One thing that can be said about the NFL is that it is never lacking for “melodrama.” Just ask Arizona Cardinal fans. The team was on the verge of a Super season, heading to 8-1 with their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, seemingly healthy at last. Then late in that Week 10 game, Palmer goes down with a contactless knee injury; Palmer’s so shook-up by his lost season that he is crying like a baby as he’s being carted off the field. For Palmer, this might have been his last best shot of winning a playoff game in his long career.
For Cardinals fans, this was torturous break as well, but somehow there was this belief that backup Drew Stanton could play just this side of adequacy to allow the team to sneak by with just enough points to win even against a tough opponent. Things started off hopefully enough with a win over Detroit, but bad losses in consecutive weeks to Atlanta and Seattle bode ill for the future; but during the past two weeks the defense decided it was time to return to form and carry the team on its back, beating Kansas City and St. Louis. With an 11-3 record, the Cardinals have seemingly locked-up a playoff spot.
But that may be it. Stanton was injured last night in the Thursday night win, to be replaced by Ryan Lindley. If Stanton was a quizzical commodity as a starting quarterback, Lindley is someone who is only on the roster because someone has to be there. Lindley did not play in 2013, and certainly it was hoped that there would be no need for him to make an appearance this season, either. Not after his masterless performances in his six starts in 2012, when his most notable game was that 58-0 destruction at the hands of Seattle. His highest passer rating in a game was a substandard 58.4 in a win against Detroit the same year. He has a 4.3 career yards per pass average, no touchdown passes and seven interceptions on 181 passes thrown in seven games, with a career passer rating of less than 47; he even makes Geno Smith look “able.”—or at least able-bodied.
For his part, Lindley has a short memory, which is a good thing (I suppose) for him. But saying all the “right” things about improving every Sunday and giving props to the defense and the (suddenly) improved running game can hardly offer more than wishful thinking for fans. Now, coach Bruce Arians has been called something on the order of a “genius” in molding this team to win level it has achieved, but now he will have to prove that this is just more than hyperbole, as the Cardinals finish the season with games against Seattle and San Francisco.
In the meantime, a reality check can be postponed until at least next week, depending upon if San Francisco can pull a miracle out of its fundament and defeat Seattle on the road. Highly unlikely, but one can still dream.