Carson Palmer doesn't want to stop and smell the roses, but he's the one responsible for their full bloom.
The Cardinals quarterback set the single-season franchise record for touchdown passes in Thursday night's 23-20 win over the Vikings when he found Michael Floyd for a 42-yard score in the third quarter. It was Palmer's 31st touchdown of the season, which surpassed Kurt Warner's previous record of 30, set during the 2008 Super Bowl year.
The fact that Palmer is focused on the rest of the regular season is evidence in itself of his outstanding play in 2015 – there are still three games left and he's already passed Warner's mark.
"Kurt has been a great player for a long time, in a bunch of leagues it seems like," Palmer said. "I've been a fan of his, the way he played the game. To break that record is a tremendous honor. Just have to keep it going."
As Palmer worked maniacally this offseason to return from a torn ACL, he was hellbent on getting back to his previous form. Even so, few could have known he would easily exceed his previous ceiling for success. Palmer is averaging more than 300 passing yards per game and is completing the best season of his career at age 35.
Palmer called Thursday's victory "weird" since the offense never completely found a groove, but he still finished 25-of-35 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Such is life this year, as Palmer and his full cupboard of skill players put defenses on their heels consistently. Palmer went over 4,000 yards passing for the season with his final completion – a clutch 14-yard gain to running back David Johnson to set up the game-winning field goal -- and still has only thrown nine interceptions.
He was asked if this year has been his most gratifying since entering the NFL.
"Not yet," Palmer said. "There is a lot of football to play. I hope it is. We've got a long way to go and a lot of improvements to make, a lot of things we need to get better at. But I hope it (will be) the most gratifying season."
While Palmer wasn't ready to take a broader view at his accomplishments this season, coach Bruce Arians realized what it meant, having faced Warner and the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
"When the records start falling, the season speaks for itself," Arians said. "Those were high records Kurt set. I think that with three games left, he's just going to set them even higher."
Since throwing a costly interception near the end of a loss to the Steelers in Week 6, Palmer has been dynamite late in games. He bounced back from two fumbles to throw the go-ahead touchdown pass in Seattle, marched down the field for the winning field goal against the Bengals and scored himself to beat the 49ers.
There seemed to be little doubt he could get the Cardinals in scoring range after the Vikings tied up the game on a late touchdown Thursday, and Palmer did just that. The Cardinals have many impressive pieces scattered throughout their roster, but the engine that makes everything go is the man behind center.
"He's the person that brings us together as one," wide receiver John Brown said. "He's all about the team. He works things out until they get right. That's the thing I love about him."
Palmer's historically great season hasn't changed him. The seasoned veteran zeroed in on making a Super Bowl run long ago, and that team aspiration is what drives him.
Each week it's been the same Palmer coming to work, and the same guy dominating when the bright lights go on. As records fall and award chatter increases, that won't change.
"Carson is comfortable in his own skin," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He is who he is. He comes to a press conference in his sweats. He doesn't care. He's comfortable with who he is and that's why we love him so much."