Last Saturday night, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer didn’t seem like himself. Comments from coach Bruce Arians suggested that the gravity of the situation — Palmer had never won a playoff game — played a role in his failure to throw the ball down the field. There also could a physical component to it.
Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the team noticed accuracy issues in the divisional round arising from a dislocated finger Palmer suffered in the regular season.
“If fair to say Palmer’s finger’s been a little more of an issue than he’s let on,” Breer writes, adding that it has looked better in practice this week.
Palmer originally injured the finger in Week 15 against the Eagles, and an initial adjustment to his throwing motion caused soreness elsewhere.
Whether and to what extent the pressure of the moment was an issue for Palmer is something that won’t go away as the Cardinals move to the next round. After getting his first career playoff win, Palmer now faces not only his first conference title game but also, amazingly, the first road playoff game of his entire career.
Drafted way back in 2003 and now 36 years old, Palmer has never faced a hostile crowd on in a single-elimination setting. With the Bengals, he appeared in two playoff games, both losses and both at home. With the Cardinals, Saturday night was his first postseason appearance.
Whether finger or brain or some combination thereof, it makes sense to keep an eye on Carson Palmer today. As he gets a late-career shot at a Super Bowl appearance in Charlotte, will he let it fly — or will he shrink in the moment?