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Cardinals Begin By Battering Texans

Posted Aug 9, 2014

Passing offense deadly as preseason starts with 32-0 victory

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, after tossing the ball to the official, sprints off after catching his touchdown during Saturday night's 32-0 Cardinals' win over Houston.

Carson Palmer was in the interview room quicker than normal, and he admitted he almost didn’t bother with a shower.

“I didn’t sweat,” the Cardinals quarterback said.

There wasn’t much to sweat Saturday night for the Cardinals in their preseason opener. The 32-0 whacking of the Houston Texans at University of Phoenix Stadium was about as good as it could have gotten for Bruce Arians and his group. The team came out with no serious injuries, the passing offense was outstanding regardless of the quarterback who played, and the defense not only delivered a shutout but did not allow the Texans a third-down conversion.

“They were happy to hit someone else,” Arians said. “There is no question about that.”

Arians also wanted a fast start, and nowhere was that more noticeable than within Arians’ beloved air attack. Palmer was perfect throwing the ball on his first drive, and when the night was over, the trio of Palmer, Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas combined for 27-of-34 passes for 349 yards and no interceptions.

Each man threw a touchdown pass.

It’s a far cry from training camp last year, when so many on offense were struggling with Arians’ system – a problem that carried far into the regular season.

“Everybody’s confidence is so much different than last year,” Palmer said. “There’s not that half-second of unsure-edness, if that’s a word, in the back of your mind before the ball is snapped, or that timidness where you’re not quite sure where to step or what the adjustment is post-snap. All that stuff is gone.”

Palmer was able to check everything off his first preseason game to-do list. Get hit? Check, after he got slammed for a sack by J.J. Watt on his possession. Convert a tough third down? Check, with his 25-yard completion to John Brown when it was third-and-16 following the Watt sack. Efficiency? Well, he was 5-for-5 for 84 yards throwing the ball. Touchdown? Yep, hitting Larry Fitzgerald on a seven-yard score.

Stanton completed 11 of 17 passes for 152 yards and threw a TD pass to Jaron Brown. Thomas, the rookie, completed 11 of 12 passes for 113 yards with his scoring pass going to Dan Buckner.

Thomas, even playing against deep backups, was a revelation. Even Arians admitted Thomas threw the ball better “by far” than any other moment since he joined the Cardinals.

“It just slowed down for me,” Thomas said. “It felt good. Everybody was in their right spots and I was making good reads.”

It didn’t even matter that wide receivers Michael Floyd (groin) and Ted Ginn (knee) didn’t even dress. Rookie wide receiver John Brown was excellent with five catches for 87 yards and also drew a 39-yard pass interference penalty. Twelve different Cardinals caught passes.

And the way the defense played, the offense didn’t even need to do as well as it did. The defensive starters generated a three-and-out on their first possession – almost getting an interception – and then actually getting a pick of Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the second drive when cornerback Antonio Cromartie gathered in a pass tipped by linebacker Kevin Minter.

The only real Houston drive that threatened points came right before halftime, and linebacker Marcus Benard snuffed that out with a one-handed interception of his own. The defense even outscored the Texans on the night when third-string linebacker JoJo Dickson sacked quarterback Tom Savage for a safety.

“We looked fast,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “The defense was flying around. … For the most part, the effort was flawless, the execution was flawless.”

The Texans had the ball for less than 18 minutes in the game and generated only 172 total yards, compared to 407 for the Cardinals. If there were nits to pick, the running game never really did get going. The Cardinals ran for 81 yards in 37 carries, including just 15 yards on 12 attempts in the first half.

“The run game, (for which) I’m sure we’ll get yelled at and screamed at,” Palmer said. “But the passing game, I thought we did a good job.”

The Cardinals become the first team to pitch a preseason shutout since … the Cardinals did it in Green Bay in last year’s preseason opener. That one was 17-0. This one left the Cardinals feeling much more confident.

“The game wasn’t perfect,” Minter said, “but we played a great game.”

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