Arizona Cardinals vs. Denver Broncos: Full Report Card Grades for Arizona

Shaun Church@@NFLChurchContributor IOctober 6, 2014

Arizona Cardinals vs. Denver Broncos: Full Report Card Grades for Arizona

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    When the Arizona Cardinals touched down in Colorado for their big matchup with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, they were a confident 3-0 team ready to shock the world. After being shocked to the tune of 41-20, it's time to lick the wounds and recover quickly before next week.

    Defensive end Calais Campbell will miss up to a month with a sprained MCL, and tight end Julius Thomas was given only a 15-yard penalty for his cheap shot. You have to hope the league looks at the play and punishes him justly.

    Arians said Calais Campbell has an MCL. Called chop block on Campbell the dirtiest play he's seen in 37 years.

    — Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) October 5, 2014

    Backup quarterback Drew Stanton left with a head injury and possible concussion, so if he is forced to miss any time and Carson Palmer is not yet ready for the Washington Redskins, Logan Thomas will start his first NFL game at home for Week 6. That is not a good scenario.

    Many poor grades upcoming for this game, so let's get to it.

Quarterback

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Can a grade be lower than an "F"? No, it can't, and if it weren't for Thomas sending one of the best passes I've seen this season to running back Andre Ellington for an 81-yard touchdown, the letter grade given here would have been a "Z" or something.

    Truthfully, though, Stanton wasn't all that bad. He missed many throws, but his receivers didn't do him any favors, either.

    As I noted in the live blog, all four of the Cardinals' top receivers dropped at least one pass—some dropped two. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and Ted Ginn all dropped very catchable passes.

    Stanton's pocket awareness was nonexistent from the first snap of the game, and even though he took only one sack, he was hurried more than he needed to be. He rushed many throws, causing inaccuracy throughout.

    In all, Stanton completed 11 of 26 passes (42.3 percent... hurry back, Carson) for 118 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions for a 56.2 passer rating. Thomas' only completion on eight attempts was the touchdown to Ellington, and he had a 108.9 rating—he was sacked twice.

    Grade: D-

Running Back

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Ellington was the only skill position player who showed up to play in Denver. He rushed 16 times for a paltry 32 yards (2.0 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He also had four receptions for 112 yards, including the long touchdown from Thomas.

    It was his first multi-touchdown game of his career.

    His line did not provide him many open lanes, as Denver's defensive line did a great job limiting the second-year back.

    Grade: C+

Wide Receiver and Tight End

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Dropped touchdowns. Dropped passes that would have converted third downs.

    It was ugly from the get-go for one of the better receiving groups in the NFL against the Broncos. Fitzgerald led the group with three receptions for 57 yards (19 yards per catch), all of which came in the first quarter. Floyd was a non-factor, as were Brown and Ginn.

    If not for an overthrown ball from Stanton, Brown would have had his fourth touchdown in as many games and would have briefly kept the Cardinals in it.

    The overall numbers sound bad to hear, but just look at them. It's even worse in a box score.

    PlayerReceptionsTargetsYardsYPCTDQB Rate
    Larry Fitzgerald375719.0071.7
    John Carlson23199.5084.0
    Michael Floyd1777.0039.6
    John Brown2742.0039.6
    Rob Housler0100.0039.6
    Ted Ginn Jr.0200.0039.6

    Grade: F (-)

Offensive Line

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Overall, these guys played poorly, but not for their pass protection. It was the run blocking that let the team down on Sunday. Poor run blocking isn't a brand new problem for the Cardinals this season, because it has been iffy since Week 1.

    But it came to a head against a defense ready to stop Ellington and looking to pin its ears back and get after the quarterback.

    Pass protection was solid in the first half. Tackles Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie held their own against two of the better pass-rushers in the league, in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. But as the game wore on, so did Ware and Miller ware on Veldheer and Massie.

    Each ended up with a sack of Arizona quarterbacks.

    Grade: D+

Defensive Line

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    No push from the line again in the passing game. Not that he would, but Manning could have stood in the pocket all day without worry of being sacked. He went down on the first play of the second half, and that was it.

    Denver's offensive line was probably bored of the effort put forth by the Arizona defensive line, as it generated zero pressure on Manning.

    Backup running back Ronnie Hillman gashed a gassed defense with 15 carries for 64 yards (4.3 YPC), especially late. The run defense was stout early, as starter Montee Ball carried six times for only seven yards, but the more the unit was on the field, the easier it became for the Broncos to run the ball—Peyton scorching the secondary probably had something to do with it, too.

    Overall, it was a forgettable performance by the defensive line. One thing you should never forget, however, is when Broncos tight end Julius Thomas took out Campbell's knee, forcing the star defensive end to leave the game with a sprained MCL.

    Remember this:

    How's how Calais Campbell suffered that knee injury, in case you missed it: https://t.co/U6oumONNEw

    — Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) October 6, 2014

    Campbell's interception of Manning saves the grade from being really poor.

    Grade: C

Linebacker

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    With no push from the defensive line, the linebackers had a difficult time getting pressure on Manning. Only one player stood out on occasion, and that was outside linebacker Alex Okafor, playing in his first game since Week 3 of last season.

    He looked good rushing from the outside, causing Manning to step up once and shuffle left another time. Other than that, there were not many plays to be had. The secondary made most of the plays after giving up receptions.

    Grade: C-

Secondary

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    As a defensive back, running around in coverage is difficult in the NFL. It's especially difficult when the opposing quarterback wears No. 18 and has a massive forehead.

    That forehead houses a massive computer, the chip for which can be found by digging just beneath a small vertical scar on the nape of his neck that took an entire year to perfect.

    Manning completed 31 of 47 passes (66.0 percent) for a career-high 479 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions for a 110.2 rating. Anything he wanted, he took. He wanted it all against the Cardinals on Sunday, and he had it all.

    Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who had been among the best corners in coverage this season, will want to forget about his day covering Demaryius Thomas. Not all of it was on the three-time Pro Bowler, but Thomas had a career day, hauling in eight receptions for a Broncos single-game record 226 yards (28.3 YPC) and two touchdowns, including an 86-yarder in the third quarter.

    Patrick Peterson played a relatively clean game, but his teammate, Jerraud Powers, was abused despite an easy first-half interception of Manning.

    Grade: F

Special Teams

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro enjoyed another great afternoon of kicking, converting on both field goal attempts, with a long of 48 yards, and booming every kickoff far beyond the back of the end zone—the thin Denver air has that effect on a football.

    Punter Dave Zastudil returned for his first game of the season after a groin injury sidelined him the first three weeks. He had a solid game as well, booting 11 punts (!!) for a 44.3 per-punt average.

    Grade: B

Coaching

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    There is only so much you can do with what you're given—especially when facing the best quarterback in American football history (please don't debate whether he is; there is no doubt).

    Manning torched Todd Bowles' depleted defense, keeping the unit on the field for long drives, then beating them with one- and two-play scoring drives that devastated the bunch of proud professionals.

    On offense, the backup quarterback looked like a backup quarterback, and it's now been proven the rookie, Thomas, is not ready for game action. There was only so much the coaching staff could do.

    Not to be "that guy," but this grade was hurt when there was zero retaliation for the cheap shot on Campbell. I came from a time when you stood up for your sports family the same way you stand up for your biological brothers and sisters. The hit on Campbell was a bush-league move, and it was made worse when no one stood up for their brother.

    Grade: C-

Final Grades

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press
    Positional UnitGrade
    QBD-
    RBC+
    WRF
    OLD+
    DLC
    LBC-
    SecondaryF
    Special TeamsB
    CoachingC-
    Cumulative GradeC-

    Relax, Cardinals fans. Yes, Campbell is out three to four weeks, which sucks. No, we're not sure if Palmer will be ready for the Redskins, which also sucks. But the team is 3-1 and, quite honestly, should be damn proud of itself for being where it's at—and so should you.

    The season is not lost because of one bad game. This one is difficult to swallow, but the fact remains that the defense is really good, the offense had an off-day and Palmer will return ready to sling it around the field at some point in the near future.

    QB Palmer on stimulating his shoulder muscles to heal nerve issue: "I think we may have found something... Hopefully that's the answer."

    — Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) October 6, 2014

    So, to quote Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers:

    "R. E. L. A. X."

    All stats gathered from the box score at ESPN.com

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