 49ers getting knocked around in Carolina, everyone in the NFC West is 1-1. Everything that had gotten sideways after one game feels much more stable now.
There aren't any bold pronouncements. Just a comfort in finding the normal most expected coming into the season.
"Today was just a good day at the office," defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. "Things went our way.
"Next week is just another big opportunity … I'll celebrate short. In the NFL, you can't get too excited after a big win."
Images from the Cardinals' 40-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 of the regular season