Dave Boling: New-look Cardinals have taken flight

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comDecember 19, 2013 

RENTON — Asked about the style of his coach, Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer cited an appreciation for his brevity and directness.

“Short, sweet and to the point,” Palmer said.

Proof was in Arians’ response when asked this week if he showed his team a video of last season’s 58-0 loss to the Seahawks the last time they were in Seattle.

“It’s not our offense, not our defense ... who gives a (hoot)?”

Well, that was at least short and to the point, and the approach certainly has to feel sweet to those Arizona fans who are now enjoying only the fourth winning season since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1988.

When the Cardinals arrive at CenturyLink Field for Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. game against the Seahawks, much is at stake. By winning six of their past seven games since Seattle defeated them in the desert Oct. 17, the Cardinals are 9-5 and remain in playoff contention.

That 9-5 mark is good enough to lead or be in a tie for the top mark of four of the eight NFL divisions. But in the NFC West, they’re third behind the 12-2 Seahawks and 10-4 San Francisco.

So Arians is absolutely valid in dismissing last December’s loss as belonging to another team, as he heads a new staff and a heavily revamped roster.

The Cardinals were 3-4 when the Seahawks left after a 34-22 win in October.

Since then, they’ve lost only to Philadelphia (24-21 on the road). They also beat Indianapolis, a team that topped Seattle, 40-11.

In those seven games, Palmer has thrown 13 touchdowns against four interceptions. Seattle’s Russell Wilson in that span? The same.

The difference between the Cardinals then and now?

“Well, we’ve just kind of gotten used to playing together,” Arians said. “When you put it all together for the first year, it takes a little

time, especially offensively, and you could see, after that week, us continue to get better offensively.”

Arians took over for fired Ken Whisenhunt, bringing with him the 2012 Coach of the Year award he received as the Colts’ interim coach while Chuck Pagano was on leave fighting leukemia.

Palmer said that over time players have grown comfortable and confident with one another and the staff.

“I think as the season has progressed, there has been more of a belief that you’re going to win each week — and just kind of deep down you know it,” Palmer said. “I think that culture, the only way it changes is by winning. We’ve been fortunate to win a handful of games here the last couple of months, and we want to keep it going.”

Seahawks fans might remember Arians, 61, as the wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL against Seattle. He’d been on the staffs of five NFL teams before getting the Arizona job last offseason.

“One of the biggest things we did,” he said of the rebuild. “We tried to bring in football players who love to play the game, who would play for free. And (to) not necessarily get into a big splash of one guy, but get five or six guys who could help us and also help our locker room. Obviously, I knew some of these players and knew a bunch of their former coaches. This locker room cared about each other. It was going to be an easy fix. Add the right mix of guys and winning will take care of itself, and it has.”

Wait a second, coach, it’s rarely that easy, and certainly it hasn’t been in Arizona.

Palmer thinks the key is in Arians’ approach.

“He holds everybody extremely accountable,” Palmer said. “Nobody gets away with anything, and I think everybody on the team respects that.”

After 20 years as an assistant in the NFL, being a head coach, Arians said, is “totally different.”

“This is fun,” he said. “I never thought that I would get an opportunity, and I’m really enjoying it.”

ARIZONA HEATS UP

In quarterback Carson Palmer’s first season with the team, the Cardinals have steadily improved. A look at Palmer’s game-by-game statistics and his totals by month and for the season:

DateOpponentResultYardsTD-INTRating

Sept. 8@ St. LouisL, 27-243272-196.6

Sept. 15DetroitW, 25-212481-173.5

Sept. 22@ New Orleans L, 31-71870-243.4

Sept. 29@ Tampa BayW, 13-102481-262.2

September record: 2-21,0104-669.8

Oct. 6CarolinaW, 22-61751-357.0

Oct. 13@ San Francisco L, 32-202982-279.1

Oct. 17SeattleL, 34-222581-270.4

Oct. 27AtlantaW, 27-131722-1116.0

October record: 2-29036-875.4

Nov. 10HoustonW, 27-242412-193.4

Nov. 17@ JacksonvilleW, 27-144192-0119.0

Nov. 24IndianapolisW, 40-113142-0114.0

November record: 3-09746-1110.0

Dec. 1@ PhiladelphiaL, 24-213023-285.6

Dec. 8St. LouisW, 30-102691-0112.1

Dec. 15@ TennesseeW, 37-34 (OT)2311-0100.8

December record: 2-18025-2100.1

Season totalsRecord: 9-53,68921-1786.5

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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