NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sunday might be the most important game of Kevin Minter's career.

With starting inside linebacker Larry Foote doubtful for the season finale at San Francisco, Minter will be among a trio that’ll replace Foote, but he’ll be the one the Arizona Cardinals depend on most.

Minter
With that responsibility comes an opportunity for Minter to prove he’s capable of being Arizona’s every-game starter next season.

“I feel like it can show a lot,” Minter said. “Obviously San Francisco is a hit-you-in-the-mouth type of team. We gonna see what I’m capable of. Like really, really what I’m made of.”

Minter has averaged 18 snaps per game this season as most teams forced Arizona into its dime or nickel packages. He already expected to play more snaps than he’s become accustomed to against the Niners, but Minter will have to share his reps Sunday, coach Bruce Arians said.

Rookie Glenn Carson and second-year linebacker Kenny Demens will also play, Arians said.

During his first two seasons, Minter saw veteran linebackers take his job and play some of the best football of their careers. First it was Karlos Dansby in 2013 and this season it was Foote, who has missed just one snap all season.

After being an apprentice for two seasons, Minter is ready to have the job to himself.

“I feel really comfortable,” Minter said. “A lot of people forget before I hurt myself I was the guy throughout training camp and stuff like that. I’m just back to doing what I used to be doing.”

Foote is finishing up a one-year contract and at 34 years old, his future in the NFL is unknown. Minter is 24 and was drafted in 2013.

On Sunday, he’ll get another chance -- his most important one -- to prove he’s the future for Arizona’s inside linebackers.

“We’ve prepared. We’ve had a good week of practice,” Minter said. “Hopefully, I can live up to the hype.”
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."
video When: 4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara TV: Fox

The Arizona Cardinals are heading to the playoffs for only the fourth time since moving to the desert in 1988, while the San Francisco 49ers may be bidding adieu to coach Jim Harbaugh after three straight trips to the NFC title game and a Super Bowl appearance. What can we expect from this regular-season finale between NFC West rivals?

NFL Nation reporters Paul Gutierrez, who covers the Niners, and Josh Weinfuss, who covers the Cardinals, break down the matchup.

Gutierrez: So, all week long, the storyline seemed to be that Logan Thomas was going to be the guy at quarterback for the Cardinals. Now, it's back to Ryan Lindley. What gives? And why does he give the Cardinals a better shot to win than Thomas?

Weinfuss: Basically, what happened was that Bruce Arians didn’t like what he saw from Thomas during Wednesday’s practice and made the decision to change starters with three days left before the game. He made that move official Friday. Arians gave himself an out, however, saying Monday that he was going to have a “quick hook” with Thomas during the game and in practice. Well, that was pretty quick. The word coming out of practice was that Thomas was wildly inaccurate and Arians knew he needed to win this game in the event that St. Louis beats Seattle and Arizona can still clinch home field for at least the first round of the playoffs. I’m not convinced Lindley gives the Cardinals a better shot to win than Thomas, as much as Thomas gives Arizona a greater chance to lose at this point because he simply doesn’t have the experience needed to play and win at this level just yet.

Depending on what you read and who you ask, Sunday will be Harbaugh's last game as the 49ers coach. How have the players handled all the chatter about him leaving?

Gutierrez: Publicly, the players have been saying all the right things, that they simply tune out all the white noise. I told QB Colin Kaepernick that it must be hard to ignore it all because, really, they are human, no? He simply said, no. Vernon Davis came close to admitting the talk was wearing on the team this week, though, saying there were a lot of distractions this season without talking specifically about Harbaugh's travails. As Harbaugh himself mentioned this week, this soap opera over his future has been going on for 12 months, and while he has not participated in the public conversation, the players have had his back all along. Even when national reports had him “losing the locker room,” I thought the locker room was actually becoming him, what with all the sideline antics and histrionics. Obviously, there's a player here or there who might be tired of Harbaugh's sometimes-bizarre motivational tactics, but they have remained anonymous.

The Cardinals used a stout defense to shut down the 49ers in Glendale, limiting Frank Gore to 10 rushing yards on six carries. But that was way back on Sept. 21. How different is Arizona's defense three months later?

Weinfuss: It's a little more tired and a little more run down. The defensive scheme, as a whole, isn't very different than what the Cardinals ran against San Francisco in September. The back end is a little beat up, with safety Tyrann Mathieu playing with a cast on his left hand, but he's still showing the quickness that makes him a tough matchup. Arizona has gotten more pressure on the quarterback in the last three weeks by upping the blitzes compared to the seven games before.

Do you think, regardless of what Harbaugh ends up doing, that the 49ers will show up to play Sunday afternoon? Or are they looking forward to their tee times on Monday?

Gutierrez: There are too many veterans on this team to allow the rest of the team to check out. Even though this is uncharted territory for a Harbaugh-coached 49ers team -- playing out the string with no playoffs possible -- San Francisco played loose and took it to the San Diego Chargers last weekend ... for a half. The effort was there, but injuries and depth caught up to the Niners, as did the Chargers, who managed to pull off a 38-35 overtime victory after San Francisco had built a 28-7 halftime lead. There are so many vets who could be playing their final game for the franchise, guys like Gore, Justin Smith and Mike Iupati, that I expect a full effort. Whether that's enough to carry them to victory is another matter.

Even when the Cardinals were 9-1, many observers thought they were living on borrowed time and the injuries would catch up to them in the form of losses. Now they are staring at a wild-card berth rather than a No. 1 seed. But knowing you as the optimist you are -- hey, you predicted they'd go 12-4 among many snickers from your NFL Nation brethren -- tell me why the Glendale Cardinals should win at the Santa Clara 49ers this weekend.

Weinfuss: I'm actually not so sure they should, especially starting a fourth-string quarterback. But for the sake of answering the question, they should win Sunday because of their defense. It seems that after losses this season, with the exception of Atlanta, the defense has corrected itself and come out playing well. And the other reason the Cardinals should win is because they'll recommit to the running game. Coach Bruce Arians admitted after the Seattle loss that they should have run the ball more after two weeks of at least 140 rushing yards per game. And San Francisco has been giving up 100-plus yards every other week. On Saturday against San Diego, the Niners allowed 98, so the Cardinals are due to give up another 100-yard game.

What's gotten into Kaepernick the last few weeks? He's more outspoken, and he had a career high 90-yard run against San Diego. Is he more relaxed? Is the pressure off him this late in the season without anything at stake?

Gutierrez: Kaepernick has been more open with reporters, showing a different side. Is that the reason he's playing more relaxed? Probably not, at least, not any more than his being so distant earlier was a reason for his struggles. I do think, however, that a season of intense pressure, high expectations and numerous distractions took their toll on him. In the last two weeks -- which have ended in losses, by the way -- he seems to be much more comfortable in his skin. Bottom line, though, the team is invested deeply in him, and if Harbaugh goes, more pressure will come Kaepernick's way, especially since he was Harbaugh's hand-picked choice. The next coach will have to craft an offense around Kaepernick's unique skill set because, in my humble opinion, he has not been put in the best position to succeed this season. Otherwise, no matter how pleasant Kaepernick seems, he will be seen as little more than a flash in the pan. And how he presents himself to the media would be the least of his problems.

video
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Rookie Logan Thomas has gone from standing in for San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a commercial shoot during training camp to impersonating him in practice in Week 3 to facing him as the Cardinals' starter Sunday afternoon.

If only Thomas' on-field progress went as quickly as his escalation up the depth chart.

Inheriting an offense 17 weeks into a season is easier for Thomas to talk about than to execute. As the third-string or back-up quarterback all season, he hasn't had many opportunities since training camp to learn the intricacies of leading Arizona's offense.

"He's worked, fundamentally, extremely hard and gotten much better,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "But putting those fundamentals to use in the offense, that's two totally different things.”

Thomas' first practice as Arizona's starter on Wednesday didn't start so well.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images"He's worked, fundamentally, extremely hard and gotten much better," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of Logan Thomas. "But putting those fundamentals to use in the offense, that's two totally different things."
Arians said Thomas was "shaky” at first but then finished "pretty strong” as he developed a better understanding of where to go with his passes. Arians wants to see his fourth-round pick control the offense, understand why and where he's throwing it, and to make sure he does it accurately.

Most importantly, however, he wants to see Thomas go through his progressions to find the best option. That's not even the toughest part for Thomas.

"I think it's just this offense as whole, with the hots and sights, and then with the reads,” he said. "But the guys around me have done a great job of making me comfortable.”

Arians isn't the type of coach to talk Thomas through his nerves. It's a process that Thomas had to work through with the help of quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens, who talked to Thomas after every series Wednesday.

"It wasn't the greatest, but as it went on, it got better and better,” Thomas said. "It just comes with reps and comes with time.”

Time has become Thomas' toughest opponent this week. He hasn't had much of it in the offense since training camp and the preseason. While that experience will be a good resource for him, it's been four months since he prepared as the starting quarterback, as he did heading into the final preseason game.

The Cardinals fourth starting quarterback this season understands Sunday in Levi's Stadium won't be like his preseason starts.

"I think it's different just because it means something a little bit more, or should I say a lot of bit more,” Thomas said. "It's Week 17 of the regular season. It's December football. Those are obviously huge games.”

This week, he has just three days to absorb the game plan on the practice field. That means Thomas has three days to calm his nerves and get comfortable. He's not letting Arians' promise to have a quick hook if Thomas isn't playing well change how he prepares, but Thomas appreciates Arians' honesty.

"If I prepare the right way, play the way I think I can play and the way I plan to play, then it shouldn't be a problem,” Thomas said.

After saying Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Thomas will play at least the first half Sunday, Arians said Wednesday that there are "no plans on how long” Thomas plays.

The only part of Sunday that won't be new for Thomas will be the novelty of playing. He's seen action in two games during the regular season, having thrown nine passes, completing one. But Thomas feels a week's worth of reps will calm him down and have him ready for his first start.

"Going and doing it is completely different than just seeing it," Thomas said. "So, it's going to be great."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- If anyone were to spend a day with San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, they wouldn't be allowed to listen to talk radio, watch TV or reading anything on the Internet.

Harbaugh
They, in turn, he claims, wouldn't have a clue that talk about his coaching future is swirling around him.

"That has been exactly what I have done," Harbaugh said with a laugh during a conference call with Arizona media Wednesday. "Put the focus on the week or preparation, put the focus on the players and the coaches and what we are trying to get done here.

"It works if … on the way home you don’t turn on the talk radio and you don’t look at the Internet. You can be completely unaware that anything is swirling."

But there is one way he knows what's going on outside his media-free bubble.

"I walk by people and I see their faces, I know something’s going on," Harbaugh said.

As Harbaugh tells it, he shuts himself off from the outside world. No talk radio. No TV. No Internet. And he's impressed himself in the process.

"None of it," he said. "Not a single bit of it. Stalwart-like in my focus."

With the proliferation and increased access to various medias, Harbaugh takes pride in claiming he closes himself off from all of it. But he doesn’t think he’s part of a rare sect of society who’s not in touch with the largely-digital world.

"There has to be another American beside myself, don’t you think?" he said. "Yeah, I bet there is.

"I would think there would be plenty of Americans who probably focus on another task at hand and (are) dedicated to the mission they have and excelling and not having distraction."

That Bay Area breeze seems to be swirling a lot stronger around Harbaugh lately.

It’s widely believed that his four-year run in San Francisco, which included three straight NFC championship games before missing the playoff this year, will end soon after Sunday’s game against Arizona. Reports have linked Harbaugh to the Oakland Raiders job, which is currently occupied by interim coach Tony Sparano, and the University of Michigan, which has reportedly offered Harbaugh a lucrative six-year contract worth $49 million.

Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote, a Michigan product, would like to see Harbaugh don the Maize and Blue again.

"Just to bring that excitement back," Foote said. "Our university needs it. Me, personally, I think it's bigger than the coach. I think it's about the talent that we got in there.

"But if we’re going to start over, why not with Jim Harbaugh? With the hype and what he can do for the recruiting and just that attitude and mindset that he would bring, we need it. We’re at the crossroads. My university, we’re hurting and we need him."

With all the hoopla surrounding Harbaugh this season, the 49ers are 7-8 heading into Sunday and were eliminated from the playoffs two weeks ago.

Regardless of if Sunday against the Cardinals will end the Harbaugh era in San Francisco, it’ll be the first time during his 49ers' tenure that the regular-season finale will conclude their season.

"It’s unique," Harbaugh said. "But the preparation and the focus is on preparing for the game and winning the game. That’s where the focus and the preparation have been."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is shocked that Sunday's game could be Jim Harbaugh's last with the San Francisco 49ers.

“It’s very shocking to me,” Arians said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “Jimmy’s done an unbelievable job. That fact [is] that one bad season shouldn’t deter from what they’ve built there. And I think they have had pretty much everything you want, culture-wise, in place there.

“And the wins and losses speak for themselves.”

Under Harbaugh, the Niners advanced to three straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl after having not been to the postseason the previous eight years. Before this season’s 7-8 record heading into the season finale against the playoff-bound Cardinals, Harbaugh had compiled a record of 41-14-1, including the postseason.

Harbaugh was the NFL’s coach of the year in 2011. Arians won it in 2012.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Calais Campbell received an early Christmas gift Tuesday.

Alford
Campbell
In his seventh season, the Arizona Cardinals' defensive end finally earned a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl, which will be played Jan. 25 on Campbell’s home field. But as grateful as he was for receiving the invitation, he was more excited about the possibility of turning it down, which he would have to do if Arizona makes the Super Bowl, played a week later at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"It’s still sweet to get the nod, though," Campbell told ESPN a few hours after learning about his Pro Bowl selection. "I know that this team is special, and I know what we can do is there right in front of us. To get the nod is always cool, because it’s getting the [recognition] for your hard work and your efforts.

"It’s one of those things where I’m looking forward to be able to turn it down."

Campbell was one of three Cardinals selected for the Pro Bowl, along with cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Justin Bethel, who was chosen as a special-teamer. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Antonio Cromartie were selected as alternates.

With Arizona in the thick of the race for the top seed in the NFC, Campbell said he is more focused on helping the Cardinals defeat San Francisco on Sunday than on the Pro Bowl honor.

Campbell doesn’t think he would be among the six defensive ends chosen if it wasn’t for Arizona’s success. This season, he was continually playing on the biggest regular-season stage of his career as Arizona raced out to a league-best 9-1 start. With the record came attention Arizona hasn’t seen since its Super Bowl run in 2008.

In typical Campbell fashion, he deflected some of the credit to the Cardinals' defensive line.

A year after being an alternate, Campbell became the Cardinals’ first defensive end in the Pro Bowl since Bertrand Berry in 2004. Campbell has seven sacks this season and 54 tackles -- the sixth straight season he’s had at least 50 tackles and six sacks. He has 17 quarterback pressures and 10 tackles for loss to complement an interception against Denver’s Peyton Manning in Week 5.

Campbell said he didn’t pay attention to the Pro Bowl voting as it went on during the season, and when he suffered a sprained MCL against Denver that forced him to miss two games, he didn’t worry about his Pro Bowl chances getting hurt. It took him one game after returning to find his early-season rhythm.

Since Week 9, Campbell has had 35 tackles and six of his seven sacks -- including a career-high three against Seattle.

He had been talking about making his first Pro Bowl since last summer, the sting of being an alternate with a career-high nine sacks still lingering.

"They say the first one is the hardest one to get," Campbell said.

But after Tuesday, there is nothing more to talk about, except finding the nicest way to turn down a Pro Bowl invitation.

"The Pro Bowl is always in the back of my mind because I do want it," Campbell said. “But who doesn’t? Everybody does.

"It’s saying you’re the best of the best."
» Pro Bowl analysis: AFC | NFC » Complete roster

SELECTIONS

Patrick Peterson, CB, fourth Pro Bowl selection: Even though this hasn’t been Peterson’s most spectacular season, he’s been productive in coverage despite allowing eight touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Peterson has been targeted 93 times this season and his completion percentage is 57 percent. Peterson has three interceptions, tied for third most on the team, including one returned for a touchdown. This season was different for Peterson because he spent the majority of the season defending the left side of the field.

Who he beat out: A whole host of cornerbacks around the league, including teammate Antonio Cromartie and Chicago’s Kyle Fuller.

Justin Bethel, ST, second Pro Bowl selection: Bethel has developed a reputation around the league as one of the NFL’s top special-teamers. He led the Cardinals with 18 special-teams tackles and blocked the third field goal of his career. Because of his quickness down the field, Bethel has forced teams to plan around slowing him down the field.

Who he beat out: Bethel beat out Philadelphia’s Chris Maragos and Green Bay’s Jarrett Bush.

Calais Campbell, DE, first Pro Bowl selection: A year after being an alternate, Campbell made the Pro Bowl with seven sacks and 54 tackles with a game to go. Campbell has been waiting seven seasons to be named a Pro Bowler. He’s become more dominant in the middle with experience and this was his sixth season of at least 50 tackles and six sacks. Campbell leads the Cardinals’ defensive line with 54 tackles even after missing two games this season because of a knee injury against Denver. He also has 17 quarterback pressures and 10 tackles for loss.

Who he beat out: Campbell beat out Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes and his 9.5 sacks.

SNUBS

Jared Veldheer, LT, no selections: Maybe it’s because this was his first season in the NFC or because he came from the Raiders, but it’s tough to argue against Veldheer’s numbers. He was one of four tackles who has played in all 15 games this season to allow one sack or less. He allowed four quarterback hits and 19 quarterback hurries while being rated the seventh-best tackle by Pro Football Focus. He also anchored an offensive line that has allowed 26 sacks, down from 41 a year ago.

Who he should have beaten out: Veldheer should’ve beaten out Denver’s Ryan Clady and Dallas’ Tyron Smith.

Rashad Johnson, S, no selections: Johnson has been playing some of the best football of his career this season and has the numbers to back it up. He’s allowed just one touchdown while intercepting four passes, two of which he returned for a touchdown. He has six passes defensed and has been the quarterback of a secondary that’s been a major reason why Arizona is 11-4.

Who he should have beaten out: Johnson should’ve beaten out Denver’s T.J. Ward.

QB snapshot: Ryan Lindley

December, 23, 2014
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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.
TEMPE, Ariz. – Regardless of how healthy Drew Stanton is by kickoff Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, he won’t play against the 49ers, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Monday.

The hope is to have Stanton ready for Arizona’s first playoff game, whether that’s during the wild card or divisional round.

“I have very, very high optimism because he wants to be ready,” Arians said. “I think had he not had that minor setback last week, he would have probably tried to play in that one.

“There’s no way I’ll play him this week unless we have to.”

Stanton
After Thursday’s practice, in which Stanton was listed as a limited participant, Stanton’s right knee swelled but it went down quickly, Arians said.

“We don’t want to have another setback,” Arians said. “He’ll work into practice some this week and get some action in practice.”
  • Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is playing at a 70-percent level as he continues to recover from a sprained left MCL, Arians said. “He’s nowhere near what he was playing at before,” Arians said. Fitzgerald has averaged 6.5 yards per catch since his he returned in Week 14 after missing two games. Prior to his injury, Fitzgerald averaged 14.3 yards per catch.
  • Jonathan Cooper received a new cast and Arians said he’ll determine Wednesday if the second-year left guard can play in San Francisco. Arians said Cooper’s initial cast was built “non-functional.” Arians wouldn’t commit to Cooper regaining his starting role at left guard if he returns this season. “We’ll have to see that in practice because he did not do very well in practice last week,” Arians said. “And then we had to take him out. If he can, again, we won’t be in pads, so it’s very hard to find out, but we’ll see.”
  • Stanton will be the only player held out of Sunday’s game, Arians said. “We’re playing to win the game,” Arians said. “If Drew were truly healthy, we would start him but I don’t see that happening by Sunday.”
  • The Cardinals came out of Sunday night’s game healthy, Arians said.
  • Arians said University of Phoenix Stadium had the feeling of a “different game than it had been all year. We didn’t rise up to that. It’s a shame because they don’t come around very often.”
  • Arians praised the NFL’s scheduling department for putting together matchups this late in the season that ended up mattering. "I think the league does a great job in scheduling when you come down to the last week of the season and there’s so much at stake still,” Arians said. “Throughout the entire league, divisions are still up in the air, wild cards are still in the air. It’s going to be a fun week.”
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."
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cardinals’ 35-6 loss to Seattle:
  • Rucker
    Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said he didn’t take offense to Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch grabbing his crotch as he dove into the end zone after a 79-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. “It’s childish,” Rucker said.
  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said running back Kerwynn Williams didn’t play much Sunday night because “he’s not the best pass blocker that we have.” Another reason was because the Cardinals didn’t run the ball as much as the previous two weeks and the packages in place better fit Marion Grice and Stepfan Taylor.
  • Cornerback Patrick Peterson said upon finding out that the Seahawks gained almost 600 yards of offense: “I almost passed out. That is unacceptable for us, especially for our standards.”

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
11:45
PM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 35-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium.

What it means: How Arizona played offensively in a blowout loss to Seattle on Sunday is what can be expected out of the Cardinals until Drew Stanton is healthy. Ryan Lindley struggled with his accuracy. But the loss can’t solely be blamed on Lindley. Sure, he didn’t play well, but there were many factors at play. His receivers didn’t help him as much as they could have. A false-start penalty on Ted Larsen in the second quarter helped derail one drive in the red zone. Lindley dropped a snap in the third quarter in the red zone and it led to another field goal. But Arizona’s defense allowed Seattle to accumulate 596 yards, tied for the second most yards allowed by the Cardinals in franchise history. They couldn’t contain Russell Wilson in the first half. Add in Marshawn Lynch's 113 rushing yards and Arizona’s defense struggled all night.

Stock watch: All the confidence in the world couldn’t help Lindley on Sunday. He was wildly inaccurate, throwing too high early then too low as the game progressed, and was long on others. The timing with is receivers wasn’t there, which led to Lindley throwing for 216 yards on 18-for-44 passing. All of that combined for a long night for the offense.

Running game absent: After running for 284 yards in their last two games, the Cardinals rushed for 29 yards on 15 carries. After being the spark for the running game, Kerwynn Williams ran for just four yards on two carries.

Game ball: For the second-straight game, rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro was the hero. He accounted for all six of Arizona’s points, the second consecutive game Catanzaro has been Arizona’s lone scorer.

What’s next: Arizona travels to San Francisco to play the 49ers at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals made quarterback Drew Stanton inactive for Sunday night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

With the move, Logan Thomas will be the backup to starter Ryan Lindley. Combined, they have four career starts and are 5-for-18 passing for 111 yards and one touchdown this season.

Stanton was a game-time decision, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said on Friday. If Stanton had been active, he wouldn’t have been more than a backup, Arians said.

Seattle will be without C Max Unger and LT Russell Okung. The Seahawks have ran for 1,439 of their 2,363 yards to the left side, including up the middle this season.

Also inactive for Arizona will be wide receiver Brittan Golden, safety Chris Clemons, guard Jonathan Cooper, nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, guard/center Anthony Steen and defensive end Kareem Martin.

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