When the game ended and Tyrann Mathieu was leaving the field, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett found his Sunday overtime nemesis for a moment.
Seems that when Mathieu was at LSU and Brissett was at Florida in 2011, Brissett's first college start came against the Tigers and Mathieu picked him off that day. Then Sunday, in Brissett's first start for the Colts, there was Mathieu again.
"He was like, 'Damn, bro, every time I start, why you have to pick me off?' " Mathieu recounted. "I was like, 'I don't know. I don't know why you threw it at me then.' "
The Honey Badger smiled, because it was humorous and it was also the kind of story you really only tell after a win. The Cardinals did that with the 16-13 overtime squeaker — and props to my cohort Kyle Odegard, who on our podcast this week talked about how the Cards would be happy even with a 14-13 win and oh, was he close — and so Mathieu could be happy. He made the big play and Phil Dawson finished the rest.
No one is proclaiming the Cardinals in a good place. They have to score more, they have to force more turnovers. But if it wasn't for a bad leverage penalty on a field-goal block try by Rodney Gunter, the Colts still would not have a touchdown this season. The defense did OK (the Cowboys are going to be a much sturdier test next week). The offense is what it is right now, trying to find itself through injuries and with a quarterback who is not playing anywhere near the level they need.
"The quarterback has to play better," coach Bruce Arians said. "Simple."
The protection has to be better too, Arians said, but everyone knows it starts at QB. Palmer got better when he needed to — that 45-yard throw to Nelson for the touchdown was gorgeous — but he can't make the forced interception like he did, either.
-- Kerwynn Williams has shown he can gain yards in this league, but it sure looked like the Cardinals' best course of action at running back with David Johnson down will be to use veteran Chris Johnson. CJ2K gained four yards a carry on 11 carries, and looked comfortable. I wouldn't be surprised if Arians ends up more comfortable with a lot of CJ too.
-- So many near-sacks again. Markus Golden had a couple early. Chandler Jones too. The defense did well most of the game, but they need to finish off some of these sacks. A turnover before overtime would help too.
-- J.J. Nelson has become a significant weapon. Arians is right, it's not important in John Brown's absence, it's important regardless.
-- The Cardinals didn't appear to get anyone injured, which is a good result after the carnage in Detroit.
-- The Cardinals had a third-and-1 on the drive that ended up being Nelson's 45-yard TD catch. Whatever the play was supposed to be, Palmer fumbled the snap on an awkward-looking play to begin with. Somehow, the middle of the defense parted, and Palmer picked up the ball and fell forward four yards for a first down.
"That wasn't a quarterback sneak, that was a total FUBAR," Arians said, "from the coaches on the sideline getting the right players in the game to the right players staying in the game and executing the play. We were lucky."
-- Not sure if Jared Veldheer is still having comfort issues on the right side of the line, but he was beat a couple of times. Not that the other guys don't make plays — Jabaal Sheard is proving to be a pretty good player — but they are expecting more (and needing more) from Veldheer.
-- Surprising Phil Dawson missed the first one. He also mentioned he had heard so much about last year's Cards' kicking woes it "built up." The last thing the Cardinals need is for the new guy to be impacted. Hopefully the OT kick gets things smoothed over.
-- Larry Fitzgerald had a big smile after the win. He didn't do much — three catches, 21 yards — but they won. And that made everyone happy.