Cardinals deliver message in dominant win over 49ers

Sep 28, 2015, 11:13 AM | Updated: 11:28 am
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) runs back an interception for a touchdown against t...

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) runs back an interception for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game against the, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

“Sorry, but we are unable to get to the phone at this time. Please leave your name, number and a message after the beep and we will be sure to get back to you. Thank you for calling.”

“Oh hey, NFL, just the Arizona Cardinals calling. We’re really good. Catch you later — good luck catching us.”

OK, so this message left on an answering machine never actually happened. I mean really, who even has an answering machine these days?

But it could have happened, at least in spirit. Because in their 47-7 thrashing of the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in Glendale, the Cardinals showed the entire league that their fast start in 2014 was not a fluke. In fact, it may have only been the beginning.

“I thought we came out with a purpose,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “We played for sixty minutes with that purpose and that was to get in first place in our division.”

The Cardinals did that, and after three games hold a two-game lead over every other NFC West foe.

But while winning is nice — no one will complain about a victory — it is how the Cardinals have gone about it that is most impressive and exciting.

The Cardinals have outscored the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears and 49ers by a combined 77 points, which gives them the best point differential in the league and the largest any team has held after three games since the 2007 New England Patriots, who were at +79 en route to their 18-1 season.

Carson Palmer has been sacked once while completing nearly 64 percent of his passes for 803 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald is partying like it’s 2008, John Brown is regularly burning defenders and Michael Floyd has yet to make an impact. The run game, which was among the worst in the NFL last season, is much improved, evidenced by the 110 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries backup Chris Johnson posted Sunday. Andre Ellington should be back next week, and rookie David Johnson looks like a keeper.

Then there’s the defense, which accounted for two touchdowns and a safety Sunday and has, outside of a few screen passes in Week 1, been every bit as good as last year’s bunch. Six different players have already intercepted at least one pass.

Now, it is important to note that the Cardinals still have not played a team with any kind of playoff dreams, as the Saints, Bears and 49ers are a combined 1-8 on the season. But as anyone will tell you, anything can happen on any given Sunday, and the Cardinals taking care of business in emphatic fashion is still worthy of note.

No doubt they will experience some adversity over the next 14 weeks (and 13 games). They will face off against tougher opponents, have to deal with a key injury or two, and have some bounces not go their way. Chances are they’ll even fall behind in a game, which is something only the Cardinals can say has not happened yet this season.

But their formula for success appears to be repeatable and sustainable. Also, improvable.

“That’s something you always strive for and maybe you never get,” QB Carson Palmer said of having a pretty game. “You always want perfection.”

Palmer pointed to penalties and an interception he threw toward the end of the first half as things that were not pretty and need to be fixed.

“There are mistakes all over the place,” he continued. “You are never going to walk out of a game saying that every play was absolutely perfect. That’s the mentality.

“We’re going to get yelled at on Monday and we’re going to get harped on on so many silly things that we did. We’ll just continue to strive to not make those mistakes and maybe you never see perfection. You’ve got to continue to work. It’s three games. It means nothing. We’re 3-0. It doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to work.”

And therein lies the rub for this team.

The Cardinals started 3-0 last season and were 9-1 before all the quarterbacks got hurt and the wheels fell off. Any thoughts of the team getting a big head or resting on any laurels can probably be dispelled based on that alone. Last week, Arians told his team they ‘ain’t blank,’ and he essentially repeated that message when talking to his players after the win over the 49ers.

“Good job, hell of a win,” he said. “That’s all it was. That’s all it was. A hell of a win. And we ain’t [expletive] yet.

“But we’re starting to smell a little better.”

The Cardinals know all too well how quickly they can go from smelling like roses to smelling like, well, “blank.” No doubt much of the talk this week will focus on continuing to respect the process, not about how good they are.

It actually began Sunday after the dust settled on the win over the 49ers.

“We are feeling really good, but at the end of the day we’ve got, what, this is Week 3, so 14 more weeks to go,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We have to make sure we stay the course to the process. We obviously see the process works and just have to take it a day at a time and one game at a time.

“We defintely have something special in this locker room, we just have to make sure that we keep our heads down and don’t listen to the outside noise. Just keep believing in the guys in this locker room.”

“Honestly, like B.A. told us, we’re just kind of keeping our heads down,” safety Deone Bucannon added. “We want to go under the radar and have people underestimate us because we’re a fantastic team and we’ve got awesome talent. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much talent we have. We’re just looking forward to the next day.”

That’s the approach the players need to take, as any kind of let up could lead to disastrous results. The second you think you’ve arrived is the very time you’ll take a step back. Media and fans, on the other hand, are allowed to ponder just how good this team is and can be, along with how far they could go.

It’s still very early in the season and there is plenty that has to be learned, but it’s probably safe to say the Cardinals are once again one of the NFC’s better teams.

And whether or not anyone outside of Arizona agrees is of little import.

“We don’t care about getting respect from anyone in the league,” Peterson said. “All we have are the guys in this locker room. We have 53 men that we believe in and eight men on the practice squad, if their number gets called, and I believe one of the best coaching staffs in the game.

“So we’re going to be prepared each and every Sunday, and we’ll see if the national accolades or the national publicity comes, but honestly, we really don’t care.”

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) runs back an interception as San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson is hit by San Francisco 49ers free safety Eric Reid (35) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden (44) celebrates his sack of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) The San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals are separated by the referees during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) is tackled in the end zone for a safety by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Deone Bucannon (20) and Kevin Minter, bottom, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) is hit by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Deone Bucannon (20) and Calais Campbell during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Kenneth Acker during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers fans react during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) signals safety during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) 
              San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) looks to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
            Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) intercepts a pass intended for Torrey Smith (82) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) is hit by San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53)  during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) celebrates a run against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) celebrates his touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) scores a touchdown as San Francisco 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt (29) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) celebrates his touchdown run against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his second interception of the game against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) scores a running touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) makes a catch as San Francisco 49ers strong safety Antoine Bethea (41) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) runs after the catch as San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite (57) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) scores as San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite (57) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) can't make stye catch as San Francisco 49ers cornerback Kenneth Acker (20) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) can't make the catch as San Francisco 49ers cornerback Kenneth Acker (20) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) intercepts a pass for a touchdown as San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) misses the catch during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws under pressure from San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) scores a touchdown as San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite (57) blocked by Cardinals' Ted Larsen, left, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) celebrates his touchdown run against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) celebrates his interception for a touchdown with Tyrann Mathieu (32) and Calais Campbell (93) against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals fans cheer during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers fans cheer during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game against the, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) runs back an interception for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game against the, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) runs back an interception for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game against the, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game against the, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu crosses the goal line after an interception for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game against the, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his interception for a touchdown with teammates against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game against the, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) takes the field with Blaine Gabbert (2) prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

Adam Green

Arizona Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke adjusts his cap between pitches against the Colorado Rock...
Adam Green

Concerned about Zack Greinke? Yes, I am

It's early, yes, but Zack Greinke's struggles this season are unexpected and concerning.
7 years ago
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones, who was acquired in a trade with the New England Patri...
Adam Green

Chandler Jones is the most exciting addition in Arizona Cardinals history

The Cardinals added Chandler Jones not to make them good, but to get them to the Super Bowl.
7 years ago
Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin (46) prepare to hit during a spring t...
Adam Green

Money, expectations change the game for Diamondbacks

If the Diamondbacks are concerned about big heads due to being "offseason winners," they need look no further than to a division rival as a cautionary tale.
7 years ago
Phoenix Suns' P.J. Tucker (17) and Devin Booker (1) react to a foul call during the second half of ...
Adam Green

Who knew the Suns bottoming out could feel so terrible?

While the Phoenix Suns being bad may actually be a very good thing, the way they have hit the bottom is difficult to stomach.
7 years ago
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches during the second half of an NFL football game ag...
Adam Green

Trust leads to Arians’ aggressive approach with Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals had just coughed up a 14-point fourth quarter lead and had the ball at their own 16 with just 58 seconds left in a tied game.
7 years ago
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, left, greets Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palm...
Adam Green

Cardinals show road to NFC West title goes through Glendale

Prior to the game there was plenty of talk about how the Cardinals had yet to beat a winning team and were not nearly as good as their record may have indicated.
7 years ago
Cardinals deliver message in dominant win over 49ers