GLENDALE, Ariz. – A few thoughts on the Cardinals’ 30-20 win at University of Phoenix Stadium.
What it means: By the numbers and by watching him, it’s tough to say that Carson Palmer wasn’t back close to 100 percent on Sunday. That’s good news for Arizona going forward. The Cardinals need a consistent starting quarterback to win in the NFC West, but there were too many issues that raised a lot of red flags. Arizona struggled again in the red zone, settling for field goals over touchdowns and the Cardinals’ offense couldn’t milk the clock late in the fourth quarter when it needed to eat up time with runs. And as impressive as the defense played in the second half, intercepting Cousins three times, it let big plays dictate the first half. The front seven, which was under a microscope this week, was strong, sacking Washington’s Kirk Cousins twice. The secondary, which struggled defending DeSean Jackson early, had three picks in the fourth quarter to end any attempt of Washington’s combacks.
Stock Watch: Tyrann Mathieu has been back since Week 2 but Sunday was his best game of 2014. He had ## tackles and recovered a fumble, but he looked as comfortable as he has all season. He also played more Sunday than he has all season and looked to be regaining his speed in coverage and the blitz but his added strength was evident all game. When Mathieu is on the field, he makes plays and Arizona may be making a permanent lineup change soon.
Back in a groove: It’s been a while since Larry Fitzgerald saw three digits next to his name in the stat line, and while he finished with 98 yards, it was the closest Fitzgerald has been to the century mark since hitting 113 yards in Week 17 of 2013. Fitzgerald’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was his first since Week 14 last year. Besides the numbers, however, Fitzgerald’s big game was an example of what happens when the Cardinals get him involved.
Game ball: Amid the uncertainty of who was going to start at quarterback for Arizona, Carson Palmer wasn’t announced as the starter until pregame introductions. He returned after missing the last five weeks to throw for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 28-of-44 passing.
What’s next: The Cardinals visit the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.