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All-Access with Bruce Arians: Could have been better in Cleveland

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches in the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
LISTEN: Bruce Arians, Cardinals head coach
Tempe, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, now in his third year with the team, meets with the media the day after every game.

In this space we will highlight some of what Arians had to say, and Monday he talked about his team coming back to beat the Cleveland Browns 34-20 Sunday.

He started with an opening statement:

“There’s really nothing new after watching the film. We left a lot of yards out there offensively. Like I said yesterday, that’s a tricky place to play, but we had three shots of at least 50 yards that we normally hit, that went off of our fingertips, which were points. I like the way we responded in the second half. It’s not easy to not be playing your best and flip a switch at halftime and play much better. I don’t know if it was our best, but it was much better.  We still turned the ball over in the second half, but our defense held out and then turned it back over to us, which I thought was the turning point of the game. It was Rashad’s (Johnson) interception. I thought our kicking game was solid. Both young kickers did a nice job. We covered and ran back kicks, so I think our football team, in the second half, played as good as we’ve played all season.”

On Drew Butler’s play recently and whether he’s doing anything different:

“He’s working hard at it. He’s a talented young guy. That’s why with a lot of his stuff, we ask him to kick the sky balls and Aussie kicks to kick them inside the 20. He can bomb it and we’ve been doing a better job of covering it.”

On whether it was positive or negative that the team had to flip a switch at halftime:

“It’s very hard to flip it. When you look at the tape, it was just a few plays in the first half. The turnover where we gave the ball on the 9-yard line. We gave up two great plays. We hold them to a 3rd-and-9 and we gave up a post pattern. We had good pressure. We fumbled the ball going in for a touchdown, but there were a lot of really good things in the first half. It was just a few plays like a 50-yard pass on an easy slant route to a running back, where you cannot give up inside leverage and bite on that fake and miss a tackle. It should have been a 10-yard gain at the worst and it was a 50-yard gain, so there were a few plays. It wasn’t a lackluster performance. It was just a few plays.”

On how special this Arizona offense is:

“It could have been really special. It could have set some records, I think, if we had hit all those bombs. I’ve only had one game like that where we hit them all in my career. It wasn’t in Cleveland. I think we have a chance to be pretty solid. We’re a top-five offense right now and a top-five defense, which is very hard to do in this National Football League for eight games. To be explosive, yet still be able to run the football; A.Q. Shipley has done a hell of a job as a little tight end for us the last three ball games when we’ve used him in there and gotten great movement. Larry (Fitzgerald) has done a great job of blocking, our tight ends. Interior, we did not block very well. Our two guards and our center did not play very well.”

On whether he was aware that Arizona has already matched last year’s touchdown total:

“No, I wasn’t.”

On what it means for the team to have already matched last year’s touchdown total:

“It says that last year sucked. No wonder we won so many damn close games last year.”

On what he wants the team to do during the bye week to get ready for the second half of the season:

“This week, I want them to rest. Get a lot of treatment and get ready for an eight-game stretch that’s going to be very, very physical and very, very difficult. We’ll practice our young guys these two days and rest most of the guys, especially offensively, who played 75 snaps.”

On how important it was for the team to win a game with a negative turnover margin:

“It was huge. It doesn’t happen very often on the road. It’s probably in the 20 percent range of winning games, especially with four turnovers. But you get two back and a punt return of almost 40 yards. We got good field position. Pat (Peterson) gave it twice inside the 50, so those are almost like turnovers in the grand scheme of things. But it’s very seldom where you win the game turning it over like that.”

On whether holding on to the ball is a problem:

“It hasn’t been. Chris (Johnson) hasn’t fumbled. Larry (Fitzgerald) rarely fumbles, unless he’s trying to score. I can think of one last year when he was on the 5-yard line and tried to do too much, and in this one, he was wrapped up and he should have just went down. When the guy gets a hold of it, just go down. But, no, I don’t talk a whole lot about it. Chris isn’t a fumbler and has never been a big fumbler.”

On whether he was aware that he was “on” when calling plays yesterday as Carson Palmer said:

“I never would have guessed we were what we were on third down. I thought we were stinking it up, especially in that second quarter where we had three in a row. But they were the only three. You hit some. I’ve felt better in grooves before. I knew we were going to have those shots. If we could hit 75 percent of those shots, we were going to have a hell of a day because I liked our matchups on their corners and the way they played them.”

On whether he expects Darren Fells and Alex Okafor to return from injury after the bye week:

“Yes. Hopefully next Tuesday, we’ll have everyone. Lyle Sendlein was the only one who was injured in the game. He got his shoulder injured. We’ll wait and see what his MRI says. Lyle’s one of those guys that doesn’t like them closed – he’s claustrophobic so he had to get the open one, so we’ll wait and see. We should have all hands on deck on Tuesday.”

On whether he feels optimistic or pessimistic about the team not yet playing a complete game:

“No, no. It’s so hard. Every team is so good and we’re capable of playing at a very high level. When we don’t, you want answers and reasons. Sometimes the other guy on the other side is pretty damn good. We left yards out there in the running game. We’re still, offensively, having too many mental errors. Defensively, we’re way down. It was our lowest ever. It was an extremely well-played game defensively, other than a few tackles. Offensively, we’ll have eight mental errors on our base runs, and that’s disturbing because it’s not that complicated. It’s the guys just doing a little too much here or there and not going to the correct linebacker.”

On whether John Brown talked to him about not playing yesterday and whether he tried to play:

“He had no chance. He knew better. If you don’t practice here on Friday, you don’t play.”

On J.J. Nelson’s play:

“I thought J.J. did a heck of a job until he got confused on what damn position he was playing. He had three positions where he took Smoke’s spot in and then he had his game plan. He got them all confused. After he made two catches, all of a sudden, we couldn’t get him in the right spot. The very disturbing one was the penalty before the half. When you’re able to complete two passes and score a touchdown in 30 seconds, that’s unheard of in the league. We did it, but he ran out of the huddle lined up wrong so Mike (Floyd) is trying to adjust for him and then Jaron (Brown) tries to bump out to Mike’s spot. We snap the ball, we throw a touchdown and get a damn formation penalty and then end up kicking a field goal, strictly because J.J. lined up wrong.”

On Nelson’s formation error setting in motion the eventual penalty:

“He did that two or three times, but again, that was a great catch. It’s hard to catch it one-handed, but when the other guy is holding on to your other one and there’s no flag. Sometimes that’s amazing to me.”

On how Justin Bethel graded out:

“Very well. He was very solid. He should have had an interception at the end, which would have made it a great day for him.”

On how important it is to have veterans on the team who don’t get fazed when trailing:

“It’s good. They were part of the problem too in that first half. A couple guys weren’t playing at the level that I expected them to play. The leadership was very good in the locker room. It always is, but we still need better play out of Calais (Campbell). He should have had a dominant game in that game and he didn’t.”

On whether too much has been made of his halftime speech:

“Oh yeah. It wasn’t even close to when I was young.”

On Troy Niklas’ play:

“Troy would have had a heck of a game. It really wasn’t his fault. We had him in motion on a zone play and Bobby (Massie) should have reached out and secured the end when the end went inside. We practiced it twice and we had the end go outside in practice and Bobby just didn’t cover him up. Other than that play, I thought he played the best he’s played.”

On Carson Palmer’s play:

“I thought Carson was very, very good. They had two different blitzes that we knew were exotic and he wasn’t sure who was who on two of them and he wanted to throw hot and didn’t need to. Then, he changed the protection and created a hot, thinking he was fixing it. Those were really the only two bad plays of the day for him.”

On whether Palmer should be considered for MVP with the way he’s playing when compared to Tom Brady and other quarterbacks:

“I don’t see why not. He’s playing right there with them, if not better. He hasn’t had a 50, or 75-yard, game yet.”

On whether he thought he’d ever see fans being upset about John Brown being active and not playing:

“They had probably had him on their fantasy team or something. Tough s***. Tell him to practice.”

On why they chose to make Brown active yet not play:

“In case of injury. He could have given us more, as Jerraud Powers could have, than anybody else who was inactive. They’re both smart enough to get through that game and play whatever they had to play without injuring themselves worse.”

On whether there’s an offense he’s coached in the past that comes close to this year’s offense:

“The one year in Pittsburgh. I think we had a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers.”

On whether that was the year he won his first Super Bowl:

“I think so. That offensive line played way over their heads. This one is getting better.”

On whether this year’s offense has more options than that Pittsburgh offense:

“Oh totally. That one was pretty good now. Rashard Mendenhall was young. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders were all young guys, Heath Miller – good players.”

On why the guards and center had problems yesterday:

“It was mainly just not blocking technically sound. Running past a guy instead of blocking him; we were running a zone play and he would run by him instead of stopping and blocking him, thinking the ball carrier was going to be outside of him and the ball carrier was going to be behind him. We lost two or three good runs doing that. Just running past guys.”

On what Calais Campbell needs to do in order to play better:

“He needs to be dominating the game. He got very close, but he loses his technique sometimes and doesn’t use his hands. He should have had a four-sack day. His stats were minimal. Frostee (Rucker) had a great day.”

On whether Campbell has the personality to dominate a football game:

“He’s got the talent. He’s got the talent and he’s shown he can. He needs to do it all the time.”

On whether Sendlein’s injury to his shoulder is the same he dealt with last year:

“I don’t think so. I think it’s actually the other one, but I’ll have to go back and check. He subluxed it and it’s pretty stiff and sore today.”

On Sendlein being able to finish the game with his shoulder injury:

“Yeah.”

On the number of times Chris Johnson carried the ball yesterday:

“It was probably too many. I would have liked to have had Andre (Ellington) in there for two different series. We got mixed up on our personnel groups with who I wanted in the game. I’ll get that cleared up.”

On having Chris Johnson carry the ball a lot even when he’s having issues fumbling it:

“It isn’t heavy. Just hold on to it. As far as the number of carries, I don’t really like to see either one of them go over 20 to 25, because the other should be carrying it some.”

On what his thoughts are on playing in Seattle, the team’s next game:

“It’s obviously a tough place to play. We have to beat them to win our division and it’ll be a big game for us. It’s the first time we’ve been able to go up there since we won, with Carson.”

On Palmer’s last game in Seattle being the game where he had four interceptions but the Cardinals won:

“Yes.”

On the number of times a team can win a game when it commits four turnovers:

“I think it’s less than 20 percent.”

On whether he felt last night’s earthquake:

“No. Everybody keeps talking about an earthquake. I was sound asleep. Getting ready for Seattle.”

On whether he’ll rest up this week:

“Oh yeah.”

On whether he’s staying in town this week:

“No.”

 

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