MINNEAPOLIS — Late in the second quarter of Arizona’s second preseason game, backup quarterback Drew Stanton lofted a pass down the sideline and second-year receiver Jaron Brown out-jumped cornerback Xavier Rhodes to haul in the 35-yard completion.
The highlight-reel catch stunned Rhodes and many of the Minnesota Vikings fans in attendance. As Cardinals starting quarterback Carson Palmer watched the play unfold from the sideline, it didn’t surprise him one bit.
Brown had two catches for 86 yards to continue his impressive preseason, but the Cardinals lost 30-28 thanks to a late touchdown drive from Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on Saturday night.
Brown, who was undrafted out of Clemson last season but still played in all 16 games as a rookie, is turning heads in his second training camp.
“Big play every day,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Drew has thrown that pass every single day in practice and he’s come down with it. I don’t care if it’s Patrick (Peterson), (Antonio Cromartie) or who is on top of him. He’s really developing a confidence to become a really solid player.”
He also caught a short pass on the opening drive, made Rhodes miss and raced 51 yards to set up Arizona’s first touchdown of the game.
“I saw glimpses of it last year as a rookie. It just wasn’t consistent,” said Palmer, who was 4 for 8 for 91 yards in two drives with the starting offense. “He consistently makes that play. He’s done it all camp long. He’s made that kind of catch, that 50-50 ball, he’s probably made that every three days of camp. I don’t know if a ball has hit the ground yet when he’s had that opportunity. I’ve pulled him aside a couple times and told him now this is what you do.”
His emergence is giving Palmer another playmaker on offense along with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
“I definitely should’ve scored on at least one of them,” Brown said. “John (Brown) made a great block on the first one and Drew had a terrific throw on the second one and I should’ve scored on both of them. But hopefully next time I’ll be able to do that.”
Stanton was 6 for 8 for 81 yards and a touchdown to former basketball player Darren Fells and the Cardinals looked poised to win again after a Holy Roller-type touchdown with 1:11 to play. Center John Estes made a bad shotgun snap to Ryan Lindley on fourth-and-goal from the Vikings 6, and the ball rolled around on the ground. Estes dived to the turf, scooped the ball out of the pile backward and running back Zach Bauman picked it up and ran it in for the score that gave the Cardinals a 28-24 lead.
“I saw a play I hadn’t seen in 22 years, that touchdown. It was designed,” Arians deadpanned.
Officials ruled that the snap was a backward pass and not a fumble because no player ever had possession of the ball. That means any player was eligible to advance it, so Bauman’s touchdown stood after a review.
“Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession,” referee Craig Wrolstad told a pool reporter. “So nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”
Estes said he was trying to redeem himself after the poor snap.
“It was fourth down. It does no good just recovering it or falling on it because the game will be over,” Estes said. “Me being the center, having a bad snap, that’s a terrible play by my part. So I kind of lucked out that I was able to think of that. It was a rugby-style play, I guess.”
Lindley, in a fight with rookie Logan Thomas for the third quarterback spot, was 8 for 15 for 64 yards. Three of Arizona’s projected starters on defense didn’t play: linebackers John Abraham and Kevin Minter (pectoral) and free safety Tyrann Mathieu (knee). Abraham didn’t join the team until this week, due to personal reasons the Cardinals have not detailed.
“There were a couple throws he should’ve made,” Arians said of Lindley. “But mostly he ran the thing pretty good.”
They held out three starters on offense, too, with wide receiver Michael Floyd (groin), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) and center Lyle Sendlein (calf) kept on the sideline. Backup tackle Max Starks limped off with a left ankle injury and didn’t return.