Peyton Manning has been playing quarterback in the NFL since 1998, but the Cardinals have only truly played against him once — at least, until the Cards visit Denver Sunday. Sure, Manning started against the Cardinals in Indianapolis in 2005 in the regular-season finale, but he played only three plays before Tony Dungy yanked him in a game mostly remembered (?) as Cardinal Rolando Cantu becoming the first Mexican non-kicker to play in a game and for Neil Rackers breaking the NFL record for field goals in a season (and the Cards still losing).
Manning’s full game came at University of Phoenix Stadium under the lights of “Sunday Night Football” as Peyton dismantled the reigning NFC champions in a 31-10 rout as Manning had 379 yards passing and four touchdown passes.
What happens this time? The Cardinals have a better defense than at that point. Whether that means they can slow Manning down, well, that’s something else entirely, isn’t it? Bruce Arians said he expects the Broncos to go no-huddle early, like the 49ers did, and attack quickly. “If we can weather that storm,” Arians said, “I like where we’re at.”
Also in the Cardinals’ back pocket: The run defense. Even Manning can have a tough time if his team can’t run. “If we get in a one-dimensional game,” Arians said, “I like our chances.”
If the Cardinals can get to 4-0, with a win in Denver …
— Drew Stanton starts again. It’s old hat by now, really, and given the improvement game over game, the hope is Stanton can make another step forward. It’s possible, because the Broncos are only OK against the pass. As long as the protection holds up. And Stanton doesn’t turn the ball over, which is what doomed the Cards the last time they played Peyton.
— The Cardinals have yet to throw an interception. “Man, why are you trying to jinx us?” Arians said, feigning disgust. “It’s like bringing up Cat Man.” Cat Man, or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, was a subject of a similar question earlier in the year when he hadn’t missed a field goal. Except Catanzaro still hasn’t missed (9 for 9). Maybe Stanton keeps it going too, although Arians correctly mentioned the Cardinals have “thrown some (interceptions) they’ve dropped. Luckily, we got those back.”
— Catanzaro could get a field goal try of 60 yards or more Sunday in the Mile High air, Arians said.
— Manning needs one touchdown pass to reach 500 in his career, and nine to tie Brett Favre for the most in NFL history. Arians was confused at first, thinking Manning needed nine to get to 500, when he was asked about possibly surrendering 500 this weekend.
“If he gets nine, I’m not getting on the plane,” Arians said. “I think he needs nine of them, doesn’t he?”
Arians was told it was just one. “ One? I thought it was nine. I’ll give him one.”
— Manning, not surprisingly, was downplaying the 500 angle. “If (running back) Montee (Ball) wants to run for five touchdowns and we don’t throw any and we win the game I can assure you I’m fine with that,” Manning said.
— I feel confident in saying Ball will not rush for five TDs. Not against this defense.
— Lot of talk about people on the Cardinals that “know” Manning. Arians and Tom Moore know his offense. Antonio Cromartie once had three interceptions in a game against Manning, in 2007. Jerraud Powers battled Manning every day in practice for a couple of years in Indy. I agree with Arians. It doesn’t really matter.
— That said, I like the idea that Todd Bowles has had two weeks to prepare a defense for this game.
— So much has been made about the stats of Larry Fitzgerald, who only has 10 catches for 107 yards in three games. Michael Floyd has a lot more yards (252) but he only has 11 catches himself to lead the team. And Smokey Brown nine. The receptions are spread out quite a bit thus far.
— Arians was asked about this being a big game Sunday, and he referenced having Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew on hand as a perk. “You want Joe Buck and Troy Aikman doing your games,” Arians said. “Nothing against David Diehl, he’s a hell of a kid, but you know?”
Diehl, the former player and new analyst, did the Cardinals’ game against San Francisco two weeks ago.
— The Cardinals-versus-Broncos, although a frequent preseason occurrence, is very rare in the regular season. The two teams have only met nine times ever, and the Cardinals have only won once – the most recent meeting in Arizona in 2010. (There was also a tie). The Cardinals are 0-4 in Denver, although they haven’t played there since 2002.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this turns out. As Arians said Friday, the season isn’t over with a loss. But a win certainly would help the cause.
Tags: Broncos, Bruce Arians, Chandler Catanzaro, Drew Stanton, Jerraud Powers, Peyton Manning, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 20 Comments »