NFC West: Ryan Lindley

QB snapshot: Ryan Lindley

January, 6, 2015
Jan 6
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Ryan Lindley and how he played in the Arizona Cardinals' 27-16 loss to Carolina in an NFC wild-card game:

Lindley
Lindley has had and will have better days than Saturday in Carolina. He led Arizona’s offense to the fewest yards in NFL playoff history, just a week after ending his NFL-record streak for most pass attempts without a touchdown. There were times Lindley looked panicked, such as when he scrambled in the back of the end zone about midway through the second quarter, nearly stepping out of bounds. Lindley had time to set his feet and make a sound decision. Instead, he rushed the throw and it dropped incomplete. Maybe the stage was too big for him? Maybe he didn't have enough time to completely absorb the Cardinals' offense?

Lindley averaged 1.4 yards per dropback Saturday, the lowest by a playoff quarterback in the past nine seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Arizona failed to gain yards on 21 of his 32 dropbacks.

He struggled all around, but especially trying to move the ball vertically down the field.

Lindley was 1-of-7 for 21 yards and an interception on throws of at least 15 yards. His completion percentage of 14.3 on deep throws was Arizona's worst of the season.

Lindley had a chance to earn the backup spot with a good performance on Saturday. Those duties will likely remain with Drew Stanton, who sprained his knee late in the season after Carson Palmer went down with a torn ACL.
Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley Getty ImagesRyan Lindley, right, will start his third game after the Cardinals lost Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to injuries.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- What Bruce Arians has done this season -- playing four quarterbacks and making it to the playoffs -- has been impressive, daunting and worthy of his second coach of the year award in three seasons.

It isn’t new to the Arizona Cardinals' head coach. But it’s not exactly old hat, either.

After years of working with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, Arians has been forced to play four different quarterbacks in one season twice in the past few seasons.

The other time was in 2010, when he was the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The circumstances this season have been different, though.

The Steelers, coming off a 9-7 season, headed into 2010 knowing Roethlisberger would be suspended six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. (His ban was later reduced to four games.) Arians spent training camp that year pulling double duty. He was preparing Roethlisberger for the long haul while also getting Byron Leftwich ready to be the starter in Roethlisberger’s absence. The two split first-team reps while Dennis Dixon, then a third-year quarterback out of Oregon, was the third-stringer.

Veteran Charlie Batch was also in camp but wasn't getting many reps. Batch had been a Steeler since 2002, watching Arians move from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator. He knew Arians’ offense as well as anyone else on the roster, including Roethlisberger. Batch wanted a chance to show he was worthy of being considered for a roster spot.

“I kind of took it as, maybe since I know the offense, he has enough confidence in me. If something were to happen, I don’t need the reps,” Batch remembered. “I’m like, I need the reps to make sure I have an opportunity to make the team.”

He was given six reps in the Steelers’ first preseason game, didn’t play in the second and then played in the final 10 minutes of the all-important third preseason game, throwing a 7-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown with 7:11 left. Batch thought that touchdown was his last of the preseason -- that Leftwich, Roethlisberger’s replacement, would get the majority of reps in the preseason finale, followed by Dixon, his backup.

That plan changed early in the second quarter in the last preseason game when Leftwich sprained his left knee and left the game. With that, Dixon became the Steelers’ starter, and Batch, who had been the fourth-string quarterback all training camp, became the backup. Dixon finished the drive on which Leftwich got hurt, and Batch took over and finished the game.

[+] EnlargeBruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene PuskarBruce Arians had to work with four quarterbacks in the starting lineup as offensive coordinator of the Steelers during their Super Bowl season in 2010.
Dixon’s starting role lasted about two weeks. At the beginning of the second quarter against Tennessee in Week 2, Dixon injured his left knee and left the game, sending Batch into the game without time to warm up, he remembered, and into the starting lineup for the next two games.

He went 2-1 before handing the Steelers back to Roethlisberger, who took them to the Super Bowl, which they lost to Green Bay.

When Batch took over, the offense had not changed much from when Roethlisberger was the starter.

“One thing about Bruce is the fact that what you get in training camp is the same thing you’re going to see in the course of a game,” Batch said. “He’s going to be aggressive in his play calling. You have to know the system. If he doesn’t trust that you know the system, you won’t be around.”

But if Arians does trust a quarterback, he’ll turn to him in a time of need. And there have been plenty of those in Arizona this season.

This season's Cardinals lost Palmer for three games after he suffered a nerve injury in his right shoulder during Week 1. He returned in Week 6, only to tear his ACL in Week 10. Drew Stanton, who was Palmer's backup, went down with a knee injury in Week 15.

Enter Ryan Lindley, who started the last two games of the regular season and will start Saturday’s wild-card game at Carolina. Thrown into the mix was rookie Logan Thomas, who played the final quarter and a half in Week 5 at Denver when Stanton suffered a concussion.

“The biggest thing with that situation is kind of the same thing here,” said Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who was an offensive assistant in Pittsburgh in 2010. “BA doesn’t change his philosophy. He wants to run it some, and he’s going to put the ball down the field. I think the biggest thing there, we had a great defense, kind of like we have here. Guys just bought into what we were doing. Everybody believed in the defense.

“That was a magical season because when you get situations like that, you got to have some things go your way. We’ve had that this season.”

The two major differences between 2010 and 2014? Pittsburgh got its starter back for the bulk of the season (Arizona did not), and Pittsburgh’s injuries all happened in the beginning of the season and Roethlisberger returned in Week 5.

“It’s sort of the same mindset here: It was just, we don’t care,” said Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote, who played for Pittsburgh from 2002 to 2008 and then from 2010 to '13. “With Drew, when he came in and went to New York and won, and we saw him beat San Francisco, we didn’t mind.

“With Lindley, we know he can throw the ball.”

Getting his backup quarterbacks ready to play has been as simple as Arians just keeping them prepared, Batch said. During practice, Arians has been known to begin quizzing his quarterbacks, asking them to recite progressions and identify protections.

With the exception of Thomas, whom Arians named the starter before he changed his mind a couple of days later leading into Week 17, Arizona’s backups have been ready to take the field at a moment’s notice.

“It’s been crazy,” Lindley said. “There is no way to think of it, just to be thankful, not only with this game but with the opportunity I find myself in right now. It’s such a blessing from God. Starting off, not really knowing how much longer I get to be in the National Football League in September, to be honest. It’s been a journey, but I’m excited to be here.

“Going through these valleys and these peaks is what makes you really appreciate not only life but the game itself.”

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Lindley is in one of those unique positions that can define a career.

If he leads the Arizona Cardinals to a win in their wild-card game Saturday against the Carolina Panthers, the third-year quarterback who has a 1-5 career record as a starter will join a rare, but not-so-distinguished club: He would become the third quarterback since the NFL merger in 1970 to win a playoff game with one or fewer regular-season wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think it would be a great story, obviously, if they could win a playoff game with their third-team quarterback,” said ESPN “Monday Night Football” commentator Jon Gruden, who will be calling Saturday’s game in Charlotte, N.C.

Cue the dramatic music.

A victory would put Lindley in football lore. It would allow him to write a storybook ending to a season that started with him on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.

He could also convince the Cardinals to write a check.

If Lindley leads Arizona to a win Saturday, the Cardinals could have a backup quarterback controversy. Drew Stanton has been more than effective as Arizona’s replacement for Carson Palmer this season, going 5-3 before his own knee injury caused him to miss the last two regular-season games and Saturday's playoff game.

But with $3.2 million scheduled to come Stanton’s way in 2015, is he worth it as a backup? Especially because Lindley has shown marked signs of improvement the last three weeks?

Stanton is due a $500,000 roster bonus and a $250,000 workout bonus on top of his $2.45 million base salary.

Lindley made $234,706 for seven weeks of regular-season work, which would have equaled $570,000 for the entire season. That’s an increase from the $480,000 he earned in 2013 as the third-string quarterback who didn’t get a snap.

Trading or cutting Stanton at the end of training camp would cost Arizona just about $750,000 and would save Arizona $3.2 million against the cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

With Palmer scheduled to earn $10.5 million next season, will a $3 million backup be worth it?

Not if Lindley wins Saturday and gives Arizona a date with either Seattle or Green Bay in the divisional round. The vitriol toward Lindley when he was named the starter before Arizona’s Week 16 game against Seattle came from all directions. It continued after a dismal performance against the Seahawks -- the No. 1-ranked defense in the league -- but subsided after he played the best half of his career against the 49ers.

There are areas in which Lindley needs to improve, such as his decision-making and deep passes, but that comes with experience and reps. He showed off his arm strength and touch last Sunday against San Francisco. His poise has also been lauded all week.

But if he beats the Panthers, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians might want to take a step back and evaluate his quarterback room aside from Palmer. Stanton will be 31 by Week 1 next season. Lindley will be 26 and Logan Thomas will be 24.

As much as he’s progressed in a few weeks getting the first-team reps, the upside is with Lindley.

During Stanton’s second stint, the offense slowed to a crawl after he threw two touchdowns in the first quarter against Detroit in Week 11. He didn’t throw another for the next 10 quarters. With Lindley’s NFL-record streak of passes without a touchdown over, it’s not weighing on him anymore.

Neither Lindley nor Stanton were effective against Seattle, as was to be expected. But Lindley and the offense showed enough progress against the Niners to earn some confidence. Put Lindley against the defenses Stanton faced against New York and San Francisco (in the first meeting) and he'd win as well.

If Lindley wins Saturday and puts a playoff victory on his resume, there should be no question about his status heading into the offseason.

QB snapshot: Ryan Lindley

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Ryan Lindley and how he played in the Arizona Cardinals' 20-17 loss in Week 17:

Lindley
The Ryan Lindley who showed up in San Francisco wasn't the same Ryan Lindley in Seattle.

He looked calm, poised and comfortable despite throwing three interceptions in just his sixth career start. But he threw for a career-high 316 yards while throwing his first touchdowns, snapping an NFL record for pass attempts without a score on his 229th career throw. He finished with two Sunday, both on nice-looking passes.

On throws 20 yards or shorter in the air, he was 21-for-33 passing (63.6 percent) for 248 yards despite a touchdown and two interceptions against the Niners, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cardinals kept his plays short, and he flourished. But on passes of 21 yards or longer, Lindley struggled, connecting on just 2 of 6. When he was blitzed, Lindley handled the rush well. He faced the 49ers' blitz 11 times while completing nine of his passes. He threw both touchdowns against the blitz.

With another week to figure out when to throw away passes instead of force them, his turnovers will go down.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians confirmed Friday that quarterback Ryan Lindley will start Arizona's season-finale against San Francisco instead of rookie Logan Thomas, like he previously said.

Lindley
Earlier this week, Arians first named Thomas the starter but changed his mind following Wednesday's practice.

"The ball wasn't in the spots it needed to be," Arians said. "He was throwing it well but not to the right guys, and (he) just hasn't had enough reps to be able to go against this defense, which is one of the best five defenses in the National Football League.

"It's probably a poor decision on my part to early announce it, but it is what it is. We're going to do what we need to do to win the football game and that's to start Ryan."

Arians felt Thomas wasn't going to get enough reps this week to be ready to face San Francisco's fifth-ranked defense. The rookie quarterback handled the news "fine," Arians said, but the Cardinals will still keep a package for Thomas in their game plan.

On Monday, Arians said he would have a quick hook with Thomas, even as soon as replacing him during practice this week.

"I was hoping he'd be able to handle it," Arians said. "It's not the time right now."

Arians said Drew Stanton's recent infection and procedure in his right knee didn't influence the decision to give Lindley his second-consecutive start. It was based "strictly" on Arians' evaluation of both quarterbacks this week, and after watching Thomas for a week, he felt Lindley gave Arizona its best chance of winning Sunday.

Lindley enters his sixth career start with the longest streak of pass attempts without a touchdown in NFL history at 225. He's a career 50.6-percent passer and has thrown eight interceptions.

But Arians remained confident in Lindley.

The primary thing Arians wants to see from his starter Sunday is "a couple more completions." Lindley completed 18-of-44 passes against what's widely considered the best secondary in the NFL last week in Seattle. Arians also said Lindley's surrounding cast needs to play better in San Francisco.

"He didn't go out and lose the ballgame," Arians said. "He didn't throw interceptions. The ball was to the right spots. We missed a couple balls that we need to catch, and not jump offsides on third-and-3 on the goal line and score touchdowns. He'll be fine.

"Ryan didn't damn sure lose that game."

QB snapshot: Ryan Lindley

December, 23, 2014
12/23/14
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Ryan Lindley and how he played in the Cardinals' 35-6 loss in Week 16:

Lindley
Ryan Lindley didn't do much right Sunday night, and it cost him his job. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians announced Monday that Lindley will be replaced as Arizona's starting quarterback by rookie Logan Thomas for the Cardinals' season finale. Lindley struggled all game against the Seahawks, completing 18 of 44 passes for 216 yards, one interception -- with two more potential interceptions dropped -- and no touchdowns. He extended his NFL record streak of passes without a touchdown to 225. Accuracy also was an issue for Lindley on Sunday night. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 10 of his 26 incompletions were overthrown and seven were underthrown. When he tried going deep, Lindley was 4-for-18 on passes of 15 yards or longer in the air. He completed just one of seven attempts on passes 20 yards or longer in the air. But on passes of less than 9 yards in the air, he completed 11-of-21 for 87 yards. The short passes worked better for Lindley all game compared to the deep ball, but more passes of 10 or more yards were called than passes of less than 9 yards.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- To say anyone saw this coming would be a reach.

When coach Bruce Arians said he was leaning toward starting rookie Logan Thomas in place of Ryan Lindley in the Arizona Cardinals' season finale at San Francisco (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox), there was an element of surprise. Even, to a lesser degree, a sense of shock.

But it wasn't because Arians chose to bench Lindley after the Cardinals' 35-6 loss to Seattle in which Lindley completed just 18 of 44 passes and failed to throw a touchdown pass, extending his NFL-record streak of scoreless passes to 225. It was because Arians was going with the unproven rookie for an entire game.

Yet, it's the right choice.

Arians figured out quickly the Cardinals weren't going to win Sunday with Lindley. And with a division title and home-field advantage still on the line in a twisted, complex way, Arians can't throw in the towel just yet. By starting Thomas, Arizona will keep the 49ers guessing.

All the tape on Thomas will come from an appearance in relief of Drew Stanton for almost two quarters against the Broncos and one errant pass Sunday against Seattle. That's far from enough for the 49ers to prepare a game plan. They'll see nine passes thrown by Thomas, one of which was completed, an 81-yard touchdown to Andre Ellington.

Looking at his collegiate history, San Francisco will see a mobile quarterback. Yet, the 49ers may not see any designed runs for Thomas. At the same time, he may just take off.

See? It'll be hard to prepare for the unknown.

Arians gave himself an out, however, saying he'll be quick with the hook of Thomas if he's not playing well.

If Arians started Lindley, the 49ers would know what to expect. He was unproductive for the majority of Sunday's loss to Seattle. And when he did manage to move the ball, it led to points -- field goals, however, not touchdowns. For the third time in five games, Arizona failed to score a touchdown. With the playoffs looming, the Cardinals' offense is going backward. Had Lindley led the Cards to at least one score, his status for Sunday likely wouldn't have changed.

But the Seahawks dared the Cardinals to pass. They did. And it didn't work.

It didn't matter how Arians tried to spin his decision to start Thomas -- "I think we need to find out what he can do for the future and the playoffs, if it were to come to that" -- because it came down to the fact Arizona won't win with Lindley guiding the offense.

That may not change with Thomas on Sunday against San Francisco, but at least neither team knows what it's getting.
videoGLENDALE, Ariz. -- The faster Larry Fitzgerald can erase Sunday's 35-6 embarrassing loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the better.

It was one of those games teams don't like to talk about. One of those games that's rewatched once and forgotten about. Nothing went right. Everything went wrong. But neither one person nor one unit could be blamed for the Arizona Cardinals' loss. Not Ryan Lindley. Not the defense. Not the running game.

Arizona's first loss at home this season, on national TV no less, was bad all over.

"I don't think much of anything really worked," Fitzgerald said. "We didn't execute the way we're capable of doing it, and that's frustrating.

"We put a lot of time and effort into going out there and executing the plays, and not having it come to fruition is frustrating."

But it may not matter how quickly Fitzgerald or any of his teammates forget about losing the game that would've clinched the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the postseason -- Super Bowl included.

They may have to go through it all again next week.

Arizona's offense sputtered under Lindley, the third-year quarterback who hasn't started since 2012. His accuracy was an issue all game. His passes were either too high, too low or too wide. He completed 18 of 44 passes for 216 yards and an interception. His NFL-record streak of pass attempts without a touchdown grew to 225.

"I just wasn't on target for some of them," Lindley said. "We see it. "They're a good defense, but there are places to throw the ball. Tonight, there were some places that I missed. There were some places where they played good defense."

The Cardinals' offense didn't score a touchdown for the second straight game, giving them two in their past five games.

Yet for as wild as Lindley was, he still managed to march the Cardinals into the red zone twice. Both times, however, mistakes doomed potential touchdowns.

After the first of Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka's three missed field goals, Arizona put together its best drive of the game. Lindley was 3-for-4 for 34 yards with passes of 18 yards to running back Stepfan Taylor and 13 to tight end Rob Housler, which put Arizona at the Seahawks' 6-yard-line. Two runs by Taylor had Arizona at the 4 on third-and-goal, but a false start by left guard Ted Larsen backed the Cardinals up 5 yards. An incompletion followed, and Arizona had to settle for a field goal.

"Really, it was a miscommunication because the clock was winding down," Larsen said. "I don't think it was huge. You can't have mistakes like that. It's unacceptable."

Arizona's only other points -- all 18 in the past two games have come off field goals -- came on a 32-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro in the third quarter. That drive stalled at the 14.

As he did on Arizona's other scoring drive, Lindley completed three passes. A 12-yard completion to John Carlson put Arizona at the Seahawks 14, but a fumbled snap by Lindley on third-and-4 forced him into a bad pass, and the Cardinals settled for another field goal to cut Seattle's lead to 14-6.

For the season, Arizona's red-zone efficiency is 43.2 percent – fifth worst in the NFL.

"I think we had a shot," Lindley said. "We had that one nice drive where we got down there. Like I said, we'll look on film to know for sure, but we just couldn't punch it in, and that's going to fall on my shoulders … getting the ball in the right place and the other guys getting the ball in the end zone."

The pieces may not be picked up until Drew Stanton is healthy enough to play, whether that's Sunday at San Francisco or sometime in January during the playoffs. Until then, Arizona will continue to rely on Lindley.

"It shows you where we have to go, the kinds of teams that we're going to have to beat for us to reach our ultimate goal, and that's playing [in] and winning the Super Bowl," Fitzgerald said. "We have to be able to beat teams that are this quality, and we have to perform to the best of our ability."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Leave it to Bruce Arians to throw a wrinkle in an opposing defense’s game plan simply by adding a wrinkle to his offense.

All Arians had to do to force Seattle to scramble a bit before Sunday night's kickoff was announce that his backup quarterback may get a few snaps.

Arians' announcement Monday that Ryan Lindley would start in place of Drew Stanton against the Seattle Seahawks gave Seattle’s Pete Carroll and his staff the go-ahead to start preparing for the third-year quarterback. Then Arians said that rookie quarterback Logan Thomas may be used throughout the game, as well, with his own package of plays.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesQB Logan Thomas brings a different set of skills to the table than starter Ryan Lindley does.
“I think Bruce did a really good job of letting that out because he made us have to go ahead and think about all the stuff (Thomas) could do, as well,” Carroll said on a conference call with the Arizona media.

Carroll said the Seahawks haven’t spent more time this week preparing for Thomas.

“It’s just regular stuff,” Carroll said. “There’s not a quantity amount here. We just work at figuring it out. They can’t both play at the same time and they can’t both be out there, so we just defend the guy that’s on the field.”

Technically, both Lindley and Thomas could be on the field at the same time.

“Not playing quarterback,” Carroll responded.

But the difference between the two is noticeable and distinct, Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. In no great discovery, Wagner labeled Lindley as a passer and Thomas as a "run threat." He said the Seahawks won't focus on who the quarterback is, instead they just plan to chase the ball. But Wagner added that Seattle will prepare for different formations and plays that each quarterback may run.

Carroll is more than marginally familiar with Thomas, the Cardinals’ fourth-round draft pick in May. Carroll’s son, Brennan, has been an assistant coach at the University of Miami for the last four years so the elder Carroll has seen his share of ACC football, including watching Thomas when he played at Virginia Tech.

“I thought he was a really terrific competitor, very versatile, huge arm and a tremendous looking athlete who could run with the ball,” Carroll said. “We’re going to try to prepare for all of the things that he could possibly do.”

Thomas has played just once this season, in Week 5 in place of Stanton, who left the game with a concussion. He was 1-for-8 passing in about a quarter-and-a-half.

Taking a smaller playbook into Sunday night’s game should help Thomas if he gets on the field again. But in 11 weeks, Thomas said he’s grown as a quarterback.

“I think just overall knowledge of how things are going and picking up the little things, the little nuances within our offense,” Thomas said. “Little by little getting better and better.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- A week ago, Ryan Lindley was the backup to the backup, just another in a long list of Arizona Cardinals' transactions this season.

He would watch as the media herded past him, their lights focused on the story of the day.

[+] EnlargeLindley
Scott Kane/USA TODAY SportsCardinals coach has described the preparation of Ryan Lindley -- who has shared quarterback rooms with Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Philip Rivers this season -- as "meticulous."
That all changed when he replaced Drew Stanton in the third quarter of a 12-6 win over the St. Louis Rams. On Wednesday, Lindley stood in the Cardinals locker room, surrounded by reporters and cameras on all sides, looking composed and collected. He took each question in stride -- about 2012, about his streak of 181 passes without a touchdown, about the magnitude of Sunday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

He didn't break a sweat, even under the heat of the TV cameras' lights. He was, as his coach, Bruce Arians, would say, as "calm as a cucumber."

But Lindley is good at hiding it.

He admitted that being a backup quarterback can be "pretty nerve-wracking," especially when he's thrust into a critical third down and asked to get the offense into field-goal range -- which he did.

"Once it happens, you kind of stop thinking about everything," Lindley said. "You say, 'I got to go in.' You kind of just go in a straight, almost, robot mode that, 'Hey, this is what I need to do. I have to go do it.' You can't think about Thursday night, you're in St. Louis. You just have to go get it done.

"That's kind of why I think everything up to Sunday is going to be tougher and then once it gets to Sunday, it's just, 'Hey, let's play.' That's kind of how I felt last week.'"

Arians will let his third-string quarterback play; that's one thing he's remained consistent on this week. He won't turn Lindley into a game manager, won't alter the Cardinals' offensive identity because their quarterback du jour is behind center. Assistant head coach Tom Moore has kept his message to Lindley short this week: "Don't play scared, play smart."

What Lindley likes to run isn't much different than what Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton prefer. But with more time to prepare, Arians feels Lindley will look more like the quarterback in practice this week than the guy in 2012 who was part of a 58-0 shellacking in Seattle.

"It's easier than when you're just thrown out there in a very critical game," Arians said. "And he played admirably.

"I thought he was obviously very, very prepared for that ballgame."

Arians called Lindley's preparation "meticulous," a product of watching Palmer and Stanton since 2013 and spending 10 weeks in the same quarterbacks room as San Diego's Philip Rivers.

Not letting the moment overtake Lindley is as important to Arizona winning Sunday night as is him not throwing an interception. The risky throws will happen by design, Lindley said, but that's why he enjoys playing for Arians, who won't shrink the playbook for Lindley.

"That's what makes it fun to play for him," Lindley said. "You know you're going to go out there and you're going to go for it. It's not going to be, 'Hey, we're going to rein it in, we're going to hone it back because we've got a lot to lose.'"

Sunday is almost here and the questions, the criticisms, the hype will be over.

Then, with home-field advantage and the NFC West title on the line, Lindley will revert back to that robot mode he was in Thursday and just play.

"I always do try to stay pretty low key and I think that's something on the field as a quarterback you have to stay pretty calm," Lindley said. "You can never get too high and never get too low. It's just something I try to do.

"Obviously, it's more excitement for me just to be able to get an opportunity. For myself, you talk about 2012 -- not many guys get one, let alone two. I'm excited for it."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bruce Arians might tailor the game plan to what Ryan Lindley does best and likes to run, but the Arizona Cardinals won’t look any different than the first 14 weeks this season.

“We won’t change,” Arians said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We try not to change who we are.

Lindley
“To me, it’s, ‘Alright, Ryan, here’s the plan. There’s enough stuff here, give me some shots that you really like and are very comfortable with.’ I think for me, putting him in a comfort level is huge. That’s what separates some coaches who would just say, ‘Hey, you got to play this system.’ We’ll fit the system.”

Arians stressed the importance of making Lindley as comfortable as possible. Like he did with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton earlier this season, Arians will let Lindley script certain plays against Seattle so he's running what he’s comfortable with.

Lindley was “on fire” during Arizona’s bonus practice on Monday, Arians said.

On “Pardon the Interruption” Tuesday afternoon, Arians said the Cardinals’ game plan will be built around Lindley’s strengths. But they won’t ask the third-year quarterback to simply manage the game.

“No, we don’t do any of that game-management stuff,” Arians said on PTI. “We’re going to sling it.”

In addressing any potential timing issues between Lindley and his receivers, Arians said he’s been throwing to them since he was re-signed on Nov. 11. Add in the time spent working with them during offseason workouts and training camp, and Lindley has had plenty of time to build a rapport with this season's receiving corps.

And Thomas has been with the team since getting drafted in May so the receivers have had time to adjust to him.

“They know when Logan’s in there they better get their damn head around because it’s coming hot,” Arians said. “They’ve figured all that stuff out by now, so they should all know each other well enough to adapt to the game plan.”

Arians said on PTI that the Cardinals’ real MVPs are the backups. They’ve been preparing for a chance to start since OTAs, but “you don’t really plan on this many injuries,” Arians said.

Having 18 players miss a combined 90 games because of injury this season dating back to Darnell Dockett going down with an ACL injury during training camp isn’t anything a coach wants to experience.

But Arians has made the most of it.

“It makes it fun as a coach,” he said. “You got to work every week and no one gets bored around here, that’s for sure.

“It’s almost like if we don’t get an injury, everybody’s gonna (be like), ‘Hey, what’s going on?’” Arians said. “They’re expecting it every week and every game. So, each time it happens it just galvanizes this bunch even more.”

QB snapshot: Ryan Lindley

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Ryan Lindley and how he played in the Cardinals’ 12-6 win in Week 15:

Lindley
 Not much can or should be made of Lindley’s performance in place of Drew Stanton on Thursday night because he came in cold off the bench and played just 25 snaps. Lindley was asked to throw passes he seemed ill-equipped to make because of a lack of practice with the receivers. He looked good on short passes, including a 6-yard pass to Michael Floyd on his first play that put the Cardinals in field goal range.

But he was asked to throw a back-shoulder pass to John Brown that was a little too far outside, and two passes to Darren Fells were either behind him or too high, while a deep ball to Brown wasn’t thrown in line with the receiver and was nearly picked. One of Lindley’s passes was intercepted by St. Louis but was overturned after a review. On most of the incompletions, the timing seemed off. Others weren't good decisions by Lindley throwing into traffic.

Lindley’s arm looked strong, and although his timing was off, that should be expected after not taking first-team reps since he returned to the Cardinals in November.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Maybe Sunday night will be different.

Maybe Ryan Lindley, who'll take the first snap of the game from center Lyle Sendlein, will throw his first NFL touchdown, complete more than half his passes or get more than 4.5 yards per attempt.

But most likely not.

When quarterback Drew Stanton went down with a right knee injury that's been reported as a Grade 2 ACL and MCL sprain, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was faced with one of the toughest decisions of the season. Go with a third-year quarterback with limited experience, or a rookie slinger with eight career pass attempts? Neither Lindley nor Logan Thomas were ideal candidates to start Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks, with home-field advantage and the NFC West title on the line.

Arians had to pick one. And, to his credit, Lindley was the right choice. But if Sunday's game would've been tough to win with Stanton under center, it'll be nearly impossible with Lindley, whose career record as a starter is 1-3.

Lindley enters the game with 181 pass attempts without a touchdown, the most in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. For a team that's scored two touchdowns in its past four games, that's not the news Arizona wants to hear. The Seahawks have allowed just two passing touchdowns and intercepted four passes in their past five games -- which included Arizona in Week 12.

Since 2012, Lindley has the worst completion percentage (51.4), fewest yards per attempt (4.3), least amount of touchdowns (0) and lowest total QBR (9.1) among 60 quarterbacks with a minimum of 150 pass attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Arians won't change how he calls a game -- that was evident Thursday night. But he will tailor his game plan to Lindley, who came out of college with a reputation for having a strong arm but making poor decisions. In 2012, Lindley had three passes that ended up 25 yards or longer -- but only one of them was thrown for more than 20 yards in the air. On Thursday night, after taking over for Stanton in the third quarter, Lindley threw five passes of 13 yards or longer (13, 14, 16, 24 and 39), but all of them fell incomplete.

Yet, there's hope.

As a rookie in 2012, Lindley liked the middle of the field, where opposing quarterbacks have been successful against the Seahawks this season. He was 43-for-68 (63.2 percent) on passes between the numbers from 0 to 19 yards, per Pro Football Focus. This year, quarterbacks have completed 68.1 percent of their passes of any distance between the numbers against the Seahawks for eight touchdowns and four interceptions.

On paper, Lindley doesn't look like the quarterback who can clinch the Cardinals' first NFC West title since 2009 and keep them home throughout the playoffs.

On the field, he may end up looking like the same man.
TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim wouldn’t say who the team’s starting quarterback will be Sunday night against Seattle, instead deferring the question on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM to head coach Bruce Arians.

Lindley
“He and I will discuss it,” Keim said. “But I know that [assistant head coach] Tom Moore, Bruce and [quarterbacks coach] Freddie Kitchens will have those guys ready to play and they’ll be prepared for Sunday night.”

However, Keim hinted that Ryan Lindley might be the team’s choice to replace Drew Stanton, who is out for an indefinite amount of time with a sprained ACL and MCL, according to reports, by discussing a package for third-string quarterback Logan Thomas.

“I know B.A. talked about Logan and a potential role where he has a package,” Keim said, referring to a report by TheMMQB.com’s Peter King on Sunday night. “Don’t want to get too detailed with that. I know, again, our staff will have those guys ready to go.”

Arizona will sign a fourth quarterback to the practice squad, Keim said, for “emergency purposes” but the team will move forward planning for Lindley and Thomas.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Securing a first-round bye in the playoffs this season has always been a goal for the Arizona Cardinals. Now, it's become a necessity. ESPN NFL Insider Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning that Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton may be out four weeks because of the partially torn MCL and ACL in his right knee he suffered Thursday. That news means the earliest Stanton would return to the field would be the divisional round of the playoffs.

Instead of Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas just maintaining what the Cardinals have accomplished with two games remaining in the regular season -- a league-best 11-3 record, NFC West and conference lead -- until Stanton returned, they'll now have to make sure the Cardinals survive long enough for him to see the field again.

Arizona has always wanted the first-round bye. But now the Cardinals need it.

Arizona will clinch a spot in the playoffs Sunday with a loss by either Dallas, Philadelphia or Detroit. But they can't clinch home field throughout the playoffs unless they beat Seattle next week.

[+] EnlargeStepfan Taylor
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsStepfan Taylor has rushed for 80 yards on 20 carries in the Cardinals' past two games.
And doing that may be a task greater than either of Arizona's options at quarterback can handle. Lindley's first regular-season passes since 2012 came in Thursday night's win, and Thomas is a rookie with eight career pass attempts.

Neither are capable of beating the Seahawks on their own. They'll need help.

But the good news for the Cardinals is help has finally arrived. The running game had its two best performances of the season the past two weeks and seems to have found some consistency with Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams in the backfield.

And the defense broke out of three-game rut in St. Louis by stopping the hottest team in the NFL in its tracks.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, next Sunday night's game against the Seahawks is at home, where Arizona is 7-0 this season.

Having a bye in the first round of the playoffs has long been considered a luxury because of the extra rest it provides, which for Lindley or Thomas could be used as a weekend to keep learning the offense. But without Stanton, a first-round bye has become a necessity for the Cardinals to survive.

SPONSORED HEADLINES