Palmer quiets critics with 419-yard passing game
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)
For now at least, Carson Palmer has quieted his critics.
In his first games as Arizona's new quarterback, Palmer became a lightning rod for fan criticism with his penchant for interceptions at the controls of an often-ineffective Cardinals offense.
Lately, he's been better. On Sunday, he was at his best.
In a 27-14 win at Jacksonville, the 11-year NFL veteran completed 30 of 42 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
It was the first 400-yard game for an Arizona quarterback since Kurt Warner threw for 472 in a loss to the New York Jets in 2008. Palmer is the first Cardinal to throw for more than 400 yards in a victory since Boomer Esiason had 522 yards in an overtime win at Washington in 1996.
Palmer became the first Cardinals quarterback to complete at least 70 percent of his passes for 400 yards and win the game.
''We didn't go into the game thinking we were going to throw that much,'' Arizona coach Bruce Arians said on Monday. ''It was one of those things. ... He had the hot hand.''
Palmer's sixth career 400-yard passing game ranks among the best statistically of his career. Only once has he thrown for more yards - 440 for Cincinnati against San Diego on Nov. 12, 2006.
After the game, Palmer credited his teammates.
''We had some big chunk plays,'' he said. ''I had a really nice time in the pocket. I had a clean pocket for the most part and was able to step into a lot of throws. Guys did a nice job of finding the voids in their zone and then when we were matched up against `cover one,' we made tight catches in tight spaces.''
Palmer spread it around, completing passes to nine players. But the big target was Michael Floyd.
Despite a sore shoulder, the former Notre Dame standout and 2012 first-round draft pick had a breakout game, catching six passes for 193 yards. The big one came in the third quarter when he took a dart of a pass from Palmer, evaded a couple of tacklers and broke a couple more, then raced to the end zone in a 91-yard touchdown play that put Arizona in command 24-14.
It tied for the sixth-longest pass play in franchise history and was the longest since Neil Lomax and Ernie Jones connected for 93 yards against Philadelphia on Dec. 10, 1988.
''The safety bit on the play action and Carson made a heck of play and I was able to make a couple guys miss,'' Floyd said. ''Give me a little bit of space and I'll take it from there. My goal is not to let the first guy tackle me and he didn't on that play. From there, it was off to the races.''
Palmer didn't throw an interception for the first time this season, but he almost had one at a crucial time.
In the third quarter, he threw right into the hands of a Jaguars defender, who caught it. But the play was wiped away because Arians had called a timeout.
''When I called the play, I second-guessed myself. I don't normally do that,'' Arians said. ''It was a play with Andre Ellington in the backfield. I was tired of being stuck down there. I was going to take a shot and try to flip field position, and it was a bad time. I just called timeout.''
The referee, Arians said ''couldn't find his whistle.''
''But he did run in and stop the play, because I called timeout a little quicker than what it looked like, and they let the play continue,'' Arians said. ''It was one of those gut feelings it was going to be the wrong thing at that time. Fortunately for me, we got it stopped.''
Palmer's 15 interceptions are second-most in the NFL. But in the last three games, he's got six touchdown passes and two picks.
The Cardinals won all three to improve to 6-4 heading into what is bound to be an emotional game against Indianapolis because Arians took over as interim coach of the Colts a year ago while coach Chuck Pagano was fighting leukemia.
Arians has been steadfast in his support of Palmer throughout his early struggles.
''Just the way he grinds it out all during the week and really prepares as well as anybody I've ever had,'' the coach said. ''The things that have been biting him have been just one or two poor decisions during the ball game, or getting hit as he's throwing. We were able to eliminate those.''
Notes: Arians gave the veterans Monday off because the team won. ... WR Teddy Williams is out for the season with a torn ACL. Special teams ace Justin Bethel has a concussion. They were the two gunners on the Arizona punt team.
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