Carson Palmer shows what's in store in short but perfect outing

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After Saturday night's loss to Kansas City, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said running back Andre Ellington was back.

He should've given that distinction to quarterback Carson Palmer.

Ellington got caught from behind on a 57-yard run on the game's fourth play after Palmer hit him on a bullet through a key hole down the middle of the field that set up an eventual touchdown.

By comparison, Palmer didn't even get touched Saturday.

Really, he didn't. Palmer said he wasn't hit once in his seven plays in the first quarter.

"I could've hitched three or four times on any of the passes we threw tonight," Palmer said. "Very clean pocket. I thought we executed and did what we needed to do."

Palmer's performance -- 4-for-4 for 77 yards and not a smidge of dirt on his uniform -- was enough for a collective sigh of relief to be exhaled by the Cardinals. Palmer's back. And he may never have looked better.

It was one thing for Palmer to drop passes into receivers' sweet spots from 65 yards out during training camp. It's entirely different to do it in a game, with a pass rush trying to dirty his bright white pants. Yes, this was the preseason opener but it didn't matter. Palmer looked nearly flawless and that will make Arians sleep quite well for the next week.

If this Palmer is the Palmer that Arizona will get this season, the season won't end Jan. 3.

"It's been a long-time coming," he said. "It's been a lot of days since I saw this day in the future. It's just great to be back with the guys and obviously great to go down and be efficient and score, have a third down and convert, have one big play and then be able to run the ball."

Palmer's passer rating was 118.8 but it was the long pass to Ellington that should silence any of his doubters. He put enough zip on the throw to fit into a small hole. It was the type of play Palmer needed to verify that his shoulder is rehabbed and his knee is healthy. Ellington caught it and turned up field for the dazzle, but seeing the pass sizzle was enough for the Cardinals to stop worrying that Palmer is back.

"I told him afterwards, ‘I'm glad it worked out,' but we'll look at the film and see if there's anything different we could have done on that play."

Once Palmer arrived at University of Phoenix Stadium, he said he was focused. He didn't let nerves get ahold of him. He quelled any worries.

He went out and showed the Cardinals what's in store for 2015.

"I'm just glad," he said, "to get the first one out of the way."