Do you believe in Christmas miracles?
Well, maybe “miracle” isn’t the right word, as the Cardinals have proven with their 3-0 record and their silencing of Seattle’s offense earlier this season (yes, the 6-6 tie) that they not only always gear up for Seattle, but that their defense just isn’t a great matchup for Seattle’s offense overall.
So, what Christmas takeaways are we looking at today for this 2016 team as they enter their final week of the season? Let’s take a look :
1.Carson Palmer has proven himself the absolute starter in 2017.
It doesn’t matter your opinion on Palmer, whether or not he can lead the team to a Super Bowl or not, but he proved yesterday that he should be the team’s unquestioned starter. Behind a patchwork offensive line made up of 3rd and 4th stringers, rookies and Mike Iupati, Palmer got the job done despite being under constant duress all day, with some gorgeous passes (the touch pass to David Johnson outside) and even some perfectly-timed deep passes to J.J. Nelson. If there were any questions about Palmer’s arm strength, they’re gone now. He’s regained the trust of fans after a slow start.
2. J.J. Nelson is blossoming into a real weapon at WR
Nelson’s touches have been maximized this year. With only 30 catches and 4 rushing attempts, he has 7 TD’s on the season.
That means that 1 out of every 5 times he touches the ball, he scores a touchdown. And with Michael Floyd no longer an Arizona Cardinal, he has 4 touchdowns in the last 4 weeks, and was tackled a yard shy of a two touchdown game in which he embarrassed Richard Sherman.
Nelson’s biggest issue right now remains his drops, but outside of that he’s proven to be a special weapon so far in the NFL. If John Brown can get healthy for next year, Arizona will be able to stretch the field and beat teams with speed. The small, speedy receiver
3. Calais, Chandler and Markus are invaluable as pass-rushers
Campbell and Jones might not be Cardinals this time next year. And as pass-rushers go, it’s possible Markus Golden ends up the best true pass rusher But their impact was felt in yesterday’s game in which they sacked Russell Wilson 5 times, four in the first half alone.
It’ll be tough to pay all three. But it’s better to have them than to not. The most impressive part of the defensive performance was easily denying Seattle SEVEN TIMES from the 1-yard line, including a 4th down stop.
4. Is Rodney Gunter Back?
Gunter had a fantastic day, including a split sack of Russell Wilson in which he split the defense and took him down single-handedly. After looking like a starter and future stud last season, he’s had a quiet 2016 campaign. Perhaps this game will jump-start his optimistic future once again.
5. Catman and the Special Teams Delivered, Despite Struggles
Catman has had his ups and downs this year, but when the game was on the line and the special teams had only 15 seconds to set-up for a game-winning field goal attempt, he split the uprights.
Now, Catanzaro missed a field goal earlier, but that said, when the game was on the line he made his game-winning field goal while Steven Hauschka missed his extra point attempt for the same.
The blocked punt also led to a point swing for the Cardinals, who demonstrated some special teams resurgence.
We’ll have to see just what the future holds, but to most Cardinals fans, this was a positive sign in a down year, and a great Christmas treat for all of Birdgang.