Arizona vs. Indianapolis: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Arizona
The Cardinals hold the sixth and final playoff spot as of right now. That could change if the San Francisco 49ers knock off the Washington Redskins tonight. If the 49ers win, they recapture the wild-card spot based on their head-to-head win over Arizona earlier this season.
For head coach Bruce Arians, it was an emotional game against his former team. But when the game started, he was all business, and the Cardinals took care of business on the field.
Let’s look back at a complete effort from a team that looks to be a playoff contender.
Quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 314 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Palmer didn’t throw an interception for the second straight game. He hit on 26-of-37 passing and looked like a much more solid quarterback than he did before the bye week. It looks like Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians are on the same page of the playbook, and the results are coming in very nicely.
The Palmer frenzy should continue next week against a Philadelphia Eagles team that is 31st against the pass, allowing 300.1 yards per game through the air.
Running backs Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall both turned in great games against the Colts. Mendenhall averaged 4.2 yards per carry and finished with 54 yards on 13 carries. He scored a rushing touchdown for the second straight week.
Ellington ran for 50 yards on 10 carries with a long of 17 yards. Stepfan Taylor got involved the action with 10 yards on five carries.
The Arizona running game was able to atone for the awful performance it had a week ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Cardinals have the look and feel of a team on the rise with 120 rushing yards on the day.
The wide receiver corps was led by Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd for the second straight week. Fitzgerald brought two touchdowns and 52 yards on five catches to the box score.
Floyd, more impressively, racked up his second straight game with more than 100 receiving yards. Floyd caught the ball all seven times he was targeted on the day and looks like the complementary wide receiver Arizona saw when it drafted him in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Andre Roberts added three catches for 43 yards on the day as the third wide receiver.
Everything is clicking for the Cardinals right now, and this unit has an opportunity for a third big game in a row next week against the Eagles.
Tight end Rob Housler had another good game with 51 yards on four catches. Housler is starting to show the form that Arizona fans expected of him from the early part of the season. He has three straight games with at least 50 receiving yards and has become a reliable option for Palmer in the passing game.
He hasn't had that big breakout game yet this season, but he's been quietly consistent.
The offensive line allowed three sacks on the day. That’s about the only negative thing you can say about it. The offensive line gave Palmer time to throw, which was a big plus.
It allowed only one sack to Robert Mathis of the Colts and kept him in check for most of the day. Ricky Jean Francois had the other two sacks from his defensive tackle spot, so the line had some problems up the middle.
It gave the run game enough time to find holes and blocked well enough downfield to give the Cardinals several big plays in this game.
The Arizona defensive line brought the pressure but didn’t pile up the sacks on quarterback Andrew Luck. Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett combined for the lone sack of the game. They also combined to record five hits on Luck. While the sacks weren’t there, the defensive line did a great job of neutralizing the Indianapolis run game.
The miserable season for Trent Richardson continued as he was limited to 15 yards on seven carries. Donald Brown fared worse with two carries for one yard. Backup running back Dan Herron led the Colts with 33 yards on four carries.
More sacks would have been nice, but it’s hard to argue with the results the line put up in shutting down the running game.
The Cardinals linebackers played a solid game, and Karlos Dansby led the way. He recorded a team-high five tackles. Dansby also had a back-breaking 22-yard interception return for a touchdown for the Cardinals. He picked off Luck and ran it back for the score that made it 24-3 with seven minutes, 58 seconds left in the first half. That proved to be far too deep of a hole for the Colts to crawl out of.
They did a solid job of keeping tight end Coby Fleener in check for most of the game. Fleener scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it was a cosmetic score when the game was already decided.
Fleener finished with 55 yards on four catches. It was a pleasant change from the Cardinals getting decimated by tight ends.
The defensive backs made Luck’s day long and miserable. T.Y. Hilton was limited to 38 yards on five catches with Patrick Peterson on him all day. No other receiver had more than 35 yards on the day, and the Colts look like a much different team without Reggie Wayne.
This is exactly how the Arizona defense can perform when it renders a team one-dimensional.
Jay Feely had an excellent day hitting four of five field goals in the win and all four extra points. The Colts blocked the only kick that Feely missed to ruin a perfect day.
All of the offense made it an easy day for punter Dave Zastudil. He was only called on twice and dropped both of his punts inside the Colts' 20-yard line.
The special teams unit was truly an asset in this one.