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All-Access with Bruce Arians: Not perfect but still a win

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians talks with referee Terry McAulay (77) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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 following a 34-31 home win over the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the second consecutive primetime win win for the Cardinals, who improved to 8-2 and have a three-game lead in the NFC West.

He started with an opening statement:

“It’s kind of sounding like a broken record, but I really didn’t like the way we played. Offensively, especially in the first half; it was a tale of two halves, obviously. We were very, very poor with execution in the first half. We ran the ball OK, but our passing game was very poor. In the second half, offensively, I thought we played extremely well. Not a lot was said at halftime other than ‘do your job,’ and ‘play better.’ Defensively, it was back and forth until the fourth quarter. When Pat (Peterson) went down, we had a couple big changes in the secondary where our matchups got exposed a little bit from the rest of the game. Those things happen, in-game substitutions with injuries, you have to be able to step up and play. A couple guys did not do that. We lost technique. We gave up four explosive plays in the fourth quarter, which all led to points. But, we were able to finish the game and win the game on a bright note, and I get to chew their ass out on Wednesday.”

On Patrick Peterson’s injury:

“The MRIs have not come back yet. I think he tweeted out that he’s fine, but he’s sore. He ran a little bit in the pool and he’ll be day-to-day. As will Frostee (Rucker), and that’s pretty much it.”

On Mike Iupati’s injury:

“Mike played the rest of the game. He was fine. His strength is fine.”

On the protection during the game:

“We did a better job in all phases in the second half. In the first half, it was just that we handled a couple blitzes OK. Other than that, it was not very good.”

On how he would rate Carson Palmer’s play as the game developed:

“The first half, probably as poorly as he’s played here in three years. In the second half, probably as good as he’s played in three years. That’s the type of guy he is. He can have rough moments, shake them off and just come on back. He’s like a really good pitcher who can’t find the plate, and then all of a sudden, he gets in a groove.”

On whether the reports are true that Arizona complained to the officials about Cincinnati’s defense mimicking the cadence:

“Probably, because they had flinched a few other times and they have a history of it.”

On why Arizona’s rookies are playing better in the second half of the season:

“They grow in to the National Football League. This is a first for me. We had three rookies get game balls. Rodney Gunter, Markus Golden and J.J. (Nelson) got game balls from this game. I don’t think I’ve ever given three rookies game balls before, but they all stepped up. We talked about it being a five-star matchup. The five-star players were going to have to show up on night games, but it was time for our young guys to show up and they really did.”

On how the team’s aggressive mentality affected the last offensive drive:

“I think some of the defensive guys were holding onto their ass. Like, ‘What are you doing Coach?’ They know me too well now, and I think they trust Carson also. It’s a trust factor. Will you lose one? Possibly. But you’re not going to win one unless you try.”

On winning a game like that with that mentality:

“That’s the thing. If you kneel down or run a draw and see what happens, the game’s over. You roll the dice on overtime. I trust our guys to execute. Normally, with the first play, you’re not going to get a strong pass rush because they’re thinking draw and screen, and you get a chance to shoot one down the field and get a 20-yard gain and get rolling.”

On whether there’s a time to not take as much risk, like when there’s less time on the clock:

“Depending with timeouts.”

On whether that mentality gives the offense extra confidence:

“Oh, there’s no doubt. Guys were appreciative of being trusted.”

On what he would have said had somebody told him Arizona would beat Seattle and Cincinnati, but lose the turnover battle in each game:

“I thought you’d probably be crazy. Right now, the problem is that the turnovers have stopped coming and we keep giving them away. There’s another fumble on the ground that we didn’t get. We’ve got to find ways to start creating more turnovers and we have to protect the football better. We got lucky with David Johnson’s fumble.”

On when and where to use guys when the offense has so much speed:

“Right now, it’s just, ‘Who’s the healthy one?’ But once they get healthy, that’s always been a dilemma. Hopefully, we’ll have them all healthy soon and we’ll try to figure out a role for each one.”

On whether it’s fun for him to play with so many fast guys on offense:

“Oh yeah. That’s the joystick. I’m not a gamer, but I would imagine that that would be pretty fun if you were one.”

On what opposing teams are thinking when they see that Arizona has so much speed at so many different positions:

“Stay back. Stay back. I thought they did a very good job of keeping back. We did hit the one shot where we split them over the top, but they did a good job of keeping us in front of them last night.”

On what Xavier Williams showed him Sunday night:

“He’s ready to play. Ready to play, jumped in there; 10 plays and 10 pluses. He’s a very bright guy who can play multiple positions, so he’s another one that will be interesting with how do we sit him down?”

On what he expects from J.J. Nelson moving forward:

“I think he’s just going to grow and grow. He didn’t play a perfect game. He was short on some routes and misaligned one time. He’s still a rookie in that phase, but the lights aren’t too bright for him. The one thing about him is that he’s a fast guy, but he can change directions and he’s got a good catching radius.”

On J.J. Nelson’s performance on third down Sunday night:

“Yeah, the back shoulder throw that Carson threw to him in the seam and then that dig route. He’s very capable. He’s got very good hands.”

On if there’s a way for him to tell how the players will react to the bright lights and high pressure situations when evaluating players at the Combine:

“No. You just have to watch their tape and when you get to know them a little bit, how much swagger do they have. It’d be very hard with John (Brown) and J.J. because they don’t say [expletive]. It’s hard to see if they have any swagger until you see them on the field, because in their personalities, they’re just real, real quiet guys. I really would like to see J.J.’s interview after the game last night. I don’t know how they got him to talk.”

On whether John Brown’s hamstring bothered his dancing ability:

“No, his hamstring looked fine, and we’ll talk to him about that too.”

On whether he expects Michael Floyd to return from his hamstring injury:

“I hope so. Like I said, until he can open and go, there’s no need to press it.”

On whether Dwight Freeney showed him that he’s still capable of playing at a high level:

“Yeah, Dwight can still get after the passer. We’re trying to find him a role each week, and hopefully, we’ll expand it a little bit.”

On how Ted Larsen graded out after last night’s game:

“Very, very well. Other than the almost FUBAR of the year.”

On how Cincinnati’s penalty at the end of the game turned Arizona’s FG attempt into a guaranteed chip shot:

“Well there are no guarantees anymore with these extra point things. We’ve missed two this year. I had all the confidence in the world that he was going to make the other one, but it obviously made it a little bit easier on him, I think, when it went up there. But it was a good call.”

On whether he’s seen that penalty called before:

“No. Not recently. I have in the past.”

On if Ted Larsen doesn’t move would they have gotten that call:

“No. If he doesn’t jump, no … Don’t jump. Don’t jump.”

On whether a false start penalty would have been the worst possible call:

“That would have been it.”

On how Arizona will have to recreate the intensity against San Francisco after two primetime games the last two weeks:

“It’s the Niners. It’s the Niners. We haven’t beaten the Niners very often, so they’re still the Niners.”

On what he thinks about San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert:

“I haven’t watched him much. I liked him coming out. He beat us one time in Jacksonville, when I was with the Colts, with a late touchdown pass. They have changed what they’re doing. Obviously, they’re not as much read-option and quarterback run, so they’re more traditional now.”

On whether he expects Jonathan Cooper to return this week and whether Larsen will have a chance to hang on to the starting guard position:

“Yes and yes. We’ll hopefully get him back, but we’re going to make sure he’s fine. If he’s still limited Ted will stay there.”

On whether he expects Cory Redding to play this weekend:

“That’s going to be tough.”

On whether Redding’s injury is a high ankle sprain:

“Yeah.”

On whether he’s seen progress from Drew Butler the last few weeks:

“Oh God, yeah. I was thinking Drew Stanton when you said that. I thought you were talking about his dancing. With Drew’s confidence, he’s been hitting the ball good. Early in the year, the statistics sometimes when you’re pooch punting and kicking it away from certain people, your statistics won’t be as good. But I’ve got all the confidence in the world. He’s got a great, talented leg and he’s really developing a hell of a knuckleball that he hasn’t shown yet, but it’s going to be tough to catch.”

On whether he knew that Carson Palmer could have a season like he’s having so far:

“Oh yeah. Yeah. You saw it last year. It was a matter of getting a better group of guys around him, and we have a better group of guys. We’ve just got to keep them and hope the injury bug doesn’t hit us at the end of the season, like it did last year.”

On whether he called anybody to get a scouting report on Palmer before trading for him in 2013:

“No, I’d just seen him too many times in person.”

On what his relationship with Palmer is like:

“It’s different than most of the other guys I’ve coached because they were younger. He’s an older guy, married with children. It’s more ‘coach-player.’ But I’ll have a drink with him.”

On whether he invites Palmer over for Thanksgiving or sends him a Christmas gift:

“No, no. He’s got his own family for all that stuff, but we share some good moments.”

On whether Palmer loosens up when they drink together:

“No. He’s still stoic. He’s got a very dry humor.”

On whether there’s anything he looks forward to about Thanksgiving:

“We have a tradition in our home where we stand around the table, and it’s grown since we’ve come here because we have about 14 or 15 more people that come over with some of the coaches who aren’t married, and each one says what they’re thankful for. It’s a very special moment in our house to hear each person. I always start with, ‘Freedom and those who are keeping our freedom.’ Having just had our military appreciation night, it’s always very touching to me, that time where we honor our military and what they do for us.”

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