BY Adam Lewis 07:46PM 12/18/2013

Palmer turning Cards’ season, thanks to Arians

At 33, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is enjoying a bounce-back season under the careful direction of first-year Arizona coach Bruce Arians.

QB Carson Palmer has led Arizona’s turnaround since the Seahawks pasted the Cardinals in Week 7. / Arizona Cardinals

RENTON — After the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 34-22 in Week 7, Carson Palmer’s first season with new coach Bruce Arians took a U-turn. In that whipping at University of Phoenix Stadium, Seattle’s defensive front had seven sacks and two interceptions and held Palmer, who went 30 of 45, to 258 passing yards.

The Cardinals’ record was 3-4, and the 33-year-old Palmer was playing like a confused rookie in Arians’ pass-heavy, go-deep offense. Through seven games, Palmer had eight touchdown passes to 13 interceptions and was sacked 20 times. He was averaging 249 passing yards per game, but waning was his ability to avoid pass rushers in collapsing pockets.

Two months later, the Cardinals are 9-5. They’ve won six of  the past seven and enter Sunday’s game in Seattle (1:05 p.m., FOX) needing wins in their final two regular-season games to have a chance at sneaking into the NFC playoffs.

What changed?

“I think we’ve just gotten more comfortable with the playbook and the calls that are coming into the game,” Palmer said Wednesday during a teleconference with Seattle media. “We’ve gotten more confident in the scheme and more confident in the guy next to you.”

In his last seven games, Palmer has 13 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, a 69 percent completion percentage and 1,948 passing yards, good for 278 per game. Arians, meanwhile, has called more three-step dropbacks to help an Arizona offensive line that’s yielded 38 sacks.

“I’ve been in the (offensive) style where you just run the same plays over and over again, but just out of different formations, and that’s not what this is,” Palmer said. “There are a lot of different concepts, new concepts every week, plays that we installed today that we haven’t run in a long time. He doesn’t care if it was unsuccessful six weeks ago, if it works against the scheme he puts it in.”

The success of the Palmer-Arians tandem is among the biggest surprises of the 2013 NFL season. A season that turned for the Cardinals after the Seahawks beat them on Thursday Night Football.

“When you put it all together for the first year, it takes a little time, especially offensively,” Arians said. “You could see after that week us continue to start getting better offensively.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll agreed.

“They’re just cleaner, sharper, better at everything,” he said.

Palmer was an All-America selection and Heisman Trophy winner under Carroll at USC in 2002. That Trojans team went 11-2, shared the Pac-10 Championship with Washington State, then walloped Iowa 38-17 in the Orange Bowl. The Trojans finished No. 4 in the country and Palmer was the Bengals’ No. 1 pick in the 2003 NFL draft.

“I think he’s playing the way you could always imagine him to play. He’s had a lot of good stretches,” Carroll said. “He’s put up a lot of yards over the years in his different situations. It looks to be kind of the culmination of his career.”

Early in last week’s 37-34 overtime win against the Titans, Palmer sustained a high ankle sprain when Tennessee defensive end Kamerion Wimbley hit him low. Wimbley earned a roughing the passer penalty, but Palmer stayed in the game. Palmer practiced Wednesday and is expected to start against Seattle’s No. 1-ranked secondary.

“He’s really sharp. He’s making good choices. He’s got pretty good protection,” Carroll said. “He’s got good receivers to go to. All of that is fitting together really well. Bruce has always had good quarterback play, and he’s getting it again.”

Still no Percy Harvin

Seeing a fully healthy Percy Harvin before the end of the regular season is becoming less likely. Harvin didn’t practice Wednesday and Carroll provided no update on the wide receiver’s injured hip.

“We’re just trying to see if we can get back out to work and get him on the field,” Carroll said.


YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    Harvin and Rice – Minnesota knew…………….

  • RadioGuy

    Agreed. Doesn’t seem to matter who’s running the show at either end: Minnesota seems to take Seattle to the cleaners every time when it comes to players changing teams, starting with that horrible Ahmad Rashad for Bob Lurtsema trade. Could you imagine having Rashad AND Steve Largent in the same lineup?

    I’m actually happy to see Carson Palmer doing well in Arizona. He doesn’t impress me as a bonehead USC QB like Todd Marinovich or Matt Leinart and he looked good with the Bengals before the injuries and team dysfunction wrecked him there. The less said about his stay in Oakland, the better…that was doomed from the start. Let’s hope Carson doesn’t do too well Sunday, though. The Cardinals should make all of us nervous because you KNOW they haven’t forgotten what happened last season.

    • oldfan

      You left out Nate Burleson, another bum receiver we got from Minnesota. But Ahmad Rashad? Couldn’t blame the Seahawk management for that one. Rashad made it clear that he was not going to work hard or play hard for Seattle after he got here. He wanted out from the start. No matter what he did for the Vikings afterwards I never had any respect for him (yes, I’m that old, and yes, I still hold that grudge).
      As for Harvin, wait and see. This deal is for more than just this year.
      And Sidney Rice underperforming… well, you got me there.

      • RadioGuy

        What I understand happened with Rashad was that Jack Patera wanted him to shave his beard and Ahmad just wasn’t going to do it. It was obviously an oil-and-water situation with those two, one of them had to go and I don’t recall a player ever trading a coach.

        As for Burleson, that was kind of convoluted in that it was supposed to be some sort of “payback” for the Vikings finding that loophole in Hutchinson’s contract and signing him away. Hutch may end up in Canton while Nate may end up in a Little Caesar’s commercial.

        Over four seasons in Minnesota, Percy was on the Injury Watch 27 times even before being placed on Injured Reserve the final eight weeks of last season and Sunday’s game will make it 21 of 22 games he’s missed. I’d love to see Harvin healthy because he creates a LOT of matchup problems when he does play, but I think I may be detecting a trend.

        • oldfan

          It was a long time ago, but as I remember it Rashad didn’t want to play for an expansion team and forced the trade (but maybe I just bought the “company line” at the time).
          You’re right, Burleson was a spite pick up to try and get even for the Hutchinson deal (a foolish move it seemed to me). I only mentioned him because he fit the scenario of Minn. receivers who didn’t work out.
          We knew Harvin’s history when we traded for him. Unfortunately under-sized speed merchant lose their only advantage when they are dinged up. It’s the chance you take.
          But maybe in the future we should shop for receivers elsewhere.