For all his ups and downs, Arizona’s Carson Palmer is closing in on the fourth 4,000-yard passing season of his career.
Perhaps more significantly, he has a chance for an 11-win season, something he has accomplished only once in his 11 NFL seasons.
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However, those numbers won’t mean a whole lot to him if the Cardinals don’t make the playoffs.
”The playoffs are what make it really satisfying,” Palmer said. ”To be 11-5 and not get in the playoffs, it almost seems unfair and unjust, but that’s how it is. There are teams that make it at 7-9; there are teams that haven’t made it at 10-6. Like I said, we just want to keep playing football. You get the satisfaction when you get to the postseason.”
Palmer hasn’t had much of that sort of satisfaction in his career. He has been in the postseason twice, with Cincinnati in 2005 and 2009. His first appearance ended on his second snap against Pittsburgh, when he went down with a severe knee injury.
Palmer wraps up his first regular season with Arizona on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals, winners of seven of their last eight, cling to a single playoff hope, that they can beat San Francisco and, more unlikely, that Tampa Bay can win at New Orleans.
Otherwise, Palmer will be staying home again.
If Palmer gets 133 yards Sunday, he will become the first quarterback in NFL history to have 4,000-yard passing season for three teams. He has already done it for Cincinnati and Oakland. Palmer would be the third Cardinal to do it, joining Kurt Warner, who threw for 4,583 in 2008, and Neil Lomax, who set a franchise record with 4,614 in 1984.
”I think it will mean something later when you think about things like that,” he said. ”Statistics don’t matter right now. Getting a win, and like I said, sending them (the 49ers) into the playoffs with a loss, is what matters.”
Palmer has thrown for 22 touchdowns but has 21 interceptions. He threw four interceptions in Seattle on Sunday only to come back and throw a picture-perfect winning 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd.
Coach Bruce Arians said he has never been around a quarterback who can put a bad play behind him so quickly.
”First one that I’ve been around that can erase it that fast,” Arians said. ”Others have let it linger too long. I’ve been around guys that couldn’t shake it off. They just couldn’t go to the next play, they kept thinking about it and another bad one would happen and the snowball effect. He’s as good as I’ve been around as far as being resilient and going onto the next series.”
Palmer said it’s something he worked on way back in high school.
”It’s something you have to train yourself for,” he said. ”It’s easy being a football player to get down on yourself and lose confidence no matter what position you play. It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing myself for. It’s a mindset. It’s simply a mindset.”
Palmer threw for 4,018 yards for Oakland last year, but the Raiders went 4-12. They wanted to move on to a younger quarterback and Palmer became expendable. Arians, in his first season with Arizona, sorely needed a quarterback and said he had no doubt Palmer could have a big season.
”He made every throw in the book last year,” Arians said. ”It was just the situation – he was in a bad one. When you turn the tape on, there wasn’t a throw he couldn’t make.”
When Arizona staggered to a 3-4 start and Palmer struggled with Arians’ intricate offense, it looked as if the acquisition might have been a mistake. But Arians stayed with the veteran, even as fans wanted a change.
Now, the Palmer-led Cardinals are on the brink of tying a franchise record for wins in a season.
”We’ve come a long way these last probably nine or 10 weeks,” Palmer said. ”We want to keep playing. We want to keep playing football. We’re having fun right now. We’re playing good football. We’re going to keep playing until they tell us we can’t.”