Cardinals 7-1 but offense still not at full steam

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have the NFL's best record at 7-1, but the offense has sputtered at times, turning it on when it was most needed, usually in the fourth quarter.

''I keep hearing about this roll we're on,'' quarterback Carson Palmer said Wednesday. ''I don't think we've hit it yet. It's nice to win a bunch of games in a row, but we would really like to pick up some steam on offense and have a handful of those games where you just explode and really catch that roll and then you're firing on all cylinders.''

If the Cardinals are an eight-cylinder engine, they're firing on ''probably six,'' Palmer said.

''I think we've done some good things,'' he said. ''We've played against some good defenses and beat some good teams, but in no way are we satisfied and in no way do we think this is all we have to do to win a Super Bowl.''

Despite the offensive inconsistencies, Palmer is playing some of the best football of his 12-year NFL career.

He is 5-0 as a starter, completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,385 yards and 11 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Palmer has thrown for multiple touchdowns in five straight games - the last four after coming back from a nerve injury in his throwing shoulder that sidelined him for three games. He has at least one TD toss in a career-best 18 consecutive contests. In his last 14 starts, Arizona is 12-2.

The offense, though, ranks just 23rd in the league at 330.4 yards per game. The Cardinals are 16th in passing and 28th in rushing.

Coach Bruce Arians, though said, ''The running game is fine.''

It has picked up recently, with Andre Ellington, despite a nagging foot injury, gaining 95 yards on 21 carries last week at Dallas. Ellington certainly has drawn the attention of St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, whose Rams play at Arizona on Sunday.

''The little back is special and he's great out of the backfield,'' Fisher said. ''He has great vision and he's quick and they did a nice job with the run game.''

As usual, Arians had a blunt answer when asked about the offense's inconsistencies in the 28-17 win at Dallas.

''Catch the ball. Real simple, just catch the ball,'' he said. ''We dropped five balls. Again that cost us. It's been critical now for three weeks. The drops are amazing sometimes.''

But Palmer brushed aside the dropped passes issue.

''That's part of the game,'' he said. ''Footballs get dropped, passes get missed, blocks get missed, tackles get missed. Not a concern at all.''

Penalties have sometimes been a problem, too.

In the third quarter against Dallas, the Cardinals had potential drives stall thanks to a holding penalty on tight end John Carlson, who also had a few dropped passes, and a chop block against center Lyle Sendlein.

In the fourth quarter, though, all seems well.

Through three quarters this season, Arizona and its opponents each have scored 132 points. In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals have outscored its foes 70-34.

There are statistics that point to other successes.

In four trips to the red zone against Dallas, Arizona scored four touchdowns.

The Cardinals rank fifth in the league in third-down efficiency, converting 45.38 percent of the time. The last three games, that figure rose to 53.19 percent. Against Dallas, Arizona converted nine of 15 third-down opportunities.

''That's the beauty of being able to take some shots because you trust him (Palmer) to move the chains,'' Arians said. ''We did a nice job. I was really pleased with our red zone and third-down production the other day, not necessarily the two third-and-ones as much as third-and-six and third-and-10. Those have been problems.''

All four of the Cardinals' touchdowns against Dallas came on third down.

Palmer credited those around him.

''We've done a great job. They're getting ready to peel their ears and come after you and we've done a great job picking up pressures and just blocking one-on-one battles,'' he said. ''On the outside, we've been so successful because we've done a great job getting ourselves open and winning those one-on-one opportunities also.''

The 34-year-old quarterback has had a little something to do with it, too.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.