GLENDALE, Ariz. — Carson Palmer admitted earlier in the week that Sunday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals meant a little more than a normal game.
He parlayed the emotion of facing his former team into a first quarter where he completed just two of five passes for 22 yards with two interceptions. He then completed five of seven passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter, which was really just a preview of what was to come.
The veteran went off in the third quarter, completing nine of 11 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. By the time the night was over, the veteran had thrown for 317 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-31 Arizona Cardinals win.
“He just looked me in the eye and said, ‘You got to play. You got to step up your play,'” Palmer said of what head coach Bruce Arians told him at halftime. “Other than that, nothing else.”
Arians had sensed something wasn’t right with his quarterback, and it was costing the team.
“He was out of sync in the first half and tried to force one down the middle that wasn’t even there — and same thing to Larry (Fitzgerald) — and make a big play,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of his QB’s early struggles. “I think he wanted to get after these guys a little too much early and then he settled down and got into rhythm.”
When Palmer was off, as he was in the first quarter, he was really off. But when he was on, as he was for most of the rest of the game, he was really on.
He admitted he was probably pressing in the first half, and credited his teammates for allowing him time to get into a groove.
“We talked and defense said they were going to step up and do their job,” Cardinals receiver John Brown said. “So we knew we had to match what they were doing, and we were on point from there on out. We did all of our assignments right.”
Though Palmer and the Cardinals surely would have preferred to get off to a better start, what they showed over the game’s final 30 minutes was just how good they can be when things click.
Arizona’s five first-half drives resulted in 102 yards, two picks, two punts and one touchdown.
Their seven post-break drives led to 271 yards, three touchdowns, two field goals and two punts.
“It shows we have a lot of guys who are capable,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said of the turnaround. “It also shows that we were pathetic in the first half. We had our opportunities.
“We feel like we could have scored 40 points or more. That’s just what we’re capable of.”