Patrick Peterson smiled. He (likely) finished his preseason with flair, undercutting a ballcarrier to force a fumble the Cards recovered and also returning an interception 30 yards for a touchdown clean, adding a little Deion Sanders high-step at the end Sunday night in Dallas.
"It's always a pleasure to get an interception and to score with it as well uncontested," Peterson said. "Those are the ones you dream up when you're in your bed as a kid."
It wasn't easy to get a read on the Cardinals based on what happened against the Cowboys, at least in terms of what they were up against. The Cards will face much, much more difficult offenses seeing that Dallas held back so many starters on that side of the ball. And the Cards' own offense was held back by the absence of their own top two playmakers in David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Sam Bradford started at QB, but he played briefly, and the offensive line did not play as well in front of him as they had in the first two games.
But the turnovers. Oh, the turnovers. Preseason or not, to be a plus-15 in three games is incredible. Will it carryover? The attitude definitely will. At some point, some of these fumbles are going to bounce away from waiting hands of the Cardinals and back to the offense. But to watch Peterson get physical on a tackle, or to watch Budda Baker bait a quarterback and undercut a throw in the end zone. And don't forget Cap Capi showed up again.
Steve Wilks has made no bones about his plans for this team, and he said in no uncertain terms that the Cards' identity has been set. They will run the ball. A lot. The passing game will have to get more effective, yes, but I'd like to see it with full-time Bradford, Johnson and Fitz. Just as long as the defense does some of what it's already been doing.
-- Special teams earned a high mention. The Cowboys muffed their first two punt returns, but the Cardinals took advantage, with fighting-for-roster-spots LB Dennis Gardeck and WR Trent Sherfield jumping on the fumbles. Sherfield even got a TD. Andy Lee had another magnificent game punting, and Bene Benwikere highlighted the non-turnover punt coverage with a fantastic bat backward to prevent a touchback. Special teams is a strength. Yes, I said it.
-- When it comes to position battles, Vontarrius Dora has been behind Benson Mayowa on the depth chart as the two are trying to take the place of the injured Markus Golden, but Dora was big Sunday. Three sacks, three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. More impressive is how Dora, who had a couple of practice squad stints last year, has almost certainly earned a roster spot.
-- The loss of D.J. Foster will hurt, if he is down for awhile. Given his special teams ability, he had likely played his way on to the roster. Nothing official yet, but it's never good when you hurt your knee the way he did, and his head down going off the field echoed the look of center A.Q. Shipley when he hurt his knee.
-- The Cardinals were in nickel basically the whole game. It meant that they had only two linebackers on the field -- and it is notable that the two starters were Deone Bucannon and Josh Bynes. Bynes took the spot of Haason Reddick, who played with the backups. Something to watch.
-- Speaking of linebackers, Gerald Hodges, the recently signed veteran, played with Reddick and was in on a lot of plays. He looks like he played his way on to the roster.
-- Cornerback Brandon Williams didn't dress, so he couldn't make any headway on his fight to stick around. Nothing official, but he was working on the side late in the week at practice, so I would guess he's banged up in some way.
-- No Josh Rosen. Could he have played? He was in uniform. But it's the preseason, and there's no reason not to be cautious. The question now -- if his thumb is healthy enough, does Wilks want to play him in the final preseason game? With likely backup offensive linemen?
-- Not sure much could be learned from the receiving fight. There were a few drops. Christian Kirk couldn't hold on to one early, in particular. But no one really stood out again. That's going to be a difficult paring down when it comes to the final roster.
-- Only a few more days of the preseason. The first 53-man roster comes Saturday afternoon.