Losing Carson Palmer halts Cardinals’ hopes of making noise in West
LONDON — That slam you heard — the loud one that echoed across the Atlantic Ocean — was the Arizona Cardinals’ window closing.
They had their chance to make a move in the NFC West on Sunday, but they failed in stunning fashion on an international stage.
A win against the Los Angeles Rams in London would have given the Cardinals a shot at the division lead next week. With nine games left and a bye coming up this weekend, Arizona could have put itself in position to make a playoff run while erasing the memory of a disappointing and underachieving first half of the season.
Then the Cardinals’ season, which already faced a crossroads in Week 1 when RB David Johnson got hurt, came to a screeching halt Sunday.
QB Carson Palmer broke his left arm late in the first half when he was hit on a throw that was intercepted, and he did not return. Palmer will have surgery when the Cardinals return to Arizona after a long flight home from London, and he’ll miss between eight weeks and the rest of the season.
Eight weeks from now puts Arizona in the middle of December. The idea of making the playoffs may have been completely forgotten by then. And if Palmer misses the rest of the season, the question has to be asked: Was Sunday the last game of his career?
This was supposed to be the season Arizona (3-4) put it all together one final time.
Johnson was going to be the centerpiece as he chased a firm grasp on elite status and the MVP trophy. Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald were going to be complementary pieces in one last push for that elusive Super Bowl ring. Coach Bruce Arians was going to show that he could reinvent his scheme after a mediocre 2016 and get back to coaching a high-flying offense, as he did in 2015.
None of that has happened as Arizona enters its bye this week.
None of that will happen.
After Palmer’s injury, Arians gave the keys to the Cardinals’ offense to backup QB Drew Stanton, as was expected. But Arians shut down any possibility, at least publicly, of giving a long look at third-string quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
“Because he’s our No. 2,” Arians said of his decision to go with Stanton. “I don’t skip 2 and go to 3.”
Stanton is no stranger to filling Palmer’s shoes. He’s 6-3 in place of Palmer since the two QBs became teammates in 2013, including a 5-3 record in 2014 when Palmer missed time for both a shoulder injury and a torn ACL.
“We played with Drew before, you know,” Arians said. “We have lost [Palmer] long. Drew has played and won a lot of games for us.”
But this year is different. Arizona originally built its offense around Johnson, then had to reconfigure almost everything after his injury. The Cardinals thought they found hope when they traded for RB Adrian Peterson, but Peterson was ineffective Sunday, running for 21 yards on 11 carries.
“Well, we obviously weren’t blocking well enough and Adrian missed a few holes,” Arians said.
Without Palmer, Arizona will be lost. The team will be without perhaps the two most important pieces of its offense for who knows how long. How much sense would it make for Arizona to bring either or both back if the season is lost by the time they’re healthy?
When is it time for the Cardinals to tie the bow on 2017 and start planning for 2018?
It might be now since this season just slipped from their grasp.