Big Red Recap: Adrian Peterson shines in Cardinals debut, win over Bucs
Oct 15, 2017, 5:10 PM | Updated: 7:54 pm
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Apparently, one player can make that much of a difference.
Welcome to the Arizona Cardinals, Adrian Peterson.
In his debut, five days after being acquired from New Orleans for a conditional 2018 draft pick, Peterson rushed 26 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Cardinals beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 38-33, in front a sold-out crowd of 63,999 at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Peterson’s addition seemed to lift the entire team.
The Cardinals (3-3) played a near-perfect first half — they led 24-0 — and took a 31-0 advantage only minutes into the third quarter, scoring on each of their first five possessions, including four touchdowns.
Carson Palmer completed his first 14 pass attempts and finished 18-of-22 for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once and sacked twice.
Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches on 11 targets for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Cardinals knocked Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston out of the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter and picked off his backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick, twice.
Behind Fitzpatrick, however, the Buccaneers (2-3) rallied, outscoring the Cardinals 33-7 the final quarter-plus to make the final outcome more respectable.
Fitzpatrick went 22-of-32 for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cardinals have now won three straight against the Buccaneers.
So, yeah, this Peterson player looks good in a Cardinals uniform. Runs of eight, eight and 11 yards preceded a 27-yard gain up the middle for a touchdown on the opening possession of the game (at the 11:52 mark). Add it up and Peterson, who received a standing ovation after his first carry, rushed four times for 54 yards. By comparison, the Cardinals entered the week averaging 51.8 yards per game.
In four games with the Saints, Peterson gained 81 rushing yards on 27 carries. He nearly surpassed that total just two possessions into his Cardinals career, tallying 76 yards on seven carries. His seventh touch was a 17-yard run that preceded a Palmer 14-yard touchdown toss to tight end Troy Niklas, extending the lead to 14-0 at the 5:24 mark of the first quarter. The drive also saw Fitzgerald with a 29-yard reception.
If you can run the football, then you can run play-action. And that’s exactly what happened on the Cardinals’ third possession. With Peterson in the backfield, Palmer twice faked the handoff and first completed a 30-yard ball to Jaron Brown on 3rd-and-2. Later, Palmer threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald to make the score 21-0 at the 12:04 mark of the second quarter.
For the third time in as many games, Antoine Bethea picked off the opposing team’s quarterback. His third-quarter interception, the Cardinals’ fifth of the season, helped set up another touchdown. Palmer threw off his back foot 17 yards to John Brown, who was forced to come back for the football, before walking into the end zone, making the score 31-0 at the 11:58 mark of the third quarter. The three-game interception streak is a career-first for Bethea.
And just for good measure, likely the proverbial nail in the coffin, Peterson scored his second touchdown of the game, rushing from one yard out at the 7:17 mark of the fourth quarter to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 38-20. The touchdown was big, ending a run of 20-straight points by the Buccaneers. The score was set up by an interception by cornerback Tramon Williams, who had replaced Patrick Peterson (quadriceps) in the lineup.
After a pass interference penalty in the end zone put the ball at the one-yard line, the Cardinals appeared ready to make it four touchdowns in four first-half possessions. But, on first down, Palmer fumbled the snap from center; on second down, Peterson lost a yard; and then on third down, Palmer was sacked. The Cardinals had to settle for a Phil Dawson 28-yard field goal and 24-0 lead at the 5:31 mark of the second quarter.
Well that’s something you don’t see very often, Fitzgerald fumbled. On 1st-and-20 at the Arizona 15, Fitzgerald caught a four-yard pass and then had the football ripped from his hands by Lavonte David, who then picked up the loose ball and ran 21 yards the other way for a touchdown. Add the two-point conversion and the Buccaneers had now scored 20 consecutive points to pull to within 11, 31-20, at the 12:56 mark of the fourth quarter.
Penalty-free through three quarters, the Cardinals were flagged seven times for 61 yards, including a pair of penalties on Jermaine Gresham for 25 yards, in the fourth quarter. In those last 15 minutes of the game, the Cardinals were outscored, 27-7, and outgained, 144-67. All 144 yards came through the air as Fitzpatrick was 11-of-13 with two touchdowns: 10 yards to Cameron Brate and 37 yards to Mike Evans.
STAT OF THE GAME
5.2: Peterson averaged just over five yards a carry, not bad considering the Cardinals entered the week dead last in the NFL at 2.6 yards per carry.
HE SAID IT
“We blocked really well but he made some guys miss,” head coach Bruce Arians said, referring to Peterson. “The offensive line and our tight ends had a heck of day.”
– Fitzgerald extended his streak of at least one reception to 201 consecutive games, the third-longest in NFL history.
– Fitzgerald passed Steve Smith (14,731) and moved into seventh place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list.
– Fitzgerald surpassed 100 receiving yards for the 44th time in his career and the sixth time doing so in the first half.
– Palmer moved ahead of Warren Moon (291) into 12th place on the NFL’s all-time list for career touchdown passes.
– Palmer recorded his 35th multi-touchdown game as a Cardinal. Only Jim Hart (56) and Neil Lomax (44) have more.
– Peterson topped 100 rushing yards for the 50th time in his career, which ranks eighth-best all-time in NFL history.
– Chandler Jones recorded his sixth sack of the season, dropping Fitzpatrick on 3rd-and-11 late in the third quarter.
– The Cardinals earned their first win (1-3) against an NFC opponent outside the NFC West division.
– Arizona improved to 3-0 against the Buccaneers under Arians, who now has 44 wins in AZ.
– Among the Cardinals’ inactives were injured defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche (calf) and Olsen Pierre (ankle).
A long international flight.
That’s right, this is the week the Cardinals are headed to London, England. The team will leave Monday afternoon and arrive Tuesday, beginning their week-long stay in preparation for their matchup against NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. Arizona time with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
The Rams will be the home team.
In each of the past two years, the Cardinals and Rams have split the season series.
Overall, the Cardinals have won five of the last seven matchups and lead 38-37-2 in a series that dates back to 1936.