Carson Palmer hasn't lost his fourth-quarter skills

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There’s one part of a game where an experienced quarterback can be the difference between securing a win and losing: The fourth quarter.

And that’s what the Arizona Cardinals missed last season when Carson Palmer missed 10 games with knee and shoulder injuries. In his return from ACL surgery on Sunday, Palmer showed the Cardinals what they were missing in the fourth quarter last season. He completed 4-of-5 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to secure a 31-19 win for the Cardinals over the New Orleans Saints.

Last season, Palmer’s completion percentage in the fourth quarter went up by almost seven percent (68 percent in the fourth vs. 61.5 in the first three quarters), according to ESPN Stats & Information. He threw four touchdowns to no interceptions in the final stanza, compared to seven touchdowns against three picks in the first three. The quarterbacks who replaced Palmer in 2014 weren’t as accurate in the fourth quarter. Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas combined to complete 48.9 percent of their passes in the final quarter, throwing two touchdowns against three interceptions.

Having better numbers in the fourth quarter than in the first three is “a good trait for an experienced quarterback," Palmer said.

“A lot of games are kind of just hanging around, hanging around, hanging around and then win it in the fourth,” Palmer said. “I have been a part of a lot of those games and I attribute experience to that.”

As a group, they were markedly better during the first three quarters, completing 53.2 percent of their passes with eight touchdowns against six interceptions.

Combined, Stanton, Lindley and Thomas had played in 34 career games, including playoffs, compared to Palmer’s 145, and combined for 1,329 career snaps to Palmer’s 6,246.