GLENDALE, Ariz. — In one week, the fortunes of the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers flipped.
The Cardinals, beaten at home by a depleted New England team in their season opener, bounced back with a 40-7 rout of the Buccaneers.
A week ago, Tampa Bay basked in the four-touchdown performance of Jameis Winston and a win in Atlanta. On Sunday, Winston turned the ball over five times with four interceptions and one fumble.
Carson Palmer threw for three touchdowns, including a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown in the final minute of the first half, and Cardinals newcomer Marcus Cooper intercepted two passes, returning the second one 60 yards for a touchdown .
“It’s great to get any type of win,” Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald said, “but especially one in decisive fashion like that.”
While the Buccaneers coughed it up five times, Arizona went without a turnover for the second week in a row. The Cardinals are plus-seven in takeaways as they head to Buffalo next weekend to face the 0-2 Bills.
“Knock on wood, we are protecting the football,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s the best thing we are doing offensively. … and defensively, the turnovers are coming in bunches.”
The Buccaneers head back across the country to finally play their home opener next Sunday against Los Angeles.
“It was just a bad day all around,” Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes said. “Just stuff didn’t go right. … We have to learn from this and come back next week.”
Here are some things of note from Arizona’s one-sided victory:
WINSTON’S GAME: The Cardinals thrive on turnovers and Winston gave them plenty.
“When you play against a high-powered offense like Arizona, you can’t give them freebies,” he said. “We turned the ball over and gave them a pick-six. It wasn’t good. We played one of the best defenses in the league, but all those interceptions were on me.”
Patrick Peterson picked off a deep throw to the end zone for the first interception. Cooper got the next two. The final one was by D.J. Swearinger on the game’s last play.
Winston threw 52 passes, most in his two NFL seasons. He completed 27. He threw 19 yards to Mike Evans for the lone Tampa Bay TD.
NEW CORNERBACK: The Cardinals acquired Cooper in a trade with Kansas City on Sept. 2 just before the Chiefs were expected to release him.
For one game at least, he sure looked like the cornerback Arizona has needed opposite All-Pro Patrick Peterson. Rookie Brandon Williams had been the starter.
“I’m new to the team, so I have to gain these guys’ trust,” Cooper said, “and the best way to do that is to make a play, so that’s what I tried to do, and hopefully we can build from that.”
Arians wouldn’t pronounce Cooper the starter quite yet.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Arians said. “He could potentially be the starter over there.”
SPREADING IT AROUND: Palmer’s touchdown passes went to three different receivers, 1-yarders to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd and a 51-yarder to Jaron Brown.
In all, seven Cardinals caught a pass. Fitzgerald caught six for 81 yards. David Johnson had only three catches, but for 98 yards. That included a check-down pass that Johnson turned into a 58-yard gain.
“He just does a great job of evaluating and seeing what the defense is giving is and finding an open man,” Fitzgerald said of his quarterback. “You saw that again today. He spread it around to everybody.”
ROUGH RETURN: Dirk Koetter’s return to the desert was a rough one. The first-year Tampa Bay coach was head coach at Arizona State for six seasons a decade ago before being fired in 2006.
Suffice it to say that tenure so long ago was not on his mind in the wake of this blowout loss.
“I did not do a good enough job of getting these guys ready to go,” Koetter said.
He had a terse exchange when reporters pressed him on why he left Winston in the game when the outcome had long been determined.
“You can criticize me all you want. He stayed in the game,” Koetter said. “Say what you want. He stayed in the game. You can get as mad at me as you want. He stayed in. Write what you’re going to write.”