Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu breaks up a pass for Browns tight end Gary Barnidge during Sunday's game.
The Cardinals have reached their bye week and the midpoint of the NFL season with a 6-2 record. They are third in the league in total offense, fourth in total defense, and they lead the NFC West by two games.
"I think we have a chance to be pretty solid," coach Bruce Arians said Monday, a day after winning in Cleveland.
The Cardinals will have a short week – practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the CBA-mandated four-day bye
weekend – prior to their Nov. 15 "Sunday Night Football" showdown in Seattle. (The Seahawks also will have a bye this weekend.) This week, Arians just wants his team to rest and get ready for an eight-game finishing kick that includes the Seahawks twice, the Rams, Bengals, Vikings, Eagles and Packers. The only non-playoff contender left on the schedule is the 49ers.
The defense played better but it is the offense with which everyone has taken notice so far this season. The Cardinals have a league-best 263 points (the Patriots, with 249, have played one fewer game) and their 32 touchdowns already matches the number of touchdowns the Cardinals scored during their 11-5 season of 2014.
Not that Arians is impressed.
"It says that last year sucked," Arians deadpanned. "No wonder we won so many damn close games last year."
SENDLEIN HURT, BUT BYE WILL HELP HEALTH
The only notable injury coming out of the Browns game was a shoulder problem for center Lyle Sendlein. He will have an
MRI, but Arians is hopeful the roster will be healthy next Tuesday after the bye, when practice begins in earnest for the Seahawks.
By then, linebacker Alex Okafor (calf) and tight end Darren Fells (shoulder) will also return.
As for wide receiver John Brown and cornerback Jerraud Powers, both of whom were active Sunday but did not play because of hamstring issues, Arians reiterated they were available had an injury to antoehr player occurred.
"(John) could have given us more, as Jerraud Powers could have, than anybody else who was inactive," Arians said. "They're both smart enough to get through that game and play whatever they had to play without injuring themselves worse."
PRAISE FOR BUTLER
Punter Drew Butler has struggled at times, but he has averaged 48.8 yards a punt his last two games and Arians said Butler is "working hard" at improving.
"He's a talented young guy," Arians said. "That's why with a lot of his stuff, we ask him to kick the sky balls and Aussie kicks to kick them inside the 20. He can bomb it and we've been doing a better job of covering it."
NELSON'S DEBUT HAS ROOKIE BUMPS
Rookie wide receiver J.J. Nelson was the one to fill in for Brown in the lineup and Arians said Nelson "did a heck of a job until he got confused on what damn position he was playing."
There was a lot of Nelson's plate, replacing Brown plus the plays they had in for Nelson himself. And after his first couple of catches, Arians said Nelson struggled to line up correctly. The big one was right before halftime, on the touchdown catch by Michael Floyd that was called back. The Cardinals had multiple receivers that caused the illegal formation, but Arians said it started by Nelson being in the wrong place. Floyd and Jaron Brown got caught in bad places trying to adjust for the error when the ball was snapped.
MENTAL ERRORS TOPS ON TO-DO LIST
Arians praised his team for "flipping the switch" in the second half in Cleveland, something that is hard to do. While he refuses to be pessimistic on playing a complete game, he acknowledged that isn't always easy when the other team is pushing back.
That said, Arians stressed his offense was in place where it needs to clean up mental issues, moreso than the defense.
"We left yards out there in the running game," Arians said. "We're still, offensively, having too many mental errors. Defensively, we're way down. It was our lowest ever (number of MEs). It was an extremely well-played game defensively, other than a few tackles. Offensively, we'll have eight mental errors on our base runs, and that's disturbing because it's not that complicated. It's the guys just doing a little too much here or there and not going to the correct linebacker."
Top images from the Cardinals' Week 8 victory over the Cleveland Browns