Carson Palmer and Larry Foote shone as the Cardinals edged themselves over the line to go 1-0 to open the 2014 season.
Nerves were high during the first quarter as both teams took their time to settle into their season opener. The Cardinals accumulated yards with ease but failed to make it pay as costly penalties continue to hault promising drives. Scoring opened in the second quarter with rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro scores a 22-yard field goal to record his first NFL points. Carson Palmer looked for Michael Floyd early and often, including a 63-yard grab on the field goal drive.
Chargers kicker Nick Novak also scored a field goal in the second quarter to tie the game back up at 3-3. The Chargers were driving again when late in the quarter Philip Rivers through an interception to Jerraud Powers in Cardinal territory to give the team the ball back with 16 seconds left in the half. Ted Ginn's only reception of the game was an important one, as his 25-yard catch set up another Catanzaro field goal to end the half. Cards led 6-3.
The AFC side came out of the half like a different team,. Explosive on offense, Rivers got into a rhythm resulting in a seven play, 80-yard scoring drive ending with Malcolm Floyd beating Patrick Peterson over the middle, an area where the Cardinals struggled on the night.
A stuttering drive followed from the Cardinals, resulting in Chargers rookie linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, after forcing a blocked punt in the first half, strip-sacked Palmer which the Chargers recovered. They took advantage of the short field as Ryan Mathews beat Tony Jefferson off the left edge to score on a 20-yard run. Chargers led 17-6 to end the third quarter.
Opening the fourth quarter, the Cards had the ball and were moving downfield. Palmer, with a new found love for scrambling of the pocket, broke to the right and found Stepfan Taylor in the endzone for his first NFL reception. The team went for two but failed on a fade route to rookie receiver John Brown. Cards are trailing 17-12.
A nine play, 37 yard drive followed from the Chargers, but more importantly, it drained 5:40 from the clock, giving the Cardinals the ball back at their own nine yard line with 6:50 to go, needing a touchdown to save the game.
It started poorly, with yet another false start penalty on the offensive line. 3rd & 10 from the nine yard line, Palmer scrambles again for the first down. He gets into his groove now and hooks up with Michael Floyd, who finished with 5 catches for 119 yards, for 9 yards, followed up with a jukeing run from Andre Ellington which left the Cardinals at midfield with four minutes to go.
For the first and only time tonight, Palmer hooked up with Larry Fitzgerald for a big 22-yard gain. Dinking and dunking his way down the field, Palmer (24/37, 304 yards, 2 TD) found John Brown who skips past defenders inside to score what proved to be the game winning touchdown. The team went for two but failed, and led 17-18 with 2:25 to go.
The defense made one last stand to hold the Chargers on fourth down to ice the game. Larry Foote, who had eight tackles on the night and undoubtedly the player of the game, made the game-ending play as he tipped a pass intended for Keenan Allen, and the receiver failed to readjust and haul it in.
The Cardinals march on to a 1-0 start. Palmer went 8/12, 85 yards and 2 TDs in the fourth quarter, proving that he can be a clutch player if need be. The offense was fruitful; a healthy Andre Ellington will only make the team more explosive. Given a scare early in the season will only build character. Onwards and upwards for our Arizona Cardinals!