Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona Cardinals earned their first victory under the reign of new head coach Bruce Arians on Sunday when they edged the Detroit Lions 25-21. Many aspects of the way Arizona played stood out, including the impact of young players Andre Ellington and Kerry Taylor. The stellar play by Ellington and Taylor coupled with the stifling defense the Cardinals showcased against the Lions in the second half of Sunday’s game, provided optimism about the team moving forward.
All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald posted just 2 receptions for 33 yards and was ineffective for much of the game after he was nursing a hamstring injury all week. That provided the opportunity for Kerry Taylor, an Arizona State product, to solidify a spot on the 53 man roster. Taylor was impressive throughout the afternoon, as he caught 3 passes totaling 40 yards. Although his numbers, didn’t stand out on the stat sheet, Taylor displayed his ability to run routes and catch the ball. Taylor certainly raised eyebrows within the Cardinals’ coaching staff. He was vital in helping Arizona defeat Detroit and proved he can be a go-to-guy when injuries deplete the roster. If Taylor earns a permanent spot on the roster, it certainly bodes well for the Cardinals. Fitzgerald is the best receiver on the squad and all the attention is placed on him but when young wideouts standout, it gives more weapons for QB Carson Palmer to utilize.
Andre Ellington, the rookie RB from Clemson, only ran for 20 yards on Sunday afternoon but caught a 36 yard TD pass in the second quarter to put the Cardinals ahead 10-7. If Ellington can continue to become a dynamic RB, who can consistently catch passes, than Arizona may have struck gold on their 6th round draftee. Ellington’s performance coupled with Rashard Mendenhall‘s strong start to the season could give Arizona a scary tandem in the backfield if both players stay healthy and contribute as they have thus far.
Perhaps the most impressive performance by the Cardinals on Sunday was the stellar defense Arizona showed in the second half of Sunday’s game. The Cardinals’ defense did not allow the explosive Lion’s offense to score a single point in the second half. The only points Detroit was able to muster came via a pick-6 from LB DeAndre Levy after Carson Palmer was pressured and made a hideous throw. Now I know Reggie Bush missed much of the second half but even if he was out there, I do not know how much he would have contributed with the way the Todd Bowles’ defensive unit was playing. Calais Campbellhad Arizona’s lone sack on the afternoon but the way Detroit’s run and passing games were contained was very impressive. CB Patrick Petersondid a great job shutting down Calvin Johnson in the second half. Johnson had just 2 catches for 20 yards after halftime. Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett were able to limit Detroit’s ground game as they combined for 11 tackles on the day.
"“We took a lot of criticism Week One,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “This week was big for us. Everybody practiced with a chip on their shoulder.”"
Dockett and the entire defense were able to show that they are still the strong unit they have been in the past. They gave me a sense of hope that this team can be dangerous. With a steady offense that can sustane drives and move the ball down the field coupled with a stingy defense, the 2013 Arizona Cardinals have the potential to turn many heads inside the NFL world.