The winless Oakland Raiders put up a worthy fight at home against the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals, but they could never overtake Carson Palmer and his two top backfield mates.
Palmer had the Cardinals at a 14-0 advantage with two first-half passing touchdowns, but the home team was able to string together 10 points in the final two minutes of the second quarter, and a dogfight appeared to be in store.
The Cardinals veteran quarterback found it harder to get to his receivers downfield in the second half, so he adjusted and started passing underneath, primarily to running back Andre Ellington.
With Arizona leading by just one in the middle of the third, Ellington helped the Cardinals eat up real estate through the air and on the ground in an 80-yard drive, which was capped by a Stepfan Taylor four-yard touchdown run.
Arizona’s defense clamped down on the Raiders after that point, and a late Chandler Catanzaro field goal made for a 24-13 final.
The Cardinals improved to 5-1 for the first time since the franchise moved to the Grand Canyon State, and Oakland fell to 0-6, the lone team without a win in the NFL.
Here’s a look at the Cardinals’ wire-to-wire win by the numbers:
Veteran linebacker Larry Foote has gotten off to an impressive start in his first year with Arizona, but he didn’t log his first sack of the year until Sunday, which made Oakland lose nine yards. It was his first quarterback takedown since 2012 with Pittsburgh, and he was the only Cardinal record a sack Sunday. Foote also had a quarterback hit and tied a team high with four tackles against Oakland.
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Palmer’s interception-less streak ended at two games as Charles Woodson picked off a pass and returned it 30 yards late in the second quarter, which led to a Raiders field goal. It was the first time in six games this year that a Cardinals QB had been intercepted.
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The Cardinals’ leader in receiving yards, Michael Floyd, had yet to record his first touchdown of the season until last week, and he made it two straight games with a TD after a 33-yard score in the second quarter Sunday. Floyd had just two other catches for 14 yards in the win.
Taylor, a second-year back, reached the end zone for the first time in his career back in Week 1 via a reception, but he had yet to score another TD until Sunday. Taylor caught a two-yard pass for his second career touchdown late in the first quarter, and a third-quarter four-yard run became the first rushing TD of his career, which gave the Cardinals all the separation they would need for the win. The Stanford product finished with 12 carries for 40 yards and two catches for 19 — to go along with his second and third career touchdowns.
The Cardinals haven’t started out a season 5-1 since 1976 — when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It’s the 11th time in franchise history that the team has had a such a start. Arizona now leads San Francisco by a game for first place in the NFC West, and Bruce Arians’ club benefited from a St. Louis Rams upset of the defending-champion Seattle Seahawks (3-3) earlier in the day.
Palmer has now thrown a touchdown pass in 16 straight games for the Cardinals. He finished 22-of-31 through the air for 253 yards and two TDs. His completion rate (71.0 percent) marked a season high, although it’s not quite on the level of his 84.4 percent mark against St. Louis on Dec. 8 of last year.
After a return-to-form game of 98 yards receiving and one touchdown vs. Washington last week, Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes for just 21 yards — the latter being a season low — against the Raiders. His longest reception of the day was seven yards, although he did log the first first down for either team.
The Raiders came into the game having 31 percent of their drives go three-and-out, and they stayed pretty close to form Sunday. Three of their first four drives went three-and-out, but they didn’t suffer the same fate after that point. Still, Oakland has three of its 11 drives stall in such a way, meaning 27 percent of their drives Sunday ended after three plays. Marqutte King had to punt six times in the loss.
Ellington kept getting banged up, but he finished with a season-high 160 yards of offense — 88 rushing on 24 carries and 72 receiving on six catches. The 25-year-old running back’s effectiveness on the ground helped the Cardinals top 100 yards rushing as a team for the first time since their Week 2 win over the New York Giants.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s 173 yards through the air was by far the fewest the Cardinals have allowed all season. The rookie’s 57.1 percent (16-for-28) completion rate was the second-lowest mark of the season for him.