That’s how most Cardinals fans feel after watching their team struggle to a 1-2 start similar to last year, dropping a home opener in the 4th quarter and seeing some of the same struggles as the team had last year.
So which players stepped up and which stepped off?
Let’s take a look:
Winner: Carson Palmer’s reputation
“Carson Palmer is done.”
“Palmer should have retired last season.”
All those comments miraculously disappeared by the end of the first quarter in which Carson Palmer was dealing, going 11/11 with a TD (which would have been two if not for a holding call) despite the fact that the Cardinals had no running game.
Palmer had an incredible game, throwing for 325 yards and 2 TD’s without turning the ball over once despite being sacked SIX (yes, six) times by the Cowboys.
That’s awfully impressive. He answered a lot of the questions but, unfortunately, also demonstrated that he’s reliant on his offensive line to a fault, making this all some terrible timing for Arizona.
That said, Palmer was magnificent when he wasn’t being held back by...
Loser: The entire offensive line.
I was tempted to remove Alex Boone from this list but considering the fact that he sustained an injury at the end of the game, even he ended up here on this list.
G Alex Boone suffered an injury on last possession. not sure what. Palmer said in presser. “We lost Alex tonight.” update tomorrow.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) September 26, 2017
There’s really no positives to take away from the OL performance which was decimated in the second half by the Cowboys defensive line. They couldn’t run the ball and at one time they got not just pressure but a SACK rushing just three opponents.
Special Mention: Jared Veldheer
I had to look up the last time a Cardinal let up 3 sacks in a game. It was in 2013 when Levi Brown gave up three sacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He was soon promptly traded away to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And it’s a difficult moment as Veldheer, to this point, has done all you could ask of him and more. But after mulling retirement coming off of a difficult injury, it seems that the team might have to make the decision for him.
I don’t know if he will be able to start in Arizona much longer after this.
Winner: Dak Prescott
While he didn’t “wow” in the passing game as Palmer did, Prescott used his legs and made plays when they counted. He juked out Markus Golden on a touchdown run and completed a long pass on a rollout over Tyrann Mathieu that allowed Dallas to put the Cowboys up by two scores. After a slow start, their offense took advantage of good field position and Arizona’s defense got noticeably tired and beaten on big plays.
Speaking of Arizona’s defense...
Losers: Robert Nkemdiche and Tyrann Mathieu
Boy, the Cardinals sure did miss Calais Campbell tonight, huh. Nkemdiche looked excellent in the preseason but teams have caught on to his encroachment and have gotten him to jump offsides twice in the two games he’s played.
The kid’s gonna have to learn or he won’t be seeing the field. He’s also a difficult pick to nail down for Arizona, as he was taken over a player like Chris Jones on his athleticism, talent and ability.....which came incredibly unrefined and undisciplined.
Some NFL players are who they are coming out of college and will never be able to learn technique. Others will be able to improve with coaching. Keim took a chance on shaping him over a player who was already refined and as a result the team hasn’t gotten their money’s worth.
The team didn’t have a choice in letting Calais Campbell walk but they haven’t been able to replace him. As for Mathieu...he just hasn’t looked the same.
Now, before fans panic or talk about cutting him from his contract, let’s all remember that Justin Bethel needed practically 2 years to get back to form (and then some) after his foot injury.
And he didn’t have HALF the injury Mathieu had with two torn ACL’s. Let’s see how Mathieu does the rest of the year and know that Steve Keim has already prepared for the worst by having Budda Baker in the wings.
I wouldn’t count out the Honey Badger if I were you just yet.
However—If these players remain a problem moving forward....then it doesn’t bode well for Arizona having to already replace the majority of their offense entering next year.
Winner: Larry Fitzgerald (of course)
What a night. 149 yards and his first touchdown since the Rams game in Week 17 of 2016 (and that one was practically a stat-padding gimme). He owned the field and looked like he had turned back the clock, catching those passes and opportunities that had eluded him over the first two weeks.
People went in talking about the matchup between Dez Bryant and Patrick Peterson but there was only one wide receiver that they were talking about afterward, and it was Fitz. He’s so good.
He wanted to win the game. And it’s going to be a shame when he finally does hang up the cleats.
Special Mention: Jaron Brown
Poor Jaron Brown gets his first 2 touchdown game and it gets reversed on a terrible holding call.
On a night in which J.J. Nelson was juuuuust out of bounds he stepped up early to give Arizona the lead, helping their redzone woes some with some excellent separation.
Arizona’s wide receivers didn’t make enough plays to win the game single-handedly, but were solid and showed that there was a great deal more to the offense than just Palmer and Fitzgerald with John Brown sidelined for the foreseeable future.
Loser: Phil Dawson (and the special teams unit)
When Chandler Catanzaro was let go by the team and the reliable Dawson signed to a 2-year deal to be the kicker.
....And he’s promptly missed one field goal a week. When counting that missed FG and Veldheer’s penalty, that’s 10 points that the Cardinals literally had in their hands. And it turned out to be the difference in the game, with Arizona down by 11 in the 4th quarter.
The special teams also struggled to cover and with the poor OL play, Dallas had excellent starting field position throughout the game. Whether that’s a talent or coaching issue I am not sure but either way, the 2016 special teams struggles have bled into the 2017 Arizona Cardinals.
What were your thoughts on the winners and losers? Did you think Andre Ellington belonged on the list? Or would you have put Bruce Arians on here for not taking the field goal?
Sound off in the comments!
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