Cardinals happy to be 2-2 after offensive struggle
Arizona coach Bruce Arians praised his team's defense for corralling Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin and keeping the Cardinals close.
He liked what his team did on special teams, particularly in the field-position game and, obviously, Jay Feely's game-winning kick.
When it came to assessing the Cardinals' offense, Arians had a blunt answer.
''It was putrid,'' he said on Monday.
Yes, it was for most of the game.
Arizona's offense struggled for three quarters without scoring a point, looking a lot like the team that went into a downward spiral last season.
Unlike last season, the Cardinals found a way to pull it out, scoring 10 points in the final 3:06 - the capper Feely's 27-yard field goal - to beat Tampa Bay 13-10 and end a nine-game road losing streak.
For a team that lost 11 its final 12 games in 2012 and is still getting a feel for its new coach and system, winning a difficult road game was a big step.
''In games like this, when you come in to a tough place to play against a good team, getting a win just gives you a little extra momentum, a little extra confidence,'' said Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who hit Larry Fitzgerald on a game-tying 13-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Arizona's defense gave it a chance.
The Cardinals stuffed the Buccaneers most of the afternoon despite missing several key players and playmaking Patrick Peterson did what he does best, picking off one pass to set up Fitzgerald's TD reception and another that sealed the game.
Arizona's D was at its best against the run.
Martin entered the game as the NFL's second-leading rusher with 297 yards, but found no room to break loose against the Cardinals.
Arizona hounded him the entire game, closing up running lanes, meeting him with punishing hits and routinely dropping him for losses.
Martin finished with 45 yards on 27 carries and the Buccaneers needed 31 carries to gain 80 yards total.
''Defensively, I thought we played on our best games,'' Arians said. ''That's a great running back and to hold him to that kind of yardage - it took every hand. A bunch of young guys stepped in there and played really good run defense.''
The Cardinals needed it the way their offense was sputtering.
A missed assignment led to a sack on Arizona's first play of the game and it didn't get much better after that, filled with mental mistakes, dropped passes, poor throws and spacing and alignment issues.
Palmer threw two interceptions and had 58 yards in the first half without throwing toward Fitzgerald once. Running back Rashard Mendenhall lost the first of his two fumbles in the opening half to set up Tampa Bay's only touchdown, and the Cardinals had 87 total yards at halftime after failing on all six of their third-down attempts.
Arizona finished with 296 total yards - 248 passing by Palmer - three turnovers and 10 penalties for 90 yards.
''This is a good defense, but we have continually harmed ourselves with mental errors,'' Arians said. ''It sounds very repetitive and it is getting very repetitive for me, too. If it was one guy, it'd be easy to fix. Seems like we've got eight or nine guys on each play playing extremely well and two guys, and they keep swapping it out, decide to not do the right thing.''
An easy explanation would be that it's a new system and the players need time to adjust to it.
Arians and his coaching staff aren't buying it.
''We looked at it long and hard as a coaching staff if we're asking too much and everyone decided obviously no,'' he said. ''We've just got to do a better job as players and coaches.''
At least they pulled out a win this time.
After spending a week in Florida to get ready for the game, the Cardinals certainly didn't want to leave with a loss. That would have left them at 1-3 with a difficult stretch in the schedule coming up, including games against Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and Houston coming up next.
Heading into it 2-2 sounds much better.
''We still got a lot of work to do,'' Arians said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org