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Carson Palmer, Cardinals rally to slip past Chargers

The Arizona Cardinals' defense spent the offseason taking hits. They delivered some Monday night.

The Cardinals squeaked out a thrilling 18-17 comeback victory over the San Diego Chargers in appropriate fashion: blitzing Philip Rivers into submission. Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles doesn't have the talent he once did, but he kept the Chargers off-balance for much of the night with changing formations and lots of pressure.

Rivers ruined a terrific second-half performance with a clunky closing sequence. He let a snap from shotgun get behind him to kill one promising fourth-quarter drive, and then he reacted poorly to pressure on three consecutive plays to effectively end the game. (The first fumble reminded me of this play.) Holding the ball with under two minutes to go, the Chargers only needed about 30 more yards to set up a potential game-winning field goal. Their drive stalled because of pressure.

The Cardinals lost linebacker Karlos Dansby to free agency, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett to injury and linebacker Daryl Washington to suspension over the last six months. On Monday, the entire defense swarmed to the ball to make up for it. (Veteran Larry Foote looked terrific.)

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was typically erratic, mixing in beautiful throws with groaners, often on the same drive. But he surprisingly made a lot of plays with his feet and directed two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter with the help of young playmakers John Brown, Andre Ellington and Michael Floyd. Brown's game-winning touchdown was an absolute beauty, and the rookie speedster looks like the NFC's answer to T.Y. Hilton.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians has quickly built up a fiery, fun team in his image. The Cardinals take big swings and they are always interesting. For a franchise with far too little success in the desert, that's serious progress.

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