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Big Red Recap: Arizona Cardinals cruise to victory in 2014 preseason opener

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Well, that couldn’t have gone much better.

The Arizona Cardinals’ first team offense marched down the field on a beautiful touchdown drive in its only possession of the night and the first team defense forced a three and out and intercepted a pass. It all contributed to a 32-0 victory over the Houston Texans at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Carson Palmer was flawless in his limited action for the Cardinals. The veteran completed all five of his passes for 84 yards on an impressive nine-play touchdown drive culminating in a 7-yard scoring strike to Larry Fitzgerald.

Arizona would force a three and out on Houston’s first possession and then it was backup Drew Stanton’s turn to lead the offense. The 30-year-old, who hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2010, went 4-for-4 for 37 yards on the Cardinals’ second drive which was capped by a 5-yard TD pass to Jaron Brown. Less than 12 minutes into the game, the Cardinals led 14-0.

Houston fared even worse in its second offensive possession. After right tackle Derek Newton was flagged for a holding penalty, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Kevin Minter that was intercepted by Antonio Cromartie, who returned it to the Houston 13-yard line. Four plays later, Chandler Catanzaro kicked the first of three field goals on the night, connecting from 32 yards.

The Texans’ best scoring opportunity of the game was halted by a beautiful one-handed interception from linebacker Marcus Benard at the Arizona 15-yard line with just :10 left in the first half.

The Cardinals tacked on 12 more points in the fourth quarter to win going away.

The Good: The Cardinals’ offense operated rather crisply regardless of what quarterback was at the controls.

Palmer earned a perfect QB Rating of 158.3 in his one series of play. Stanton went 11-of-17 for 152 yards and a touchdown, and rookie Logan Thomas, who played the entire the second half, completed 11-of-12 passes for 113 yards and a 12-yard TD strike to former Arizona Wildcat Dan Buckner.

In all, the Cardinals amassed 409 yards of offense on the night.

Arizona’s receivers came to play as well. Twelve different Cardinals caught passes, led by rookie John Brown, who snared five balls for 87 yards. In all, the wide receivers combined for 22 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

The defense was pretty good as well. The Texans finished with only 172 total yards, turned the ball over twice and went 0-for-8 on third down conversions.

Reserve linebacker JoJo Dickson closed the night’s scoring by sacking Houston backup quarterback Tom Savage in the end zone for a safety with just 1:28 remaining in the game.

And rookie Chandler Catanzaro excelled in the kicking game. The former Clemson star hit all three of his field goal attempts (32, 28,25) and all three of his 33-yard extra points. In addition, he booted two of seven kickoffs for touchbacks. Houston’s average starting field position following Catanzaro kickoffs was the 14.8-yard line.

The Bad: For as good as the passing game was, the running game left much to be desired. The Cardinals got totaled just 81 yards on 37 carries (2.2 yards per attempt) on the night.

Stat of the Game: The three Cardinals signal callers combined for a 138.8 QB Rating. Houston quarterbacks combined for a rating of 24.4.

He Said It: “Overall, anytime you can shut out a football team, preseason or not, it’s an outstanding job by your defense and special teams.” — Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians

What’s Next: The Cardinals will practice all week in Glendale, then head to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium next Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Phoenix time and the game can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM starting with pregame coverage at 2:30 p.m.