Five observations from the Arizona Cardinals' season-opening 31-19 win over the New Orleans Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on Sunday:
1. Welcome back, Carson Palmer.
Not many athletes can successfully return from not just one, but two ACL tears during their professional careers. But Carson Palmer looked as sharp as ever Sunday after his suffering his second career ACL injury last season. Aside from a pair of poor passes in the first half, the 35-year-old QB picked the Saints apart for 307 yards and three touchdowns. He also kept some plays alive with his feet, including on his first-quarter touchdown throw to receiver John Brown -- who, by the way, looks poised to have a sensational season.
2. Decent debut for the O-line.
The Cardinals’ offensive line had a dreadful preseason and was missing two starters Sunday -- one to injury, one to suspension -- but the five men up front pieced together a passable performance against New Orleans. Palmer was hurried several times but wasn’t sacked, and the Cards’ running backs found room to run for most of the game. In particular, third-year pro Earl Watford had an impressive afternoon at starting right tackle.
3. Awaiting word on Ellington.
The Cardinals nearly escaped injury-free Sunday, but the injury bug returned in the fourth quarter when starting running back Andre Ellington left the game with a knee injury on a play in which he wasn’t touched. The Cards are optimistic that the injury won’t be season-ending, but it’s another bad break for the oft-injured Ellington, who was having a productive game (69 rushing yards and a touchdown). We should know more about Ellington's condition Monday.
4. Johnson & Johnson shine.
The Cards acquired veteran running back Chris Johnson midway through training camp, and the soon-to-be 30-year-old contributed nicely as a change-of-pace back, rushing for 37 yards on 10 carries. Rookie RB David Johnson put the nail in the Saints’ coffin with a 55-yard touchdown reception with less than two minutes to play. Arizona’s running game was a liability last season, but the Cards rushed for a healthy 120 yards on 25 carries Sunday. “We ran the ball right through the teeth of their defense,” Palmer accurately noted.
5. Defense delivers when needed.
Saints QB Drew Brees did well to take advantage of the Cards’ aggressive defense by completing short passes that turned into big yardage. But the D stepped up when it mattered most, as defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker began to get more pressure on Brees in the second half, cornerback Rashad Johnson came up big with an interception in the third quarter, and safety Tyrann Mathieu was all over the field. The Cards recorded five tackles for loss, and two sacks for the game.