NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton dropped back on second down with just less than seven minutes left in the third quarter Sunday, and with his heels touching the Cardinals 30-yard line, Stanton saw an open running lane ahead of him.

The 30-year-old backup quarterback, who was starting his second straight game, scrambled up the middle. Around the 42, Stanton began his slide with enough time for a defender to avoid making “imminent” contact, which protected him according to NFL rules.

Stanton
When San Francisco linebacker Dan Skuta hit Stanton, who had almost completed his slide, in the neck and head area, it drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. The video replay looked like Skuta hit Stanton in the shoulder, but it was close enough to earn a flag.

“I was just like, ‘Really?’” Stanton said after the game. “I saw this guy and this other guy hit me from behind. I went up to Dan and asked him, ‘You’re from Michigan, bro. What’s going on?’ I was talking to him earlier and he was trying to make fun of Michigan State.

“But he went to Grand Valley.”

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians praised Stanton for the slide but wasn’t happy with Skuta’s hit.

“That was a legitimate cheap shot,” Arians said.

Rule 7, section 2, article 1 (d) (1-2) reads: “A defender must pull up when a runner begins a feet-first slide. This does not mean that all contact by a defender is illegal. If a defender has already committed himself, and the contact is unavoidable, it is not a foul unless the defender commits some other act, such as helmet-to-helmet contact or by driving his forearm or shoulder into the head or neck area of the runner.”

Skuta appeared to have already committed his momentum, but he looked far enough away to be able to contort his body in a fashion that would've avoided hitting Stanton above the shoulders.

After the hit, referee Gene Steratore asked Stanton if he was feeling OK.

Sunday was only Stanton’s sixth career start, but Steratore is one of the few referees to officiate one of Stanton’s previous starts, so the two had a prior rapport.

“He’s an awesome guy and he said, ‘Don’t lie to me if you’re not feeling good,’” Stanton recalled. “I said, ‘Gene, I’d never lie to you.’ I knew I was good. I didn’t see him coming, obviously.

“Sometimes it’s better when you don’t see him coming.”

On the next play, Stanton was rocked again when Niners linebacker Patrick Willis hit him as he threw. Willis was flagged for a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty for leading with his helmet, and Stanton was visibly shaken up following the play.

After the game, Stanton joked that’s why he wears pads and a mouth guard.

“I’m lucky I’ve got a really good guy back in Michigan who I get my mouthpieces from,” Stanton said. “They definitely worked today.”

Arians was upset with Stanton for diving headfirst after a 13-yard run with 21 seconds left in the first half. As he was diving, Stanton was hit on the side of the head by Niners defensive back Jimmie Ward. No flag was thrown, but Arians would’ve rather seen Stanton slide. Carson Palmer injured his right shoulder after he took on a safety shoulder first in Week 1.

“He’s tough as nails,” Arians said of Stanton. “I told him I wish he hadn’t gone down headfirst. That one scared me.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When a team isn't expecting something from an offense -- which is rare in the NFL -- the first half of Sunday's Arizona Cardinals game is the result.

The San Francisco 49ers came out five wide without two tight ends, spreading Arizona's defense and allowing Colin Kaepernick to run for 45 yards in the half.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriFrank Gore had just one carry in the second half, allowing the Cardinals defense to capitalize on a 49ers offense that abandoned the run.
"It was a different game plan than we technically prepared for," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "Nobody thought they were going to come out and throw the ball like they did like that. We thought they were going to run the ball [more].

"They came out in five wide and hurry-up and threw the ball short. [Kaepernick] was precise. He was quick. I think that he just played great."

It was basketball on grass, veteran linebacker Larry Foote said, as San Francisco dinked and dunked their way to a 14-6 lead at halftime.

Of Kaepernick's 37 attempts Sunday, 30 were for within 10 yards or less of the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Arizona struggled to counter the hurry-up offense. Cornerback Patrick Peterson said the defensive calls came in wrong. At one point, the Cardinals were flagged for having 12 players on the field.

The 49ers' first two drives Sunday each went for 80 yards, ate up more than 8 minutes and resulted in touchdowns. They marched through Arizona's defense at will and while Kaepernick was able to find his lanes in the first half, running nine times for almost 50 yards, he threw 18 times for 116 yards.

That was Foote's introduction to Kaepernick, whom he had never played before then.

"He is that fast," Foote said. "Some guys take a minute to get going. Naw. He was slippery and fast."

At halftime, Arizona adjusted and regrouped.

"We talked about the first five minutes of the third quarter being huge," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "We were down again and we had to make a stop defensively, make some first downs and hopefully get some points offensively, and we were able to get a touchdown. From there, it snowballed."

The Cardinals held the 49ers on their opening drive of the third quarter and scored on the offense's first possession. Arizona began winning first and second down, Campbell said, and it helped that the 49ers went away from the run game. They gave Frank Gore one carry in the second half, abandoning the run just 37 seconds into the half, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Arizona held the 49ers to third-and-long four times in the second half. Two of them led to punts. Another one turned into third-and-23 on a penalty, which resulted in a blocked field goal on fourth down.

"We put pressure on them," Campbell said. "We got a little tighter in press coverage and took away the short throws and made him hold the ball a little longer. We tackled well in the run game and we got them in third and long."

The numbers of the second half told the story. Arizona held San Francisco to 16 rushing yards -- including Kaepernick to 9 -- in the final 30 minutes. The 49ers had to do everything by air but even that wasn't that effective, accounting for just six first of their seven first downs in the second half.

The Cardinals' defense limited the 49ers to one converted third down on 27 second-half plays.

"We [didn't] blink," Foote said. "We just knew on the sideline we need to get them on the ground and play basketball with them.

"Something's brewing in this locker room and hopefully we keep going."
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- John Brown wasn’t supposed to be the Arizona Cardinals receiver with whom Drew Stanton clicked.

That was supposed to be the other Brown.

Jaron Brown and Stanton were automatic during training camp and in the preseason. That’s why Arizona coach Bruce Arians dialed up a deep ball from Stanton to Jaron Brown early in the fourth quarter. Arians, like anyone who watched the two this summer, expected the play to work. Until the ball hit the turf, it looked like the countless other bombs Stanton launched to him during camp.

[+] EnlargeJohn Brown
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriThe chemistry that WR John Brown has built with QB Drew Stanton paid dividends for Arizona on Sunday.
“I know he wants that one back to Jaron because they never miss,” Arians said. “They haven’t missed the entire preseason, and he kind of got a little bit excited with that one.”

Stanton had to settle for rookie John Brown. As it turned out, there could have been worse options. The pair connected for two second-half touchdowns and propelled Arizona past the San Francisco 49ers 23-14 Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. It was the Cardinals' first win over the 49ers since 2011.

On the first touchdown, Stanton hit Brown cutting through the middle of the Niners’ secondary, almost ignored.

“They just forgot me on [that] play because we had a route coming in, and the cornerback jumped it, and the safety flew all the way, and I was just open down the middle,” said Brown, whose mother, Cassandra, was in the stands from Florida on Sunday.

At that point, Arizona was down 14-13. In his second start since 2010 -- the first coming this past week -- Stanton had a chip on his shoulder. Stanton made his first career start with the Detroit Lions against San Francisco in Week 15 of 2009. He was benched almost seven minutes into the fourth quarter after he threw his third interception. He never forgot that feeling.

“I’ve never been a guy that’s been worried about my stats,” Stanton said. “I think I care much more about a team and about winning, but that one stung me. It’ll test you in this league, and you have to constantly go out there and prove yourself. I feel like a little bit of a weight came off my shoulders today, without a doubt.”

On the next drive Sunday, Stanton got pummeled on consecutive plays. On the first, linebacker Dan Skuta hit Stanton when he began his slide after scrambling. On the next play, Niners linebacker Patrick Willis knocked Stanton with the crown of his helmet. Both plays drew 15-yard penalties and set the Cardinals up for the winning touchdown.

The touchdown pass again went to Brown, this time on a pump fake, but almost to the exact same spot.

“The timing, it’s always perfect, even though I got a lot of work with Carson [Palmer],” Brown said. “I took time out with both of them because I run with the ones and the twos, so it helped me out big time.”

Stanton and Brown’s chemistry was built during camp, when Brown split his time working with the starters and the backups, but Brown has spent most of his time during the season working with Palmer. That helped Brown learn the wrinkles of the offense, from which Stanton reaped the benefits Sunday.

“You almost want to tell him to slow down at times because he runs through zones,” Stanton said. “You’re like, ‘If it’s man, run away from that guy. If it’s zone, then find that zone and stay there.’ He’s getting it, and he understands it, but sometimes he just needs to slow down because the game is fast.”

And it’s not like the two are strangers.

A lot was made earlier this season about Brown’s locker being right next to Palmer’s. But who’s on the other side of Brown? Stanton.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cardinals’ 23-14 victory over San Francisco:
    Foote
  • Linebacker Larry Foote sat at his locker in an undershirt and ripped jeans, bruised from another physical outing but optimistic. The 34-year-old had just experienced his first NFC West game and was excited about how the defense rebounded from two first-half drives in which they allowed San Francisco to go 80 yards and score on each. “Something’s brewing in this locker room, and hopefully we keep going,” he said.
  • Antonio Cromartie, who left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury, was standing on it at his locker after the game. “Everything’s OK,” Cromartie said. “I will find out what’s going on with it tomorrow.”
  • Rookie wide receiver John Brown said he woke up Sunday morning and told roommate rookie safety Deone Bucannon he felt a touchdown coming. Brown scored two Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
7:06
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 23-14 win at University of Phoenix Stadium.

What it means: This is a team that knows how to scrap together a win. It was tough at halftime to believe the Cardinals could come back, but whatever Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said worked. The second-half Cardinals looked nothing like the first-half Cardinals. (However, some credit has to be given to the 49ers for imploding for a third consecutive second half.) And that’s good news for this team, which might be without starter Carson Palmer for a while. Arizona figured out a way to slow down 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second half, and on offense, the Cardinals were able to convert on third down and turn scoring opportunities into touchdowns instead of field goals. If Arizona can start putting together full games, it could be a dangerous squad.

Stock watch: Ted Ginn Jr.'s ability in the return game and as a receiver were well known, which is why Arizona signed him during free agency. But what he’s added in other facets has been a bonus. He threw a pass Sunday -- 10 yards to Michael Floyd for a first down -- and he was used on a jet sweep that he cut inside.

Second-half shutdown: After Kaepernick ran at will in the first half, Arizona held him to 9 rushing yards on four carries and 102 passing yards in the second half. Arizona also held San Francisco to six first downs in the second half and just 16 rushing yards as a whole.

Game ball: Quarterback Drew Stanton took the hits and kept on ticking. He threw for 244 yards on 18-for-33 passing. His two touchdown passes to John Brown gave Arizona the lead for good.

What’s next: The Cardinals are off next week before traveling to Denver in Week 5.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If the Arizona Cardinals aren’t head-over-heels excited about being 2-0 heading into Sunday’s game against San Francisco, it’s hard to blame them.

They’ve been here before. And it didn’t end well.

Two years ago, they started 4-0 before losing their next nine. They finished 5-11 in 2012 and that losing streak marked the end of Ken Whisenhunt’s tenure in the desert.

But this year is different.

There’s a new coach, new regime and largely a new roster from that 2012 team. Put together, it’s resulted in a 2-0 start for Arizona, which sits in first place in the NFC West just a couple of weeks into Bruce Arians’ second season. It’s the first time Arizona has been atop the West standings since that 4-0 start in 2012 turned into 4-1 and snowballed from there.

For some Cardinals, being 2-0 this early in the season is good conversation fodder but they aren’t putting much stock in it.

“It’s funny how so quickly you could be on top of the world and a few weeks later you’re right back on the bottom of the pack,” nose tackle Dan Williams said. “You got to be able to control those highs and lows. Can’t ever think you’re too good or you’re not good at all just try to keep level-headed.”

Others, however, understand its importance. A win Sunday would give Arizona a two-game lead over the 49ers and possibly a two-game advantage over Seattle, should the Seahawks lose to Denver. While it’s still early, a two-game lead in what was supposed to be the toughest division in football isn’t a bad place to be.

“Once you’re in first place you want to stay there,” Arians said. “You’ve done the job so far and you look at the tape and know you can even play better, a lot better, than (last Sunday), and you respect your opponent coming in that we haven’t beaten in a while.”

Arizona is 1-9 against San Francisco in their last 10 meetings.

Besides remaining in first place, there’s another reason why games in the first quarter of the season have become so important: the playoffs.

Arizona learned the hard way what early games mean, coming a game short of the playoffs at 10-6.

“Winning these early games is definitely key for us,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We didn’t win these games early and we didn’t know how to win these games early last year.”

Williams said the Cardinals’ mindset has become that every game could keep Arizona out of the postseason.

“Just treat each game as that’s the game that could keep us out of the playoffs,” he said. “You think about last year, if we would’ve won this game, would’ve won this game, few things here and there, could’ve been in the postseason.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Quarterback Carson Palmer was ruled inactive for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

It was a largely expected decision by the Cardinals, but on Friday coach Bruce Arians left the door open for Palmer to back up Drew Stanton if his right shoulder was feeling better. Third-string quarterback Logan Thomas will back up Stanton.

Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker is active after he and tight end Rob Housler worked out with head trainer Tom Reed during warm-ups. Housler was ruled inactive because of a hip injury. He didn’t practice Thursday or Friday. Rookie Troy Niklas will get his first NFL start in Housler’s place.

Also inactive was nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu, who played just four snaps last week, and recently signed linebacker Victor Butler. He was signed by the Cards on Tuesday. Rookie inside linebacker Glenn Carson was also inactive.

As Arians announced Friday, punter Dave Zastudil and linebacker Alex Okafor were inactive, as well.
TEMPE, Ariz. – After Thursday’s practice, Arizona’s running backs were still figuring out what life would be like without Jonathan Dwyer.

By Friday morning, they had a clearer idea.

The Cardinals re-signed Jalen Parmele on Friday, adding a friendly face who will be responsible for filling Dwyer’s role in goal-line situations. At 5-foot-11 and 233-pounds, Parmele, who was released during final cuts, is the closest Arizona could get to replacing Dwyer’s size on such short notice.

“I’m well prepared,” said Parmele, who had 16 carries for 41 yards during the preseason with Arizona. “I made sure I was in shape and lifting hard and it’s something I like to do.

“One of my favorite things to do is run the ball, so I’m ready.”

[+] EnlargeJalen Parmele
AP Photo/Matt YorkJalen Parmele is back with the Cardinals after being among their final cuts.
Andre Ellington was listed as probable for Sunday, a sign that the soreness in his left foot has decreased. He’ll likely get more carries without a solid No. 2 option behind him. However, Arizona will need to replace Dwyer’s 23.5 snaps and 25.5 yards per game.

As they have through two games, the Cardinals will continue to use a running back by committee.

“The next guy steps in and does the thing he’s doing,” fullback Robert Hughes said. “That’s our whole mentality. That’s how we’ve always been.

“We trust and believe in everybody in the room. And no matter who’s out there taking the snaps, they’ll get the job done.”

Because of their size, Parmele and Hughes are the two best options to rotate in on passing downs. Hughes has only played 19 snaps in two games, but that’s bound to increase this week against San Francisco.

“Whatever they ask me to do, it’s just like always, ready to step up and play,” Hughes said. “Whatever B.A. (Cardinals coach Bruce Arians) throws in there, I’m going to be ready.”

Taylor might be used more between the 20s because he has the quickness to get through the tackles. He’s played all the running back positions during practice, he said.

But whoever is sent out as Arizona’s No. 2 will get more touches than they’re used to.

All but one of Dwyer’s 16 rushes this season have come on first or second down, as have all three of his pass targets, situations that best set up for Taylor.

“It’s what I’ve been working for this whole time at camp,” said Taylor, who has one carry for five yards this season. “I’ve always prepared myself to be in the No. 1 spot. It’s just next man up.”

Parmele was gracious for Arizona’s call despite the circumstances causing it. The offense hasn’t changed much between the last day of August and Friday, Parmele said, just a few minor wrinkles and some different terminology.

After Friday’s practice, Parmele said the playbook came back to him quickly.

“It hasn’t been too long since I’ve actually gotten contact, which is good,” Parmele said. “Now it’s just a matter of going out, playing physical and executing.”

Zastudil out for second straight game

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- When the Arizona Cardinals re-signed punter Drew Butler, it meant starter Dave Zastudil was still on the mend.

Zastudil was ruled out of Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers a few hours later with a left groin injury after not practicing Thursday or Friday. He has yet to punt this season because of the nagging injury, which is expected to fully heal during the Cardinals' bye week. He was active in Week 1 to act as a holder for rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro and inactive in Week 2. Butler has eight punts for an average of 44.2 yards.

Linebacker Alex Okafor is also out for Sunday's game with a thigh injury.

Running back Andre Ellington (foot) was upgraded to probable for Sunday after being limited in practice Thursday and Friday.

Tight end Rob Housler (hip), who didn't practice Thursday or Friday, was listed as questionable, as were quarterback Carson Palmer (shoulder) and DT Frostee Rucker (calf).

Getting Rucker back would add depth to a pass rush that was depleted with the loss of outside linebacker John Abraham.

"We feel real good that he's going to test it before the game," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "He was limited today. He's battle tested, especially in this type of game."

Linebackers Larry Foote (shoulder) and Kevin Minter (quad), and center Lyle Sendlein (ankle), were listed as probable.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The avalanche of off-field stories continued for the Arizona Cardinals when running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday on assault charges.

Being asked about contracts, injuries, play-calling and, now, a teammate’s legal issues, has become routine for the Cardinals.

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Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
"We move on," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "It’s not a distraction. It will not be a distraction. Our team’s kinda gotten used to what everybody else would consider a distraction, and get ready for a huge football game this Sunday."

The Cardinals have answered a lot of questions, but not many about the 49ers, who come to University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.

The series of off-the-field stories came full circle Friday when linebacker John Abraham was put on injured reserve because of a concussion he suffered in Week 1. Abraham started the list of off-the-field stories when his June arrest on suspicion of DUI in Atlanta was reported during the first few days of training camp.

Since then:
Veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t think he has seen this many off-field stories this early in a season in the first 10 years of his career.

"Adversity, it comes in all different sizes, shapes and forms," Fitzgerald said. "You have to be able to deal with it. Everybody’s dealing with it in some way or form. We got this type of issue here. Washington’s dealing with injuries.

"It’s all different. But come Sunday, it doesn’t matter. The best team has to come out there and win."

As far as Arizona’s on-field performance goes, the Cardinals are 2-0, having won with two different starting quarterbacks. Arians said the off-field issues haven’t strayed onto the Cardinals’ practice field this week. He called Wednesday and Thursday’s practices "great."

Larry Foote, a 13-year veteran, said Arizona needs to approach Dwyer’s absence like an injury: Next man up.

"We just got to keep rolling,” he said.

Fitzgerald said Arizona’s focus hasn’t waned.

"It hasn’t changed one bit," Fitzgerald said. "If anything, it’s even sharper.

"You come in the locker room (Thursday), I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this kind of media contingency here at the Cardinals, Thursday, Week 3. It’s just like the Super Bowl a couple years ago. We understand that there’s a lot of eyes on us. We have to [home] in. We have to have that bunker mentality. We got to just rely on each other and fight for each other."

49ers vs. Cardinals preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
8:00
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It's that time of the year again, when NFC West rivals start going head-to-head.

Sunday's game at University of Phoenix Stadium will be the division opener for both the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. Both teams have been decimated by injuries and suspensions but are out to prove that their stock in the West is rising. This matchup hasn't quite been the rivalry Arizona wants it to be, with the 49ers winning nine of the past 10. But all it takes is one game to swing the momentum.

ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez discussed Sunday's game.

Weinfuss: What did the Chicago loss do for the 49ers' psyche, especially coming so early in the season and after that win over Dallas?

Gutierrez: Publicly, the Niners say every loss hurts, that this one is no different from any other. And yet, this one would seem to sting a little more, especially with how it went down. The 49ers, under Jim Harbaugh, have been known to never really let an opponent rally after taking a lead, especially a big lead. But the Niners blew advantages of 17-0 and 20-7 in eventually losing 28-20, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick melted down with three interceptions and a lost fumble. So, yeah, this one was different. The key, then, is seeing how they respond in Arizona, especially in such a key early-season divisional matchup against an opponent not named the Seattle Seahawks.

That being said, they do have to prepare for the possibility of facing two different quarterbacks. So what are the big differences between the grizzled vet Carson Palmer and career backup Drew Stanton?

Weinfuss: There aren’t many major differences between the two. Palmer is 6-foot-5; Stanton is 6-3. Both are considered pocket passers but Stanton is better on the move than Palmer. He’s four years younger and it shows in his athleticism -- which I also think is more of a natural gift compared to Palmer’s. When you get deeper into the pair, it’s easy to see how much more comfortable Palmer is in the offense. He knows where guys will be -- even if he’s not making his progressions as he should -- whereas Stanton, who’s been embedded with Bruce Arians’ scheme for three years now, is learning the nuances that come with actually playing in the offense. Stanton held on to the ball a little more last weekend against New York because his familiarity and timing with his receivers just isn’t there like it is for Palmer.

How different is San Francisco’s defense without the likes of Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman? Will the Niners' pass rush be impacted long term?

Gutierrez: In a word -- very! How can it not be? Besides being without Smith, who is two games into his nine-game, NFL-mandated suspension, and Bowman, who is on the PUP list recovering from that devastating left knee injury suffered in the NFC title game, the Niners are also missing starting nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, on the IR/designated to return list with a biceps injury. And the situation for defensive lineman Ray McDonald, arrested on suspicion of domestic violence on Aug. 31 but allowed to play as the investigation goes on, can change at any moment. The Niners have only four sacks through two games and they need to generate more pressure, otherwise a rebuilt secondary -- three new starters with one, Tramaine Brock, sidelined with a sprained toe -- will pay the price in coverage.

Speaking of coverage, but on the other side, why has Patrick Peterson seemingly been on the wrong end of things when it comes to matching up with Michael Crabtree, who has caught 41 passes (his most against any opponent) for 618 yards and six TDs against the Cardinals?

Weinfuss: Before we begin debating how good Peterson is or isn’t because he hasn’t played like the elite player he’s supposed to be this season, let’s point out that Crabtree had 456 of those yards from 2011 to 2013, and in 2013 against Arizona he had just three receptions for 29 yards. Let’s break it down even more. In 2012, when Crabtree had a career-high 1,105 yards, it was in large part because the Niners’ offense was playing well and he was the primary option when he went off for 244 yards in two games against Arizona. Let’s go another level deeper. He had 18 catches on the right side from 2011 to 2013 compared to 12 on the left, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Peterson split his time almost evenly between the two sides so a very strong explanation for why Crabtree has torched the Cardinals is that if Peterson was covering him, Peterson tends to rely on his athleticism more than his skills, especially against top-tier talent.

Having won nine of their past 10 against the Cardinals, do the Niners consider this a rivalry? If not, how many wins by the Cardinals would San Francisco need to consider Arizona a bona fide rival?

Gutierrez: Not really. Sure, they respect them -- publicly. But the Niners’ big rival resides in the Pacific Northwest, rather than the Southwest desert. No disrespect, but the Seahawks have been where the Niners have, and want to go back. The Cardinals starting out 2-0 might actually work against them as the 49ers will have to take them as a viable threat in the division and not sleepwalk through the game. I don’t know if there is a certain number that would make this a bona fide rivalry, where the players and fan bases have a genuine dislike for each other, besides the Cardinals winning a Super Bowl and talking trash with aplomb while dispatching the 49ers along the way. They are rivals, in a sense, simply because they have to be, being in the same division and all.

Niners rookie nickel cornerback Jimmie Ward had a baptism by fire last week with Brandon Marshall often lining up in the slot against him and beating him three times for TDs. I would expect the Cardinals to watch that tape and put Larry Fitzgerald, another big, physical wideout, in there to test out Ward. What say you?

Weinfuss: I say the Cardinals will do it. And I’m sure Fitzgerald is ready for the matchup. He was more productive from wide outside last season than he was from the slot but he’s spending more time inside than he has in his career. He’d be a fine test for Ward -- probably even more so than Marshall -- because of Fitzgerald’s skill set, which, despite his speed slowing with age, hasn't started to dwindle yet. Fitzgerald would teach Ward a thing or two about how a receiver uses his body to shield defenders from the ball. He’d also teach Ward about covering a receiver with impeccable hands. Fitzgerald has 20 drops in his career and one in each of the past three seasons. It could be one heckuva education for Ward.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is trying anything and everything to awaken the sleeping nerve in his right throwing shoulder.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsCarson Palmer has been sidelined with a right shoulder injury.
Palmer has already tried electrical stimulation therapy, ice, massage, acupuncture, dry needling and art machines as healing aids. The most extreme measure, he said, was electrical shock therapy that made Palmer jump with every volt.

None of it has worked, but Palmer and coach Bruce Arians said they see progress every day.

Palmer said that he is averaging about five hours of sleep per night while he’s trying to figure out a solution. He spends his early days and late nights in the Cardinals’ weight room with Arizona’s trainers and coaches. Before Sunday’s game in New York, they worked with Palmer in the hotel pool and hot tub. The rest of his day before and after practice, meetings and film, Palmer has spent looking for a new remedy. On Tuesday, Palmer went from one treatment to another every two-and-a-half hours.

“I’ve been doing a lot of extracurricular activities with people who think they can help,” Palmer said. “I’m going to continue to do that. It’s been very time consuming. It’s been very costly, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

None of his treatments woke the bruised nerve in time for Sunday’s game, which backup quarterback Drew Stanton helped the Cardinals win 25-14 over the New York Giants.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Palmer said. “I wish I had a concrete answer or somebody knew exactly what to do to wake it up, but that’s not known. It’s just time. The only answer is time, and I’m hoping it doesn’t take any more time.”

The injury occurred in the second quarter of Arizona’s win over the San Diego Chargers in Week 1. Palmer scrambled to his left for 11 yards and took on safety Eric Weddle shoulder first. Palmer bounced right back up and continued to play, finishing with 304 yards and a 64.8 completion percentage.

Palmer said this week he “knew something was going on, just didn’t know what” after the hit.

When the medication he was on during the game wore off, the nerve fell asleep. Palmer said Arizona’s doctors have sent his MRIs for second opinions but he doesn’t plan on seeing doctors not on Arizona’s staff.

The 34-year-old Palmer can’t get a second opinion from a counterpart, either, because he hasn’t found another quarterback who’s had a similar injury.

Palmer won’t let himself think about the possibility of long-term nerve damage, despite it being a real possibility. He’s just taking it day-to-day but he hopes one of those days begins with a re-energized right shoulder.

He’s still in the market for new treatments. Witchcraft was suggested and Palmer seemed open to the idea -- jokingly, of course. Given the uncertainty of the injury, he might just try it -- but he won’t sacrifice a small animals for the good of his shoulder.

“I don’t do that,” he deadpanned. “I’m a dog lover. I definitely won’t do that. I think that’s drawing the line.

“But I’m just on the other side of the line.”
Quarterback Drew Stanton started this week as if it were any other.

He got to the Arizona Cardinals' practice facility Monday morning, worked out, went for a run and then finished watching tape of his first start since 2010 -- a 25-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday -- before starting film study on Arizona's next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers.

Whether Stanton makes a second-straight start depends on the bruised nerve in Carson Palmer's right shoulder. The nerve can wake up any day, handing the offense back to Palmer, or it can leave Stanton in charge of the Cardinals' offense for the foreseeable future.

Stanton should have a better idea of what his role will be before this game than he did last Sunday's. Stanton was named the starter by Cardinals coach Bruce Arians two hours before kickoff.

Until that moment happens, however, Stanton is sticking to his routine as a backup.

“I think probably the last three or four years, I look at every week the exact same,” Stanton said. “And that's just a matter of getting ready. I regiment everything exactly the same way. Like I said, being around guys that prepared themselves as backups, I'm not going to deviate from that. Carson's the starter. If he can't play than I have to step in.”

Stanton's been around long enough to understand the role of a career backup. He can't get too high when he's named the starter one week or too low when he's sent back to the bench.

When he's given an opportunity to start, his job is simple: maintain. He wants to the leave the offense in as good of shape or even better shape than Palmer left it.

“Last year, we missed out on the playoffs by one game and I didn't want to look back and say, 'Gosh, I started that game and we lost,'” Stanton said. “I would hate to have that feeling. I was very happy with the way the offense played. I thought we moved the ball well.

“Now, evaluating (the) tape, there were some things you'd like to have back but as you progress and feel comfortable within different things it'll come along.”

Stanton has benefited from Palmer's injury taking place in September because he's just a couple of weeks removed from training camp and his last preseason game. He still has his legs and the feeling of getting hit isn't yet foreign, as it would be late in the season.

Stanton practiced with the first team last week while Palmer waited for the nerve to wake up. Most importantly, Stanton was able to get his timing down with the receivers, especially Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, which led to 167 yards on 14-of-29 passing against the Giants.

“When you get the whole week's preparation and you know why the game plan is in, rather than going in the second quarter in relief, that's totally different,” Bruce Arians said. “If you're going to play, it's best to play in September after you just came off 100 snaps in the preseason and you're fresh and you're really in tune with everything rather than November.

"It's really hard in November.”

While Stanton prepared himself to play every week during the past three years, there was something different about last week. He said there was a better chance of him playing than in Week 14 last season, when Palmer didn't practice, either, because of an elbow injury.

It started becoming more of a reality when Arians let both Stanton and Palmer have input on the first 15 plays. Palmer and Stanton watch game film together but they mainly study on their own. That, coupled with Stanton having a higher comfort level with certain players, makes it tough for Arians to script one play sheet for both quarterbacks.

“They both sat down on Saturday night and they both picked their game plan,” Arians said. “As far as calling plays, I call plays to beat the other team and not put that quarterback in a situation where, ‘Oh, I really don't like that play.' I'll scratch that one completely off the plan.

“I say, ‘Hey, what do you not want me to call?' Normally, they don't say anything but every now and then they say, ‘Don't call this.' We'll just put a marker through that one because you want them comfortable and knowing when they pick them, there's a little bit more accountability there, too.”

With a barrage of media requests for Stanton on Tuesday, he may have tried to treat this as a normal week but the rest of it will be out of his control.

The Film Don’t Lie: Cardinals

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
A weekly look at what the Cardinals must fix:

In order for the Cardinals to beat the San Francisco 49ers and keep a hold on first place in the NFC West, they will have to improve their four-man pass rush.

Against the New York Giants, Arizona allowed Eli Manning to complete 65 percent of his passes for 157 yards and an average of eight yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He was intercepted once and sacked once under duress from a four-man rush.

Granted, Manning’s completion percentage was higher against five or more pass-rushers (68.4 percent), his yards per attempt and total passing yards were fewer. Manning had a QBR of 93.6 against four or fewer pass-rushers and a 41 QBR against five or more.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sunday started like almost every other game day for Drew Stanton.

Before the Arizona Cardinals arrived at MetLife Stadium for their game against the New York Giants, Stanton knew there was a chance he could play in place of Carson Palmer.

About two hours before kickoff, Sunday became unlike Stanton’s game days for the past three seasons. That’s when Palmer, who suffered nerve damage in Week 1 against the San Diego Chargers, tried to throw. He came to Stanton and broke the news that his right shoulder wasn’t responding.

[+] EnlargeDrew Stanton
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsQB Drew Stanton started his first game in nearly four years on Sunday.
About 30 minutes later, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told Stanton, “Hey, baby, you’re up.”

“I was like, 'All right,'" Stanton said.

And just like that, Stanton was starting his first game since Dec. 19, 2010. He led Arizona to a 25-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, throwing for 167 yards on 14-of-29 passing. He didn’t throw a touchdown but he also didn’t throw an interception.

“I looked at the numbers and I was shocked because he played really, really well and the numbers don’t give him justice,” Arians said. “Under pressure, (he) could have thrown some balls away and (he) took some sacks that I wish he’d have thrown balls away just so he’d stay healthy.”

Stanton admitted he was anxious leading up to Sunday’s game because of how real the possibility of him playing was. With Palmer limited in all three days of practice, Stanton played with the first team last week, getting valuable reps he’s missed as a backup.

But Arians never wavered in his support of Stanton, who’s been playing in Arians’ system since 2012 in Indianapolis. In typical Arians’ fashion, when Arizona won the kick, he opted to start on offense. Arians didn’t change the opening play of the game -- a deep pass that resulted in a 19-yard pass to Michael Floyd -- from the 15-play script he gave Stanton and Palmer on the plane en route to New York.

“When you spend as much time with him on the field and just watch him, know his craft and (see) he works extremely hard at it,” Arians said. “He’s extremely accurate. He knows where the ball is going. He worked a little too fast in the fourth quarter on some bang posts that you know he’s throwing them before the guys are turning around.

“He knows this offense inside out. He knows why we do what we do, so it’s easier for him sometimes even than Carson.”

Palmer thought his right shoulder would be strong enough to play Sunday, but the nerves never woke up, he said, the result of landing on it wrong Monday night. Arians said he saw a lot of improvement in Palmer's shoulder on Saturday and even more overnight to Sunday. He was hoping Palmer, as he did last year, would “pull the cape out” and take the field.

“It’s one of those things you just got to wait and hope it wakes up,” Palmer said. “There’s no, 'it needs 48 hours, it needs six days, it need 12 days.' You just don’t know.”

Stanton texted one person before the game to say he was playing: His wife. He may need to text her again next Sunday if Palmer can’t go. The next time he does, however, there won’t be a sense of surprise or relief.

“I think you get to a point in this league (where) you have to start betting on yourself and you have to worry about the stuff you have control over,” Stanton said. “I say that constantly, but until you start believing it, you’re not going to be any good.”

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