Carson Palmer is resilient. Palmer's difficulties have been well documented this season. He has struggled to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and has thrown 15 interceptions, the only starting QB to throw an interception in every game this season.
Interceptions early have been standard operating procedure for Palmer and so has fourth quarter touchdown passes, especially after throwing a pick (or picks) earlier in the game. Four of the 12 TD passes Palmer has thrown have happened in the fourth quarter and it happened again against Houston.
Palmer's 19-yard touchdown throw to Andre Roberts proved to be the difference in the game. The TD gave the Cardinals a 27-17 lead with 6:42 to go. It was his best throw of the game. And it came at a time when the Cards needed it the most.
Palmer continues to make just enough throws to keep his job and as long as the Cardinals remain above .500 don't expect to see any changes at quarterback.
Todd Bowles' halftime adjustments have been nails.
Defenses are always making adjustments throughout the course of a game but the halftime adjustment is the most effective. Players are more focused in the locker room, relaxed, in an environment conducive to listening, comprehending and executing what their coach is trying to accomplish. Many times, the defensive coordinator may not be on the field. Face-to-face contact may not occur until the half.
Although this is not the case with Bowles, who is on the sideline, in the Cardinals' five victories this season, Big Red's defense has yielded a grand total of 21 points in the second-half. That's a measly 4.2 points/second half. And in other games where the Cards have given up significant points in the second half it usually was accompanied by offensive giveaways.
The Cardinals are an excellent second-half team because the strength of their team, their defense, makes excellent adjustments.
John Abraham is starting to come around. Earlier in the year, Abraham had opportunities to make plays and record sacks but could not produce. So, for the record, through the first six games of the season, Abraham had zero sacks and zero fumbles forced. Now, in the last three games, Abraham has five sacks and three forced fumbles.
This is great news as the Cardinals are preparing to make a playoff push. Abraham represents the one pass rusher the Cards have that can put his hand in the dirt and beat an NFL tackle because he's just better than said tackle.
That means Todd Bowles doesn't need to necessarily depend on scheme to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks; he can line four rushers up and generate pressure, believing that Abraham can make a play. Every defensive coordinator covets the luxury of being able to rush four and drop seven into coverage from time-to-time and still get pressure. Their job becomes exponentially easier when a pass-rushing predator is present.
Rob Housler finally showed. The volatile third-year tight end has been touted and acclaimed for the potential he has and was many people's choice to have a breakout season in 2013. Although Housler has been hurt, the last 4-games represents a bit of a spike in productivity and the win over Houston was his best game.
Housler grabbed four passes for 57 yards and a TD. Housler scored on a TE screen that was perfectly executed and his catch down the middle of the field was his best in a year. Housler went down and caught the pig, picking it out of the air before it hit the ground. The reception put the ball at the Texans' five-yard line, and although the Cards couldn't get the ball in, the ensuing field goal by Jay Feely made it a 20-17 lead for Big Red.
With Michael Floyd getting his shoulder busted up, Rob Housler needs to pick up the slack and be the guy everyone believes he can be.
Finally, Bruce Arians has done an awesome job with this team. They're finding ways to win games without having great talent or production, offensively.
He has an offensive line that lost its best player in preseason. He has a left tackle that is learning on the job, and fighting his butt off, but was an undrafted free agent. He has a quarterback that has thrown an interception in every game and is number two in picks with 15. The Cards are now -1 in turnover margin despite the fact their defense is one of the better teams in the league in taking the ball away from the opponent. His most productive running back is a rookie. He has an offense that is desperately trying to find itself, find its identity, and hasn't had much success. But they have made just enough plays to win more games than they've lost.
But he has a defense and excellent special teams. And any time you have this combination you can beat anybody on a given Sunday. And you can also lose to anybody on a given Sunday.