What a difference a year makes.
While the Arizona Cardinals fell 27-24 to the St. Louis Rams Sunday, it only took 60 minutes to see the biggest difference from 2012 to 2013.
The quarterback play.
Carson Palmer, who was acquired from the Oakland Raiders in April 2013, looked impressive in his first regular season appearance with the Cardinals.
The 33-year-old completed 26-of-40 for 327 yards and led Arizona on three scoring drives.
The first scoring drive came after a Tyrann Mathieu forced fumble late in the first quarter and featured a 44-yard pass to wideout Michael Floyd and a four-yard connection on a fade route to All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald in the left corner of the end zone.
With the Cardinals up 7-3 at the 11:20 mark of the second quarter, Palmer was at it again. The 11-year veteran completed two first down throws to Andre Roberts, one to Floyd for 18 yards and one to Fitzgerald for 13 yards.
While Arizona was forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Jay Feely — the drive stalled at the St. Louis 12-yard line — Palmer was efficient, effective, and most importantly, he didn’t try to force anything — something that couldn’t necessarily be said about the four men who played the position last season.
Following a Jared Cook touchdown catch late in the half, Palmer again tried to lead the Cardinals on a go-ahead scoring drive. With 26 seconds on the clock, Palmer completed three first down throws to Andre Ellington, Fitzgerald and Roberts, however Feely missed a 50-yard kick as time expired.
In the second half, Palmer opened with an ill-advised interception to Trumaine Johnson on the third play from scrimmage, but outside of that, it was another impressive 30 minutes of football for the Cardinals quarterback.
Palmer completed 12 of 21 passes, including a beautiful 24-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald with 1:47 left in the third quarter.
“I thought he was outstanding, outside of the one interception where they did a nice disguise on the coverage. The guy fell off late and doubled Larry which he didn’t see,” said head coach Bruce Arians. “I thought he played outstanding.”
While Palmer was outstanding, in the final frame the former USC standout was quiet — completed just six passes for 61 yards — and the Cardinals were held off the scoreboard.