The Arizona Cardinals are winning games left and right, but they are doing it ugly. The team won its 11th game of the season on Thursday night against the St. Louis Rams. The final score, 12 to 6, consisted of rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro connecting on each of his four field goal-attempts and putting up all the Cardinal points in a road game victory against the Rams. Catanzaro hit from distances of 23, 46, 44 and 51 yards.
The efforts of former Temple University and current Cardinal Head Coach Bruce Arians have all but guaranteed his team a spot in the post season hunt. Only in his second year, Arians has led the Arizona Cardinals to winning seasons this year and last.
The Arizona Cardinals (11-3) and number one in the division, have knocked the San Francisco 49ers from the battle of topping the NFC West . The defending World Champion Seattle Seahawks (9-4) rank second in the division, but with a win against the 49ers (7-6) on Sunday, the Seahawks will practically knock out any playoff contention for the 49ers numerically, which includes the chase for a wild card.
Winning ugly has been something the Arizona Cardinals have been doing all season long. As a result, the Cardinals are likely to focus on earning the home-field advantage in order to get help from that twelfth man. The team is going to have to do it now without the services of backup quarterback Drew Stanton. Stanton had to be carted off the field with an injury to his right knee after St. Louis Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald sacked him approximately midway through the third quarter on Thursday night.
Stanton’s initial team-prognosis was sketchy at best after Arians reported he had no idea the extent of the injury and that Stanton would have to take it slow until further details came available. Arians also mentioned the knee injury was in a location similar to where the quarterback had injured it during his rookie season in 2007.
Surgery had to be performed in 2007 to repair the injured knee and Stanton missed the entire season. Additionally, while at Michigan State in 2003, he tore ligaments. Coincidentally, each of the three injuries have occurred on Stanton’s right knee.
The official word on Stanton’s knee is that he suffered sprains to both the MCL and ACL ligaments. The good news is he could return some time later this season. For now, the injured right knee is being rested and rehabilitated, but surgery will not required. The Cardinals are handling this situation on a week to week basis. Stanton, on crutches is unlikely to play next Sunday against the arch-rival Seahawks, a team on the heels of the Arizona Cardinals.
Bringing back former Arizona Cardinal star Quarterback Kurt Warner has been tossed around in news reports. Arians said he could open an additional quarterback spot on the roster, but as far as Warner suiting up again, not likely. “I [spoke with] Kurt…Brenda (his wife) [is] not going to let [Kurt] play,” said a smiling Arians.
An impending issue of who will start at quarterback might signify the Arizona Cardinals will have to stay with those plans that have most consistently worked thus far throughout the season. A strong run game, defense and number 11.
The run game is led by Andre Ellington with (660) rushing yards, Kerwynn Williams, who averages (5.1) yards per carry and Stepfan Taylor. The stingy defense of the Cardinals has also shown consistency week in and week out.
Defensively, the team is allowing just under 20 points per game. Hard-hitting free safety Rashad Johnson leads the defense in both tackles (81) and picks (4). The sure-handed Larry Fitzgerald tops the receiving corps with 722 yards on 57 receptions.
The quarterback position, however has become a quick-spinning carousel. Injuries first to Carson Palmer and now Drew Stanton will test Coach Arians depth-chart creativity going down the wire. Likely third year player Ryan Lindley will get the nod over up and coming rookie Logan Thomas.
Lindley has more game-situational experience. Winning ugly is nothing new to the Arizona Cardinals. They win games left and right, but not by much. The team scores just over 20 points a game this season, but with the playoffs nearing, the Arizona Cardinals know by now that an ugly win is still a win.
By D’wayne Stanelli
Image courtesy of Michael Wifall – Flickr