This journey felt different, but for the Cardinals, the destination was the same

Sep 9, 2013, 3:21 PM | Updated: 3:22 pm

The journey felt different. The destination was exactly the same.

In a world of black-and-white analysis, the end result was the same. The Cardinals lost a game they could have won, 27-24 to the Rams. For some, that is all that matters and perhaps that’s the way it should be.

But how they got there — at times — had a different feel to it. It’s like driving to work but taking a different freeway, a different side street, stopping at a different Starbucks on the way.

Carson Palmer’s play was the most noticeable difference. He was accurate, got the ball downfield in the “chunk” plays preferred by Bruce Arians. He employed all his top targets, getting circus catches from Michael Floyd and hard-nosed ones from Andre Roberts (who had a crazy good game). And like an astronaut who’s been in Cryo-Freeze for a year, Larry Fitzgerald was awake, aware and involved.

It wasn’t just Palmer. Tyrann Mathieu has carried over his playmaking ways from training camp to the regular season; so far it’s the reward over the risk in a rout. The defense has made forcing turnovers a priority and between Mathieu’s poke and Dan Williams’ pick, the Cards produced the desired results. Make no mistake; there were parts of this Cards performance that felt fresh and new.

So how, despite their brand new GPS system and an 11-point fourth quarter lead, did the Cardinals wind up in exactly the same place?

Start with left tackle Levi Brown. Robert Quinn stole his lunch, ate it right in front of him and then demanded tomorrow’s lunch too. There were moments when Brown handled the Rams defensive end and others when Bruce Arians dispatched plenty of help. But when Quinn got outside of Levi, Palmer’s life expectancy was cut in half. Quinn’s three sacks were game changers and yet not enough to warrant a change according to the coach. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Jared Cook’s huge game highlighted the gaping hole in the defense created by Daryl Washington’s absence. Arians and Palmer aggressively moved the Cardinals into position to add points at the end of the first half but Jay Feely missed a 50-yard field goal. Clearly those three points would’ve come in handy. Despite a mostly optimistic debut, the offense bogged down in the fourth. At times, the defense delivered, but the lack of pressure stood out. And along those lines, John Abraham did not stand out…at all. I haven’t seen the numbers but I can’t imagine he was in on many plays and I haven’t heard an explanation as to why.

The Cardinals showed you just enough to be intrigued and just enough to be concerned.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left, catches a 4-yard pass for a touchdown as St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins defends during the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left, catches a 4-yard pass for a touchdown as St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins defends during the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, bottom, fumbles the ball as he is sacked for a 7-yard loss by St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn during the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. The Cardinals recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd is congratulated by teammate Larry Fitzgerald (11) after catching a 44-yard pass as St. Louis Rams safety T.J. McDonald, left, looks on during the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd, right, catches a 44-yard pass as St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan defends during the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, right, knocks the ball out of the hands of St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook after Cook caught a 47-yard pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. Cardinals' Karlos Dansby recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throws during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook, left, dives into the end zone after catching a 16-yard pass for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals safety Yeremiah Bell defends during the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook celebrates after catching a 16-yard pass for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NFL football game as Arizona Cardinals safeties Rashad Johnson (26) and Yeremiah Bell (37) stand on the field on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy, left, runs with the ball for a 4-yard gain as Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, right, defends during the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) St. Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson runs with the ball after intercepting a pass by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and running it back 29-yards before being pushed out of bounds during the third quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) Rams quarterback Sam Bradford lofts a pass near the outstretched arms of Arizona defensive tackle Dan Williams during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen) Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Dan Williams, center, returns an interception for a touchdown as teammates Jasper Brinkley (52) and Karlos Dansby, right, watch during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left, catches a 24-yard pass for a touchdown as St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan defends during the third quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald celebrates after catching a 24-yard pass for a touchdown during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left, catches a 24-yard pass for a touchdown as St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Rodney McLeod (23) defend during the third quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook (89) celebrates after catching a 1-yard pass for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford celebrates after scoring a two-point conversion during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, center, fumbles as he is hit by St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, left, and defensive end William Hayes watches during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. The Rams recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam) St. Louis Rams wide receiver Brian Quick (83) carries a 16-yard pass down to the 1-yard line during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) St. Louis Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein boots a 48-yard field goal during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein (4) is congratulated by teammates Johnny Hekker, left, Chris Williams (65) and Matt Conrath, right, after booting a 48-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. The Rams won 27-24. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins hops onto linebacker James Laurinaitis as they celebrate as time expires during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee) Rams head coach Jeff Fisher calls to his players during a timeout during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen) Arizona Cardinals players try to block St. Louis Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein's game-winning 48-yard field goal during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee) Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett sits on the bench following a 27-24 loss to the St. Louis Rams in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

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