Yes, Drew Stanton is hurt, and yes, there is a fear this could be a serious thing – ACL? – to take yet another quarterback away from the Cardinals.
But first, let’s talk about what the Cardinals did Thursday night (the Cards’ first Thursday win since 1948, albeit only with a handful of Thursday opportunities over the years), on a short week. They won on the road without a touchdown for the first time since 1935, and became the first team in the NFL to win without a touchdown since the Ravens did in in Detroit Dec. 16, 2013.
They’ve won 11 games for the first time as a franchise in 39 years. They’ve all but made the playoffs, unless the Eagles and Cowboys conspire for a backbreaking tie (Not gonna happen.) It’s been an amazing run even as the body shots accumulate, and if Bruce Arians doesn’t win another coach of the year award, I’ll be truly surprised.
(If the Cardinals manage to beat the Seahawks a week from Sunday, you might as well engrave his name on it that evening.)
That’s why there were so many laughs and smiles coming off the field Thursday night. This isn’t how you’d draw up a Super Bowl team, not losing all these guys. But the Cards have won in spite of all of it anyway. To paraphrase a former Cardinal great, it’s hard to win in the NFL. (I’m leaving off the expletive at the end.)
— OK, spinning this forward: Is Stanton done? We will see. No one is saying one way or the other, at least not at 1:45 a.m. on this plane ride home. But let’s assume, for the moment, Stanton won’t be available. That means Ryan Lindley, I’d think.
Arians made it clear Logan Thomas isn’t ready yet. And no, Lindley doesn’t have a great track record after his disastrous 2012 rookie stretch – when, like Thomas, he shouldn’t have been playing – but at least he has played. He was gone until Carson Palmer blew out his ACL, a cut so that the prospect of Thomas could be kept, and that’s why he was third-string when he returned. But it always made more sense that, if the Cards had to turn to the backup’s backup, that guy would probably be Lindley.
— As my cohort Kent Somers tweeted, Arians is going to talk about how much confidence he has in Lindley. Because that’s what B.A. does, especially with QBs. If that’s the guy who is playing, he’s going to have Arians’ full support.
— I expect the Cards to sign a third QB, maybe bring back Dennis Dixon. But for those on Twitter tonight (at 1 a.m. Arizona time on a Friday? Don’t you people have to work in a few hours?) asking about who the Cards are going to get, I don’t see any earthly way it’s someone who they plan to play. These are the cards these Cards have been dealt. The top two QBs could be done. You gotta make it work.
— Amazing that Antonio Cromartie thought he ruptured his Achilles five days ago, and not only played Thursday night but did it without looking like he was ever hurt.
— They take a lot of heat, but Arians was right, special teams was excellent. Chandler Catanzaro drilled his field goals. Drew Butler, after a horrible first punt, was great the rest of the night, constantly pinning the Rams deep, with help from his coverage units. (Long snapper Mike Leach with the awesome downing of the ball around the 5.) Six punts were downed inside the 20 out of eight. Ted Ginn broke off a 42-yard punt return. A very nice night for special teams coordinator Amos Jones’ guys.
— Quiet MVP from Thursday: Left tackle Jared Veldheer. Not only led a great night for the offensive line, but jumped on that late Kerwynn Williams fumble that could have changed the game.
— Frostee Rucker caused all kinds of havoc in the backfield. He’s been quietly great the past few games.
— Another guy causing backfield havoc was … cornerback Jerraud Powers? Yep. He was the blitzer a lot of the night. One delayed blitz was timed perfect and he drilled Shaun Hill late in the first half. It caused an incompletion and was a split second from causing a fumble. On the Rams’ last legit drive, his blitz on fourth down and leap allowed him to knock down Hill’s pass.
“I had some guys in my group texts, (former teammate) Antoine Bethea and a couple other guys, saying, ‘Who do you think you are? Dwight Freeney?’ ” Powers said. “I’m like, ‘Nah.’ ”
— So the last three times the Cardinals have played the Rams they have lost Tyrann Mathieu to an ACL tear, Palmer to an ACL tear and now, maybe Stanton has a serious injury? Unreal.
— Williams looked like the real deal again. Didn’t get 100 yards splitting time with Stepfan Taylor, but he averaged five yards on 15 carries and a couple of times was one defender away from breaking a TD run.
— The Cards are (probably) in the playoffs. They have more than a week to prep for the NFC West-deciding home game against Seattle. That will be an event on “Sunday Night Football.” It’d be nice if somehow, Stanton is OK.
“Obviously we’d like a full deck of cards, no pun intended,” Larry Fitzgerald said.
If not, there will probably be a shrug of the collective shoulders. Why should the end-all, be-all NFC West showdown be any different than the rest of the season?
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Dennis Dixon, Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Jared Veldheer, Jerraud Powers, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Logan Thomas, Rams, Ryan Lindley, Tyrann Mathieu
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In five games, through three quarterbacks, the Cardinals have not thrown an interception. That’s 178 pass attempts this season, and 223 total in a row without a pick dating back to last season. Sure, Carson Palmer should have thrown one Sunday when Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo dropped one, but if, buts, candy, nuts and all that — right?
“It’s knowing where you are going with the ball,” coach Bruce Arians said. “But we’ve been lucky. We’ve had about three dropped.”
OK, that’s true. Arians did acknowledge the “experience and trust” the quarterbacks and receivers have built to make interceptions less likely. There is a luck component to it, but the same goes for making interceptions on defense (like Sam Acho’s pick off a batted pass in New York.) Arizona is only 74 passes from the NFL record for most attempts to start a season without an interception, or a little less than two-B.A.-called games.
All of that has helped the Cards to a plus-8 in turnovers thus far, third in the NFL behind New England and Green Bay, both of which are plus-9.
— Arians said he was still a little concerned about how Palmer would be after his 44 passes Sunday. “Until I saw him (Monday), Arians said. “Now, he feels great.” Arians said Palmer can “hopefully” do everything in practice this week. Drew Stanton had been ready to go in the game if Palmer had to have come out after getting poked in the eye during that sack-not-a-sack completion.
— With the health of the quarterbacks back to (almost) normal, the Cardinals cut QB Dennis Dixon from the practice squad.
— The Cardinals came out of the Redskins’ game relatively healthy. No one should miss any time from anything sustained against Washington.
— Defensive end Frostee Rucker should be OK to play, but his calf injury is going to be a constant issue he must deal with, like the foot problem with running back Andre Ellington, Arians said.
— There is a “slim chance” defensive end Calais Campbell plays this week, Arians said. I would be stunned if he played.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Dennis Dixon, Frostee Rucker
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And the Cardinals officially lose another one.
Among a handful of roster moves Tuesday was the Cardinals putting punter Dave Zastudil on injured reserve with his bad groin, ending his season. He joins linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who gets the Cardinals’ lone injured reserve-designated to return tag of the season because of cartilage damage in his knee. Shaughnessy must miss at least eight games.
Filling those roster spots are one-for-one moves. Zastudil will be replaced by practice squad punter Drew Butler, who already had filled in for Zastudil in the first three games of the season. Shaughnessy’s spot goes to Marcus Benard, who was cut at the end of the preseason, briefly signed back befoe being cut again, and now returns for a second time. Benard knows the system – he did play here in 2013 too.
It’s been a rough stretch with injuries. The Cardinals have to hope the worst is past.
To fill Butler’s spot on the practice squad, the Cardinals have signed former Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon, who worked with Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh and knows the system. He’ll be available for practice Wednesday, so the Cardinals are in better shape to promote him if Carson Palmer and/or Drew Stanton cannot make it back for the game.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Dennis Dixon, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Marcus Benard, Matt Shaughnessy
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