GLENDALE, AZ-The Arizona Cardinals crushed the Indianapolis Colts 40-11 to improve to 7-4 Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The victory strengthens their positioning in the NFC playoff race.
Here are five things we learned in the win.
1. Internally, this one was much more than “just another game”: It was evident from the opening kickoff the Cards wanted this one badly for Bruce Arians against his former team. Bird Gang was dominant on offense, defense and special teams racing to a 27-3 lead and never looking back. The Cards out gained Indy 274-58 at halftime and had 17 first downs, while holding the Colts (7-4) to just five. Rashard Mendenhall had a big half with 75 total yards and showed excellent burst on the edge. Defensively, they held Andrew Luck to 6-15 passing for just 42 yards. He was intercepted once and never looked comfortable as Colt receivers had problems separating from the Cards secondary. Things got so bad Indianapolis didn’t manage to hit 100 yards of total offense until the fourth quarter. They had 16 rushing yards at the end of the third. “It’s embarrassing,” an annoyed Luck said after the blowout. “Credit to them. They beat our butts fair and square.”
2. Fit(z) for a King: What can we say about Larry Fitzgerald which hasn’t already been said? Here’s one thing: Sunday he became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 receiving yards (30 years, 85 days) eclipsing Randy Moss who he grew up watching in Minnesota. “I’m happy, he said afterwards. “It’s a great accomplishment…Jerry Rice had 21,000. That’s the benchmark.” Fitz caught two first-half touchdowns. The first on a pretty fade from Carson Palmer in the first quarter and early in the second reeled in a 26-yarder. Good to see him piggyback off his six-catch, 61-yard, touchdown performance against Jacksonville. He looks revitalized and fresh after struggling earlier in the season and being slowed by a hamstring injury. He’s caught 11 passes the past two games.
3. Carson Cruising: Maybe Carson Palmer will have second thoughts about shaving his ‘cop ‘stache at the end of Movember. Palmer looked sharp throughout and had completed passes to ten different receivers by the end of the third quarter. Many of his completions were “chunk” plays to Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd, who was over 100 yards for a second-straight week. Rob Housler helped jump-start the offense catching two passes on the opening drive for 35 yards. He finished 26-37 for 314 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 114.0. “This was a respect game,” Palmer explained. “I don’t think we’re well-respected throughout the league…I kinda like flying under the radar. We have to earn the respect.”
4. Karlos Dansby still one ”Dirty Bird”: Earlier this week Fitzgerald gave Dansby a pair of his wide receiver gloves and Dansby laughed saying he needed to get an interception soon. Sunday the 32-year old cut in front of a Luck pass midway through the second quarter and sprinted 22 yards for a pick-six making the score 23-3 and essentially putting the game away. “When everything was on the line I made the play,” he explained after the game. “I made a play on the ball. Saw the end zone and just went for it.” He led the Cardinals Sunday with five tackles (all solo) and continues to be a steady presence both on the field and in the locker room.
5. Offensive line not all that offensive: It’s pretty difficult to collect 410 total yards without the “big uglies” doing their jobs. Much-maligned throughout the season the group stepped up Sunday opening holes for Mendenhall and Andre Ellington (they combined for 104 yards on 26 carries) and also giving Palmer time to go through his progressions and get the ball downfield to his receivers. Palmer was sacked three times and the group had a couple penalties against the Colts strong front but none killed momentum or lead to turnovers. This could serve as a nice building block the second time around against the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers. Arizona has now won four straight.