The Arizona Cardinals returned to their nest and found the home cooking to their liking, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-33 Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The Bird Gang raced out to a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter and held on down the stretch as backup quarterback, and Valley native, Ryan Fitzpatrick led a furious comeback. With the win, the Cards improve to 3-3. The Bucs fall to 2-3.
Here are five things we learned under the closed roof inside ‘The Nest.’
1. Yo Adrian!…Adrian Peterson isn’t the player he was a decade ago but the version we saw in his Cards’ debut will do just fine. Acquired last week from the Saints for a conditional, late-round 2018 pick, “A.P.” had more yards at halftime (85) than he did in four games with the Saints (81). His hard-charging, “angry” chunk runs on the opening drive, including a 27-yard scoring burst, invigorated the crowd and added some much-needed punch to an otherwise anemic Arizona rushing attack through the first five games. “We have a Hall of Fame running back, there’s no doubt about that,” tackle D.J. Humphries said. “We just have to get in front of people and that is what it’s going to look like.” The 32-year-old looked fresh well into the fourth quarter, making a nifty move on cornerback Brent Grimes during an 11-yard carry. “A.P.” finished with 134 yards on 26 carries and two scores. Arizona tallied 160 yards rushing as a team with an average of 4.6 per carry. They were averaging 51.8 per game before Sunday.
2. Getting In Line…Some of Peterson’s debut success can be attributed to the return of the left side of Bruce Arians‘ offensive line. Humphries and guard Alex Boone started, looked fresh and explosive, frequently blowing the Buccaneers off the ball and creating gaping holes for Peterson.
3. Giving the Bucs Fitz…The on again, off again saga of Larry Fitzgerald’s role in the Cards’ offense took a turn against for the positive against Tampa. After catching six balls for 51 yards in last week’s lopsided road loss to the Eagles, Fitz spent most of the first half Sunday scorching Tampa’s injury-depleted defense with eight catches for 128 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer. Statistically, no team in the NFL has been worse against slot receivers than the Bucs and it showed. Fitz’s final numbers: 10 receptions for 138 yards and said touchdown.
4. (Nearly) Perfect Palmer…Rounding out the Cards’ fountain of youth, Palmer was brilliant against Dirk Koetter’s defense. He completed his first 14 passes (one shy of team record set by Kurt Warner in 2009) before throwing a third-quarter interception. During the streak he threw a trio of touchdowns: 14 yards to Troy Niklas, 11 yards to Fitzgerald and 17 to Juron Brown. “I don’t think he could have played any better,” Arians said of his veteran signal-caller after the game. The steady Palmer went 18 for 22 for 283 yards as the Cards’ offense was able to exploit Tampa Bay’s defensive deficiencies.
5. Mr. Jones…Outside linebacker Chandler Jones continues to be a menace to offensive coordinators. Sunday he recorded his sixth sack in six games, as well as recording two tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits in his five total tackles. Jones is in the top five in the NFL in sacks through the first part of the season. “There are a couple of things we can tighten up on,” Jones said after the victory. “But other than that I feel like this is a game where we showed everyone, this is what we’re all about.”
The Cards will leave Monday afternoon for London. They’ll play the Los Angeles Rams Sunday at Twickenham Stadium. Kickoff is 10:00AM Arizona time.