Cardinals running back David Johnson scores from three yards out during Sunday's 34-24 preseason loss in Houston.
HOUSTON -- Carson Palmer was fine.
He had a chipped tooth after Texans defensive end Devin Still added injury to insult following Palmer's second interception Sunday by blasting him near the face, knocking Palmer's helmet off.
"It just looked bad," Palmer said. "He caught a weird spot on my helmet. No big deal."
The same reaction – save for another glut of turnovers – could be said from the Cardinals in general. They lost their third preseason game Sunday afternoon, 34-24, to the Texans at NRG Stadium. Most of the main players won't see any action in the preseason finale. But that's OK. They insist they are ready for the regular season.
"We've had great practices ever since the spring," coach Bruce Arians said. "The first-team offense hasn't done anything to
make me feel like we're not where we need to be – other than turning the ball over."
Both of Palmer's interceptions Sunday were tipped, something Arians waved off as bad luck. But turnovers – five all told – doomed any chance of a win. The Cardinals have 10 turnovers in three preseason games, forcing only two.
Defensively, the Cardinals weren't perfect either. New Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler was sharp (11-for-13, 146 yards, one touchdown) and set the tone by converting a fourth-down pass in the red zone to set up the first touchdown of the game.
The Cardinals' battle for their open cornerback spot took a turn when veteran Mike Jenkins, who started in place of a resting Patrick Peterson (ankle), hurt his right knee on a non-contact play. There was no official update, but he was carted off and his initial reaction wasn't a good one.
A rusty Justin Bethel played more snaps than expected in his first game back, and it showed, getting beat down the field a couple of times, including for a touchdown.
"We left a lot of plays out there on the field," linebacker Kevin Minter said of the defense. "I still see us progressing. I feel
like we have gotten better. But there is still a big hill to climb."
The offensive hill has felt steeper. But the Cardinals piled up the yards (437 total), including an impressive 165 yards on the ground at 4.6 yards per carry.
"I'm excited about what we have getting going here in two weeks," said Palmer, 5-of-9 for 64 yards along with the two picks. "We've run the ball effectively, we've converted third downs, we've made catches in tight coverage. What we have done in practice and throughout camp is improve, and you don't always get to see that in a couple series in preseason games. I like where we are."
The game began like the one in San Diego, a tipped interception on the offense's third play, setting up a short Texans touchdown drive. But Palmer seemed to have settled things down, finding tight end Darren Fells for a 40-yard gain on the first play of the second series, spearheading an eight-play touchdown drive of the Cardinals' own.
The third series was a steady march as well – until Palmer, trying a screen pass into tight end Darren Fells needing only to get it around incoming linebacker John Simon, couldn't make the play. Simon tipped it in the air and to himself, racing 59 yards for a touchdown.
"I have to do a better job of finding a passing lane," Palmer said.
The Cards were without Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu on defense, and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown on offense, all of whom were held out with injuries as they are saved for the regular season.
The Cardinals have a short week. Monday the team is right back on the practice field to prep for Thursday's finale at home against the Broncos. The first round of cuts – to get the roster from 90 to 75 – must be made Monday.
Images from the Cardinals' third preseason game in Houston