Carson Palmer had a great regular season for the Arizona Cardinals, throwing for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions.
His quarterback rating of 104.6 was a career best, as were the yardage and touchdown totals.
Having rehabbed from a torn ACL suffered in 2014, Palmer made it through the 2015 campaign in good health, save for a dislocated right index finger suffered in a road win at Philadelphia on Dec. 20.
In three games since the injury, Palmer has completed 55-of-93 passes for 743 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions since suffering the injury, numbers that while not terrible, are not quite at the level he produced earlier in the season.
As he struggled some Saturday night against Green Bay, the NBC Television crew speculated if the injury may have been causing problems with Palmer’s accuracy, and they used a graphic during the broadcast to show what the tape on his finger looked like in Week 17, which was the same as it was in the playoff game.
Both Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians had said prior to the game that the finger was no longer an issue, and as a guest of Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday, former Cardinals QB and current NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner seemed to agree.
“I don’t necessarily see the finger,” he said of the reason for why Palmer seemed a bit off. “Now, I’ve dealt with some finger issues and I’m not going to sit here and say that doesn’t affect certain things: release point, strength on the football.
“But I think the things you’re seeing are good velocity. He’s still been accurate in the games that he’s played, for the most part. Not always.”
Warner then wondered aloud if passes have gotten away from Palmer because the finger has given him problems, which he said could be the case. But more than that, the 2016 NFL Hall of Fame finalist pointed to Palmer pressing as the reason for an uneven performance against the Packers that saw him complete 25-of-41 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, a total that could have been even higher.
“He got away from his technique a little bit,” Palmer said. “I’ve always said he’s one of those guys, that if you’re going to kind of draw up how you want a quarterback in the pocket and their technique, holding the football and the knee bend and all that stuff — he’s a great guy to model after, he’s very good inside the pocket.
“And there were a number of times in this game where I saw him kind of falling away and kind of throwing with his lead foot just going to the side, which is something that he doesn’t normally do.”
Warner added Palmer is usually very good about transferring his weight and using great technique to be accurate, but he saw a different quarterback at times Saturday night.
“And that to me kind of said things were going pretty fast for him,” he said. “He was just kind of reacting and going instead of really settling into the quarterback that he’s been all year long. And again, you understand that. In those kind of moments, and as even-keel as Carson is in interviews and when you talk to him, they’re big moments.”
Palmer, 36, went into the game having never won a postseason matchup, and as the Cardinals are the No. 2 seed in the NFC, they were expected to not only defeat the Packers, but make a run for Super Bowl 50. It’s a new position for both the quarterback and the team he is leading.
“It’s tough, it’s tough to just get locked in and focused in and forget about all that and just play football,” Warner said. “But at the end of the day that’s what it takes, is great quarterback play to take your team to the next level.
“But I think the great thing was he was able to get that out of the way against a Packer team that I believe the Cardinals were a much better team than the Packers. They didn’t play that way on Saturday, but they got the win I think because of that, because they were able to overcome some of those struggles that they had and some of the mistakes that they had, you know, maybe those early jitters with Carson. But they got a win anyway, and you win ugly, but you win, now you settle in and you know what the playoffs are all about and you hope for a better performance across the board this week.”