Who won and who lost the day?
Let’s start with the obvious...
Winner: Adrian Peterson and the offense as a whole
Feels weird to type that, doesn’t it? But—What a debut.
26 carries for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns, including an incredible opening series in which he drove in for a touchdown and seemed to energize the entire Cardinals organization, their fans, and their season.
His first drive gave the Cardinals a touchdown on their longest run of the season (at that time) and Peterson showed he can still break a big one open, something Arizona hasn’t had since David Johnson was lining up in the backfield.
He gave Arizona’s newly retooled offensive line a much-needed running game, allowing Palmer to get the Bucs to sell out on play-action and looked like the A.P. of old. That balance in addition to Arizona’s retooled offensive line gave Carson Palmer time to throw and the ability for the team to not have to throw the ball 70% of the time.
Also, Fitzgerald, John Brown and Troy Niklas also caught touchdowns in one of the biggest offensive showouts the Cardinals have had in what feels like a long time.
Loser: The Bucs’ Rebuilding Effort Under Jason Licht
Man, despite their comeback you have to feel for the Buccaneers. What looked to be a 2nd blowout in as many years was fortunately salvaged (with Patrick Peterson leaving to injury and Mike Evans gaining a long touchdown) their secondary looked atrocious most of the day and they struggled to stop Peterson up until Arizona was running down the clock.
Jameis Winston was ineffective early in the game and ended up sidelined with shoulder injury, leading Fitzpatrick to try to lead the team back. He almost did.
But all in all, Bucs fans have to be questioning if they have acquired the right talent to be effective in “must-win” games in a wide-open NFC despite getting a top-notch clear-cut #1 quarterback in the draft with talent and weapons, Desean Jackson was nowhere to be seen and it took what (seemed) were garbage time touchdowns for Doug Martin to salvage the team on the ground. How they move forward will be interesting to watch.
Winner: Carson Palmer, Of Course
Palmer had an incredible day. While his efforts will be overshadowed by Peterson, he began the day perfect, 13 of 13 and looked like the Carson Palmer in the first half of the Cowboys game and he stayed clean for the majority of the day.
Maybe now that he has his starting left tackle and left guard and a running back, some of the fans will stop blaming Palmer and calling for Stanton or Gabbert when their team doesn’t start out
Loser: Special Teams
While the Cardinals did NOT have a missed field goal on the day...they failed to catch an onside kick that WOULD have ended the game.
The Cardinals, for once, didn’t see a special teams error backfire on them but it’s become such a weekly issue that when it does pop up, it’s automatically of interest to fans, most of whom are wondering why this team post-Whisenhunt has struggled so much despite having the better organization.
In any case, don’t be surprised if a special teams mishap comes up again to hurt the Cardinals. Fortunately, it didn’t happen today.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals Fans
Finally, fans got to see a complete game from this team on offense. The frustration of seeing the team underachieve and then following the highly-touted acquisition of a future Hall-of-Famer really might be a season saver for Arizona as they head to London to play the division-leading Los Angeles Rams next week.
Today was a special day for the fans, even if the Cardinals did pull a “Cardiac Cards” move at the end of the game. Which leads us to...
Loser: The Defense (minus Patrick Peterson)
Man, this team really needs Patrick Peterson. With him, Mike Evans was held without a catch for the entire first half.
Without him, Justin Bethel got burned for a late touchdown that allowed Tampa Bay a last gasp at the end. Sure, Tramon Williams got a “game-sealing” pick on the 1-yard line but the team struggled to find a pass rush late in the fourth once Chandler Jones was doubled up.
It was very reminiscent of the Seahawks game late last year in which the Cardinals got out to an early, dominating, lead only to see the opponent rally back late.
And it wasn’t even Jameis who lead the charge, but RYAN. FITZPATRICK.
This team’s secondary still gives up a ton of yards and touchdowns even with Peterson in, and while they almost picked off Winston, they still aren’t forcing the turnovers they need to to win like they should.
Winner: D.J. Humphries & the Offensive Line
Man, did Humphries look good. He’s struggled to be healthy all season long but looked like a solid left tackle and was nasty in the run game, with Adrian Peterson running all day behind him and Alex Boone.
Maybe the Cardinals have found their left tackle of the future after all. Keim gets some vindication for his first-round pick should Humphries finish out the season strong.
Loser: Robert Nkemdiche.
While they were solid against the run up front, the Cardinals sorely missed getting pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the game. The Cardinals have barely gotten anything out of Nkemdiche since they drafted him in 2016, with him playing in only 7 of 22 eligible games. Ouch.
The Cardinals have struggled to replace Calais Campbell and they sure will need Nkemdiche to step up in the future.
What were your thoughts on the game?
Sound off in the comments section!