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Cardinals' Offense On Record Pace

But coaches, players still looking at opportunities missed as second half of season begins

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Cardinals running back Chris Johnson, on pace for more than 1,300 yards rushing, is one of many having a great offensive year for the team.


Carson Palmer took a moment to consider what the Cardinals' offense had done halfway through the season, with the team heading into a bye weekend – the main achievement being the NFL-leading 263 points the team had scored.

Sure, there were things to correct. But on the bye week especially, isn't there time to appreciate what had been accomplished so far?

"No. No. I mean … no," the quarterback said.

"You always want to do things better. You never walk away from watching film and say, 'We hit everything perfectly, didn't leave any yards out there.' You never have that feeling, and you can't have that feeling."

(To be fair, the defense and special teams have chipped in four return touchdowns plus a safety to account for 26 of those

points.)

There was a belief, once Palmer looked so impressive in training camp, that the Cardinals could have this kind of offense. The improvements on the offensive line were important, as were added skill weapons and a recommitment to a running game.

Palmer is enjoying his best season as a pro so far. Running back Chris Johnson is on pace to have the best individual season on the ground any back has had since the team moved to Arizona, and is second in league with 676 yards. Larry Fitzgerald is having a renaissance season and John "Smokey" Brown is putting up big numbers himself – both are on pace for more than 1,200 yards.

The Cardinals have an NFL-best 44 plays of at least 20 yards – seven on the ground, 37 through the air. Against the Browns, the Cards had a season-high 491 yards and were a remarkable 13-for-16 on third downs – an 81.3 percent conversion rate that was the highest for a team since the Bills went 14-for-17 (82.4 percent) against the Dolphins back in 1988.

It's not enough.

Coach Bruce Arians lamented all the mental errors that were still showing up on offense, derailing what has already proven to be an effective running game. The turnovers have been a problem in a few games, including both losses, and the Cards were lucky to be leading the Browns despite being a minus-four in turnovers at one point.

"When we're rolling, we're rolling," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "If we stink, we stink. And we have to stop stinking."

The Cardinals will be tested in that regard. The defenses of the Seahawks (twice), Vikings, Rams and Packers are all better than most of the defenses the Cardinals faced the first half of the season. Improvement is all the Cards can talk about.

"There are runs we get five yards and it could be a house call, it could be 30 or 40 yards," guard Jonathan Cooper said. "But we miss one little detail, some of the mental aspects of the game. We definitely see room for improvement.

"One thing this coaching staff is good about is making sure we stay hungry and humble. I feel we have all bought into that. You take a second to look at (success), that's when you get passed up."

There have been misses. Palmer just missed a potential 85-yard touchdown bomb to Michael Floyd and a potential 64-yard touchdown bomb to Fitzgerald in the Cleveland wind. Yet he still threw four touchdown passes and has 20 already. Kurt Warner holds the franchise record with 30 in a season.

That 30-touchdown year came in 2008, the last time the Cardinals had such a prolific offense. The Cardinals had six games of at least 400 yards of offense that season. The Cardinals already have six games of 400 yards this season -- matching their 400-yard games, incredibly, of the last five seasons previous. The 2008 Cards scored a franchise-record 427 points, and the 2015 Cards are headed toward smashing that mark depending on how it deals with the upgraded defenses on the schedule.

Maybe that's why they are still looking for any improvement they can make.

"This is what I pictured," Brown said. "This is what I imagined, with all the weapons we had and what we were capable of doing."



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