Cardinals get back to work in temporary West Virginia home
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The Arizona Cardinals rolled into West Virginia on the heels of yet another blowout victory, staying in the East to prepare for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh.
A week after losing to St. Louis in Arizona, the Cardinals took advantage of six turnovers to rout the Lions in Detroit 42-17.
Coach Bruce Arians' team topped 40 points in a game for the third time this season and, at 4-1, opened a two-game lead in the NFC West.
Rather than fly back to Arizona, then have to fly to Pittsburgh a few days later, the Cardinals opted to stay in the Eastern time zone, settling in at The Greenbrier resort in the Allegheny Mountains, where the New Orleans Saints hold their training camp.
"It's outstanding," Arians said in his regular Monday meeting with reporters. "We knew coming here that it was going to be an outstanding facility and we could get our work done and there wouldn't be any kind of distraction."
The worst news coming out of the Detroit game concerned injuries. Outside linebacker Alex Okafor, by far the Cardinals' best pass rusher off the edge, was sent back to Arizona for further tests on a calf injury. And inside linebacker Kenny Demens, a significant member of the special teams, tore an ACL and will be placed on season-ending injured reserve. Safety Chris Clemons, another special teams contributor, went back to Arizona for tests on a hamstring injury.
Thirteen-year NFL veteran outside linebacker Dwight Freeney signed a one-year contract, a move to shore up the position because of Okafor's injury.
Losing Okafor, who led the team with eight sacks last season and has a team-high two this year, for any extended period would be a significant blow.
"He's been getting after the passer since he's been healthy," Arians said. "That's the one guy that can get there with the front four."
Arians passed out game balls to safety Tony Jefferson, safety/inside linebacker Deone Bucannon, safety Rashad Johnson, running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
"I thought they played outstanding," Arians said, "especially Tony."
Jefferson forced two fumbles and had 11 tackles. Bucannon, who the Cardinals insist is a safety even though he almost always lines up in the middle linebacker spot, had 11 tackles, two for loss. Johnson intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble.
The signing of Chris Johnson late in training camp is turning into a coup for the Cardinals. Just past his 30th birthday, Johnson carried 11 times for 103 yards on Sunday and is tied for second in the NFL with 405 yards rushing.
Overall, Arizona gained a season-high 187 yards on the ground against Detroit and ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards per game (134.8), behind Seattle (142.4) and Minnesota (136.5).
Fitzgerald caught five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. But his bigger influence may have been as a blocker.
"He had four knockdowns and two touchdown blocks," Arians said, "huge in the running game. He sealed the edge twice for two long runs."
One of them was Andre Ellington's 63-yard touchdown run.
Arizona's 674 yards rushing are the Cardinals' most through five games in 25 years.
And then there's Carson Palmer, who had as many incomplete passes as touchdown passes. Palmer was 11 of 14 for 161 yards and three TDs. His passer rating of 154.2 is second-highest in franchise history, behind Kurt Warner's 158.3 against Miami on Sept. 14, 2008.
Palmer's 13 TD passes are tied with Aaron Rogers for most in the league.