The Cardinals did a good job hooking up on big-chunk passes Friday night in Green Bay. That was in no small part of the pass protection. From Bruce Arians’ scheme to Steve Keim’s personnel additions to the coaching of the line from Harold Goodwin and Larry Zerlein, the Cardinals’ line did a very nice job.
To that end, I re-watched the first portion of the Cardinals’ offensive line play. As Arians noted, it seemed like the quarterbacks stayed pretty clean. After a look back on the plays in which the starting offensive linemen played – which took the Cards through both touchdowns they scored – proved Arians (and most of us watching) right. Here are the plays and how they went. The starters were, from left tackle to right tackle, Levi Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika and Eric Winston.
1st and 10, AZ 20 – Carson Palmer fades to pass, the Packers rush five. The pocket is perfect. LT Brown has no trouble dealing with Packers star Clay Matthews. Palmer hits Michael Floyd with an 18-yard throw.
3rd and 6, AZ 42 – After two runs, Palmer is the shotgun. The Packers rush four. Again, no pressure. Again, Brown deals easily with Matthews. Palmer launches a bomb to Andre Roberts. Despite no pressure, the ball is slightly underthrown and that allows the defender to catch up to Roberts. Roberts still had a chance to catch the ball.
1st and 10, AZ 1 – Brown had been called for a false start, but the Cards were so close to their own goal line after their defensive stand the penalty was officially for zero yards. Arians calls for a play-action pass. Left guard Cooper pulls to the backside, somewhat risky given the spot on the field. After the fake, the Packers end up rushing only three with two other defenders backing out quickly to guard against the short stuff. Amazingly, it is wide receiver Michael Floyd, asked to stay in for protection, who locks up with Matthews. Even better, Floyd handles Matthews to a draw. Again, Palmer has plenty of time and space. He drills a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald for a 17-yard gain.
2nd and 9, AZ 19 – After another run, the Cards run a middle screen to Fitz in the slot. The Cards allow some pressure on the four-man rush as center Sendlein and right guard Fanaika jump out immediately to try and get some second-level blocks. The Cards get a modest four yards on the play.
3rd and 5, AZ 23 – Another four man rush. Matthews tries to stunt by looping from the far right side all the way inside. The Cardinals do a good job watching him as he is passed off responsibility-wise from Brown to Cooper to Sendlein. Brown does a nice job catching defensive end B.J. Raji on the hard push after Matthews leaves his sight. Palmer throws another long pass to Floyd. It’s incomplete and it doesn’t matter anyway. Floyd is called for offensive pass interference.
1st and 10, GB 38 – Following a Patrick Peterson interception, Arians goes for the jugular. Packers rush four and bring a fifth blitzer on a delay. Tight end Rob Housler, staying in to block, is prepared for the blitzer. Brown, Cooper and Sendlein all handle their men one-on-one. There’s a late chip on Matthews by the running back to help Brown, but it didn’t matter at that point. Matthews wasn’t going to get there, and Palmer was already delivering a 38-yard touchdown pass to Roberts on his final play of the game.
2nd and 8, 50 – The Cardinals had gotten the ball back on a John Abraham strip-sack. A run on first down got two yards. With backup quarterback Drew Stanton in the game, Arians calls for a play-action pass. Cooper and Fanaika remain in the game with new center Mike Gibson, left tackle Nate Potter and right tackle Bobby Massie. Packers rush four. Cooper pulls to right to take the edge rusher, and he has trouble getting over to make much of a difference. Gibson also fails to pick up his inside rusher heading into the gap Cooper vacated at left guard. Still, Stanton steps up in the pocket slightly right had has plenty of time to fire to wide-open tight end D.C. Jefferson. Jefferson ends up dropping the pass when he is hit on a play that should have picked up another 15 yards or so.
3rd and 8, 50 – Stanton in shotgun. The Packers rush five – three up front, and bring two linebackers after a brief delay. Potter and Massie easily handle their responsibilities, and Stanton has the perfect pocket. He completes a long pass to wide receiver Charles Hawkins for a 36-yard gain.
2nd and 7, GB 11 – After a run, the Packers rush four. Massie is in trouble from the start and ends up falling down on the rush by defensive end Mike Daniels. But Fanaika manages to jump back to help get a chip on Daniels, giving Stanton enough time to step up and complete an 8-yard pass to Hawkins.
2nd and G, GB 1 – After a two-yard run, Stanton runs play-action with both teams featuring goal line packages. Pressure isn’t a variable as Stanton lofts a pass to an open Jefferson in the end zone. Not a great pass, but Jefferson also needs to find a way to make such plays.
3rd and G, GB 1 – Again, with the Packers committing to the line and surging forward with eight, Stanton takes a quick drop and renders the rush moot with a quick back-shoulder lob to receiver Jaron Brown, covered one-on-one in the end zone. Brown makes the one-yard TD catch.
Again, the run blocking will need to be improved and will also likely be aided when starter Rashard Mendenhall is on the field. But the pass protection certainly gave the Cardinals and Palmer something to be encouraged about as the season begins.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Clay Matthews, Drew Stanton, Eric Winston, Jonathan Cooper, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Gibson, Nate Potter, offensive line, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler
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