Running back Jonathan Dwyer (20) is congratulated by tight end John Carlson after Dwyer's touchdown run Saturday night.
MINNEAPOLIS – The preseason felt a little bit more that way for the Cardinals Saturday night, but that's how it usually goes.
Despite a 30-28 loss to the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota, there were things with which Bruce Arians was satisfied. A stop by the defense to open the game and a 94-yard corresponding touchdown march by the offense. There was wide receiver Jaron Brown, looking like a bull on a 51-yard screen pass, an acrobat pulling down a 35-yard bomb and a shoe-in to make the roster. There was a running game that still wasn't incredibly productive but was the backbone of a 10-minute touchdown drive to open the second half.
Yet there were plenty of mistakes too, penalties and blown coverages and mental lapses. The special teams coverage units had a bad game. Even the weirdest play of the game – rookie
running back Zach Bauman running in what was called a backwards pass on a fumbled snap that should have been the game-winning TD – came because the Cardinals couldn't execute a shotgun snap.
It's the beautiful part of the season, though, because in the end, the moments are teaching tools, nothing more.
"We came here to win the ballgame," Arians said. "I was pleased with the start of the football game. We want to start fast."
Palmer's night didn't go has perfectly as the opener, but the veteran quarterback and his first-string offense still had to smile after engaging on a 94-yard touchdown drive to start the game. Larry Fitzgerald hauled in a leaping 20-yard catch – much to the delight of his hometown fans – to get the Cardinals out of the initial hole, but it was the 51-yard pass to Brown that was the big play.
Brown busted through multiple tackles and sprinted down the sideline to put the Cardinals in range. A smart audible by Palmer also turned into a 16-yard swing pass to running back Andre Ellington for a big first down before Jonathan Dwyer finally scored on a one-yard run.
"It was good to come out fast, some good running plays, a third-down conversion," said Palmer, who was 4-for-8 for 91 yards. "Good execution, good efficiency and that's what you want out of these games."
Adding Brown to a stable of effective receivers like Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and rookie John Brown wouldn't hurt either. If Brown hadn't already locked up a spot on the 53-man roster, he certainly did against the Vikings.
"I'm just trying to get better," Brown said, avoiding any big boasts. "I'm just tyrng to improve from last camp. I definitely should've scored on at least one of them."
Special teams was concerning. The night began with eyes on Jay Feely's kickoffs, and the Vikings were able to get better returns than the Texans had been the week before with rookie Chandler Catanzaro's kickoffs.
But Arians was not happy with the coverage, which played a major role in the situation.
"I will go back and get the (kickoff) numbers," Arians said. "(Jay) has added some distance. I was very disappointed in our coverage units. We had some young players looking for jobs that might have lost jobs because of the coverage."
The other focus was on third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, whose night (8-for-15, 64 yards) didn't match the game rookie Logan Thomas had in the opener. But he did orchestrate a 19-play TD drive as the Cardinals got physical to open the second half.
Arians said he thought Lindley played "pretty good" despite missing on a couple of throws. Lindley said he felt good, but lamented his three incompletions into the end zone prior to the last Bauman touchdown.
"We had a shot (to win) with the crazy play," Lindley said. "We'll look at the film."
The Cardinals (1-1) get Sunday off, and then commence a final week of training camp like a regular game week – practice Monday, off Tuesday, and then working through Friday in preparation for a "Sunday Night Football" home game against Cincinnati.
"Coaches know you aren't game-planning," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "They hit us on a couple plays that, if we were game-planning, I'm pretty sure we'd take care of it. But it was good execution on their part and bad execution on our part."