Cardinals looking to stop Peyton and make a statement against Broncos
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. — Some of the Arizona Cardinals are saying Sunday’s matchup in Denver is just another game.
Inside linebacker Larry Foote and coach Bruce Arians know otherwise.
“This ain’t no normal game,” Foote said. “I know if we get this victory, a lot more cameras are going to be in this locker room. … It’s a statement game.”
A victory would leave the Cardinals unbeaten and shape the national perception of the team as a legitimate power in the NFL.
Arians said it’s special to play against someone like Peyton Manning on a national stage, with the game the featured afternoon contest on Fox.
“It’s great,” he said. “You want to be in a five-star game. You want Joe Buck and Troy Aikman doing your games.”
Arizona is a 7½-point underdog, and the Cardinals will once again be without quarterback Carson Palmer, who remains sidelined with a “dead” nerve in his throwing shoulder.
Drew Stanton will get his third straight start at quarterback for the Cardinals.
“I know a lot of you guys are picking them to beat us, and they deserve that. They set records last year,” Foote said. “They’re trying a new little approach this year, running the ball a little more, but it still starts and ends with Peyton.”
Arians, though, wants to force Denver to win it on Manning’s arm.
“We get them in a one-dimensional game,” he said, “I like our chances.”
The Cardinals opened the season with an 18-17 home victory over San Diego, then, with Stanton playing his first game in four years, beat the New York Giants on the road 25-14. Two weeks ago, Arizona won a home game against San Francisco 25-13.
Both the Cardinals and Broncos had a bye last weekend.
At 3-0, Arizona is one of two unbeaten teams remaining. Cincinnati is the other.
“We’re a confident group,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “This is the NFL. There’s ups and downs. You play good some weeks, you play bad some weeks. To be honest with you, we haven’t played our best football. We haven’t put together a game where we can say, ‘Man, this is our statement game.’”
The Cardinals enter the game ranked fifth in total defense, fourth against the run.
The secondary is anchored by cornerback Patrick Peterson, who missed Friday’s practice due to illness.
Arians said Peterson will get some fluids and will “be fine” by Sunday.
“We know Peyton’s going to know us as well as we know ourselves,” cornerback Jarrod Powers said, “and it’s our job to return the favor.”
Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes to vary his defensive sets unpredictably and bring the blitz from all sorts of angles. Disguising a defense against Manning, though, is a tough chore.
“He beats a lot of teams pre-snap, knowing what you’re in,” Foote said. “With a cerebral quarterback, you’ve got to try to hide it, hold it and play off the play clock.”
Arians said that the key to succeeding while playing at high altitude is to stop the Broncos on third down. Foote agreed.
“You’ve got to be on your P’s and Q’s,” he said. “He’s definitely going to hit the open guy. We know that. We’ve got to trust our technique, but at the end of the day football is one-on-one matchups. You’ve got to beat the guy across from you. Peyton can’t beat you if he’s on the sideline.”
Arians said that while the Cardinals know this game is significant, “It’s not do or die.”
“We’re going to come back in first place (in the NFC West) either way,” he said. “We’d like to have a two-game lead, so we’re going to go play as hard as we can for 60 minutes, and it’s been good to us so far.”
NOTES: Arians turned 62 on Friday. … Palmer was not at practice. Arians said the quarterback was having a “special treatment.” … Starting right guard Paul Fanaika, limited in practice Friday with a knee injury, will start on Sunday, Arians said.
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