Arizona Cardinals offense MIA in Detroit
It’s one game. Pour that knowledge in a salt shaker and sprinkle it over everything you are about to read in the wake of the Detroit Lions’ 35-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener Sunday.
Throughout training camp and the preseason, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said his offense would be better than last season’s substandard performance.
Running back David Johnson was a year older and year better. His maturation would further ease the pressure on the passing game and create more matchups headaches for opponents.
Quarterback Carson Palmer’s altered workout regimen and limited throwing had him feeling fresher, stronger and more confident about the season ahead, despite his advancing age.
John Brown was largely healthy, giving Arizona the deep threat that had been so critical to the offensive performances in 2014 and 2015.
The offensive line protection would be better, Arians insisted.
“I just watched these guys practice for 35 days,” he said last week. “They all look like they are better.”
None of them were on Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit.
The offensive line struggled to block a largely base Lions defense even before left tackle D.J. Humphries left the game in the first half with a knee injury. His injury, the extent of which is still unknown, casts further doubt over a unit that had significant questions despite Arians’ bravado.
Palmer threw three interceptions; he was off the mark on a number of other relatively simple throws and seemed out of sync with his receivers. He completed 27 of 48 passes for 269 yards.
“Poor,” Arians told Arizona Sports’ Paul Calvisi after the game when assessing Palmer’s play. “High throws are usually mechanics, scooting up, scooting up, playing too fast and then putting too much on it. Those are things that are easily correctable but it cost us this one.”
John Brown caught four passes. The longest was 12 yards.
Johnson gained just 23 yards on 11 carries. He did have six catches for 68 yards but he fumbled twice (losing one) before leaving the game with a wrist injury whose severity is unknown. Johnson’s second fumble started an avalanche of 26 consecutive Lions points.
“We should have had a comfortable lead in that game and we just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone,” Arians said. “You could put all the situations that we’ve practiced all spring and all summer and we failed at it.”
There were other issues at work in Detroit. Veteran kicker Phil Dawson was supposed to revive a kicking game that may have cost the Cardinals three wins and a playoff spot last season, but Dawson shanked a 32-yard field goal off the left upright in the second quarter.
The defense, which kept Arizona in the game early thanks to a pick-six and superlative play by cornerback Justin Bethel, gave way late, with Bethel getting beat a coupe times.
But this loss should be laid at the feet of the Cardinals offense. It has to be better. Much better.
The Cardinals will likely face Indianapolis without quarterback Andrew Luck next week. Win and many wounds will be healed in the over-reactionary world of the NFL.
On the other hand, lose with a Monday game upcoming against the Cowboys and angry running back Ezekiel Elliott? That’s a fear nobody wants to face this early.