The surprise team of 2014 had not one, but two starting quarterbacks knocked out with season-ending injuries.
Yes, it was a rocky, exhilarating 2014 season for the Arizona Cardinals. After falling just short in 2013, the Cardinals made their first playoff appearance in five years. With a third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was signed off the San Diego Chargers practice squad, the Cardinals had no chance against the sub-.500 Carolina Panthers in their wild-card game.
Injuries are part of the game, of course. That the Cardinals could withstand crushing blows to Carson Palmer and then backup Drew Stanton while making the playoffs is a testament to the rest of their roster. Here’s a look at the Cardinals, who the Packers will play Dec. 27 in Arizona.
Three things to know about the Cardinals
•Finally the man: There’s a reason quarterbacks like Palmer and Stanton have been able to resurrect their careers in Arizona. His name is Bruce Arians. One of the league’s best coaches, Arians’ offense is predicated on a passing attack that stresses the defensive secondary with vertical routes. It’s considered one of the more quarterback-friendly systems in the NFL. He’s had success as an offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, an interim head coach in Indianapolis and now with Arizona. It wasn’t until he turned 60 that Arians got his first NFL head coaching gig, and he’s made the most of it so far with the Cardinals.
•Gresham’s second chance: When former Cincinnati Bengals tight end visited the Packers earlier this month, it piqued the interest of fans. Gresham, a former first-rounder, is a two-time Pro Bowler with some of the most impressive physical tools in the league. But he had back surgery in the offseason, and the Bengals chose to not re-sign him. The Packers will see Gresham this season, just not on their sidelines. He signed with the Cardinals before training camp. He’ll start the preseason on the physically unable to perform list, but Gresham hopes Arians’ system eventually helps him return to form.
•On his own island: Patrick Peterson doesn’t have the flashy nickname, but the Cardinals cornerback is as gifted as any player in the league. Peterson has made the Pro Bowl each of his four seasons, including two All-Pro mentions. He’ll be a good test for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Packers schedule glimpse
Week before: at Oakland, Dec. 20
Next week: Minnesota, Jan. 3
On the horizon: Postseason?
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Coach: Bruce Arians (21-11, third season)
2014 record: 11-5, 2nd NFC West
Scoring offense: 19.4 points per game (24th in NFL)
Total offense: 319.8 yards per game (24th)
Scoring defense: 18.7 points allowed per game (5th)
Total defense: 368.2 yards allowed per game (24th)
Series: Packers lead 12-4-1 (1-1 postseason)
Last meeting: The Packers beat the Cardinals 31-17 on Nov. 4, 2012 at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers only threw for 216 yards, but he had four touchdown passes. Two of them went to Randall Cobb. It was also a big day for former Packers tight end Tom Crabtree, whose 72-yard touchdown on the game’s final play was the longest of his four-year career.