GLENDALE, Ariz.— The Arizona Cardinals opened the 2017 season of football at University of Phoenix Stadium with a pre-season victory over the Oakland Raiders 20-10.
Quarterback Carson Palmer and the first-team offense played 14 plays and drove the ball 70 yards down the field for an opening touchdown—aided by two Raiders penalties. The scoring drive in all was 6:36, 14 plays, capped off by a 12 yard TD pass from Palmer to WR Brittan Golden. Palmer was anticipating getting the opportunity to play the entire first quarter, but was sidelined after the opening points.
“Yeah, I thought I was going to get the whole first quarter,” Palmer said. “That’s what he [Bruce Arians] said in the team meeting last night and you know, I missed a couple, a long one to Jaron [Brown] and wanted to kind of redeem myself, I guess. But I didn’t get that chance, I’ll have to wait until next week.”
Palmer talked the week leading up to Saturday night’s pre-season game against the Raiders about the offense seeking efficiency. Palmer addressed if his unit capitalized on that opportunity.
“It’s getting there. It’s getting there.” Palmer said. “It’s never perfect. It’s never ideal. We are going to continue to work—it feels like we have been in camp forever— this is just really the first pre-season game when you look at it. We’ve got a lot of time to sharpen things up, and we need to sharpen things up.”
Palmer finished the night 4 of 8 for 39 yards with 1 touchdown and a rating of 103.6.
Quarterback Drew Stanton came in the game to finish out the first half and his play was highlighted by a scramble play at the goal-line in which he rolled to his right and found tight end Troy Niklas for the touchdown. Arians has continually said this training camp that Stanton doesn’t have anything to prove—in fact, it has been his best camp so far.
Stanton addressed whether he felt like he needed this kind of performance as a player.
“Well, you always need this kind of performance, you know,” Stanton said. “It’s much better than not playing well. I’m sure there’s stuff to go back and look at. I know those two throws that I tried to force the ball down the field, sometimes you get greedy, especially in this offense because those kinds of plays present themselves. You have to be smart about that and find the check-down. But I felt good about what I was trying to accomplish and we got points.”
Stanton finished his night 11 of 15 for 112 yards and one touchdown with a rating of 116.5.
Robert Nkemdiche has been a force all training camp. Nkemdiche has been seeing reps mostly with the second team unit, but has been worked in the rotation with the first team as of late. Nkemdiche was instrumentally in stopping the Raiders from getting a first down on three consecutive plays that included Oakland going for it on fourth down.
“I feel like I was getting around blocks and trying to be as disruptive as possible,” Nkemdiche said. “It feels good because a defense that is what we predicate on, making stops and getting off of the field,” he added about the fourth down play. “If the other team is going to say we can line up and get a first down and we stop it, that’s big for us.”
Nkemdiche has come to camp with an attitude of working-hard, staying focused and not shying away from an honest assessment to improve his overall game.
“I think sometimes I need to work on getting to the quarterback and our rush lanes and what we do in there,” Nkemdiche said when asked about improvements from the night. “As well as playing with my hands and consistently doing what you’re asked on the defense, and playing more monotonous and doing the little things right.”
Nkemdiche finished the night with three total tackles–one assist and two solo.
The head coach always likes to win and that is exactly what the Arizona Cardinals did against the Raiders, but with that can always be an improvement.
“Obviously we always enjoy winning,” Arians said post-game. “Liked the start of the game, did not like the first defense going out and giving up a field goal after we got a touchdown. We should be putting the hammer down. I thought all three quarterbacks played really well.”
Arians offered his initial assessment of Stanton.
“He was spot on,” Arians said about Stanton. “Tried to force one down there and we change the route a little bit and he kind of got fooled by the receiver, but I thought he was out-standing.”
Quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich saw his first action as a play caller for the night’s game and Arians provided his opinion about the signal caller.
“We had a little bit of volume issue as far as quarterbacks hearing and had to burn a couple of timeouts,” Arians said. “He was calling it from the booth for the first time so that is something we will have to address as far as the volume to the quarterbacks headsets. But I thought he did a really nice job.”
So far, the Cardinals have been in camp longer than any other team in the NFL, but this was their first game in which starters laced it up and took the field. Arians was asked where he feels his team is at.
“I am pleased.” Arians said. “Knock on wood the injury bug hasn’t hit us too hard other than TJ [Logan] and it was good tonight. Practices have been consistent, not always great, never bad–consistent. That’s really all you can ask. I thought they showed up ready to play in this game.”
The Cardinals will host the Chicago Bears Saturday, August 19.