Arizona Cardinals piling up points, yards, wins, fans
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Bruce Arians calls it ''no risk it, no biscuit,'' a philosophy that's piling up points, fans and victories for the Arizona Cardinals.
Aggressive and fast and with a strong-armed accurate 35-year-old quarterback having the best season of his career, the offense has been the most prolific in the NFL through 11 weeks.
In the last two weeks, Arizona has put up 39 points on the league's No. 2 scoring defense (Seattle) and 34 on the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (Cincinnati).
Arizona has topped 40 points three times and 30 on four other occasions, including the last three in a row. Together with the league's No. 3-ranked defense, the Cardinals (8-2) take a three-game NFC West lead into Sunday's game at San Francisco.
And they swear - actually Arians swears, a lot - they are nowhere close to what they can be.
''Sure, we've been able to score points,'' said Larry Fitzgerald, the patriarch of the receiving corps. ''But we haven't been clicking on all cylinders. It's scary, if we do, to see how many points we're going to put on the board.''
The seeds of this offense stem from two days - the one when Arians was hired and the one when the team got Carson Palmer from Oakland for a seventh-round draft pick.
Palmer acknowledges that the first half-season was something of a fog as he tried to absorb the intricacies of what Arians was trying to do. Since the midpoint of that 2013 season, Arizona is 20-4 when Palmer starts.
''I'm still getting used to it,'' Palmer said. ''It's a work in progress. It always is. We have a long way to go. We've identified areas that we need to improve on, just some mental errors that have tripped us up in the past, but it's always a work in progress, because the offense is always changing.''
Arians is 63 years old, Palmer just shy of 36. Their personalities seem to mesh just right.
''It's different than most other guys I've coached because they were younger,'' Arians said. ''He's an older guy, married with children. It's more `coach-player' but I'll have a drink with him.''
Arizona is the highest-scoring team in the NFL - 336 points for an average of 33.6 points per game. They league the league in touchdowns (40) and touchdown differential (plus-16).
Other statistics illustrate how Arians likes to play the game.
The Cardinals are tops in the NFL in yards per play (6.53) and yards per pass play (8.29). Arizona ranks first in plays of 20-plus yards with 54. Palmer leads the NFL in pass completions of 20-plus yards with 46.
Fitzgerald, on pace to threaten or pass his single-season bests for catches, yards receiving and touchdowns, was transformed to a slot receiver by Arians. Floyd is more of a downfield threat. And the ultimate downfield threats are second-year pro John ''Smoke'' Brown and rookie J.J. `Fire' Nelson. No one's sure who would win if the two raced. Arians' love of speedy receivers predates his coaching career.
''It goes back to when I played quarterback (at Virginia Tech),'' Arians said. ''We had a guy named Ricky scales and nobody could run with him. As I got into the NFL, you saw more and more guys like him. In Kansas City, we had J.J. Birden, a little guy that could fly and take off the top. I'm always intrigued by guys who had speed.''
It's an offense built on the draft and free agents.
The signing of Chris Johnson late in training camp has led to a much-improved running game, which opens the way for those play-action passes Arians loves.
Palmer's 27 touchdown passes have gone to eight players. Four players caught the four he threw in last week's win over Cincinnati.
With Floyd out of that game with a hamstring injury, Nelson caught four passes for 142 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown play.
But this team laments what might have been if not for the lousy first half against Cleveland, the two quarterback strips in Seattle, the third-down woes against the Bengals.
''Look at the talent that's around,'' Fitzgerald said. ''I've got a lot of guys that take a lot of pressure off me. I'm able to get some open looks because teams have to respect Mike (Floyd) and teams have respect Smoke and Chris is running the ball phenomenally. We have a lot of guys that can beat you.''
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