Dejected Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu walks off the field Sunday after a 17-13 loss to the Rams.
The locker room was half-empty by the time Bruce Arians was done with his post-game press conference, with players knowing the questions that were to come after yet another disappointing loss.
Here the Cardinals sit, with a 1-3 record, a quarter into the season and three home games already played. They walked off the University of Phoenix Stadium turf a 17-13 loser to the NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams Sunday, and likely could be missing their quarterback when they play in San Francisco Thursday night.
“Everybody is (ticked) off right now,” wide receiver John Brown said.
Carson Palmer suffered a concussion on a sack with 5:26 left, his head slamming to the turf. Palmer will go through the league’s concussion protocol, but Arians said the Cards will be “very, very careful” with the injury. Arians said he doesn’t
expect to have Palmer available for the 49ers game.
That would mean Drew Stanton will take over at quarterback and – if Palmer is not cleared – a likely move to get practice squad QB Zac Dysert on the active roster.
“We are not panicking,” a measured Arians said afterward. “We are going to show up for work (Monday) because we have a game Thursday night against a very good team. We don’t have time to dwell on this one. We only have time to watch the film. We’ll be at work at 8 o’clock in the morning trying to get better and get a win.
“The sky is not falling for us. I’m sure it is for a bunch of the fans. I am as disappointed as they are, but we have a game Thursday night.”
The Palmer sack began a sequence that ultimately cost the Cardinals the game. With the Cards forced to punt while nursing a 13-10 lead, new punter Ryan Quigley booted the ball 51 yards.
But Pro Bowl special teamer Justin Bethel got a finger in the eye at the snap and didn’t get down the field. Dangerous return man Tavon Austin got the ball and, taking it to Bethel’s side, raced 47 yards, with a facemask call adding 15 more at the end.
“I saw 28 (Bethel) fall down and I knew that was the key,” Austin said.
At the Arizona 19-yard line with 5:09 left, the Rams (3-1) eventually converted a third-and-8 on a pass to running back Todd
Gurley, and quarterback Case Keenum ended the short drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to wideout Brian Quick.
With Palmer out of the game, backup Stanton was forced into the spotlight. The first drive ended with Stanton’s trying to fit a throw to Michael Floyd, only to have it intercepted. His last-gasp drive was a Hail Mary try at the Los Angeles 37 which never had a chance and was intercepted.
“That’s my job, so it’s frustrating to not come in there and have success,” said Stanton, who finished 4-for-11 for 37 yards.
“Unfortunately, I forced the ball. We knew we had to go down and get a touchdown and we kept trying to take some shots.”
The Cardinals did do many things they wanted. They ran the ball well, averaging 4.7 yards a carry and had a decent run-pass ratio until Stanton needed to throw it once the Cards fell behind. Palmer made a mistake early in throwing an interception trying to hit Brown deep in the end zone, but finished 23-for-36 for 288 yards and a TD pass to Floyd. Brown had his best game of the year with 10 receptions for 144 yards.
On defense, Gurley – the Cards’ main focus -- was held to just 33 yards rushing on 19 carries.
But the Cards made just enough mistakes. Bethel going down. Cornerback Marcus Cooper trying for and missing a pass to Quick early in the game, allowing a 10-yard pass to become a 65-yard score. A blown coverage that led to a Rams field goal. Lost fumbles by Palmer and running back David Johnson.
The Cards ended up with five turnovers, forcing just one. In the last two games, the Cardinals have turned the ball over 10 times.
The Cardinals were also beat up – a harsh result on a short week – with running back Chris Johnson and safety Tavon Branch leaving with groin injuries in addition to Palmer.
“We knew it was going to be a fistfight today, and it was,” safety Tony Jefferson said.
Arians emphasized the need to look forward, noting that he’d rather be hot in December after being hot in September in the past, “but we need to start warming up.”
Finding the temperature gauge on a short week with a change at quarterback isn’t ideal. But that’s what the Cardinals face.
“I just don’t think this team has found its motivation yet, its ‘it,’ ” a clearly frustrated Tyrann Mathieu said. “Last year, everybody kind of had a chip on their shoulder.
“We have to find our attitude,” the safety added. “We have to figure out what drives us. Our coaches aren’t always going to be able to drive us. … We’re 1-3, it’s not what we envisioned. We have a long season ahead of us.”
Images from the Cardinals' 17-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4