The story of the Arizona Cardinals’ first loss of the 2014 NFL season was told by three men named Thomas.
While rookie third-string quarterback Logan Thomas made his regular-season debut following an injury to Drew Stanton, Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas carved up the Arizona secondary for a combined 294 yards and four touchdowns from Peyton Manning to help the Broncos upend the Cards 41-20 Sunday in Denver.
Stanton left the game in the third quarter due to concussion-like symptoms — and with starting QB Carson Palmer already sidelined with a shoulder injury, Thomas saw his first NFL action, and probably before he was ready.
Though he did have an unlikely (and bizarre) 81-yard touchdown pass to running back Andre Ellington to close the gap to 24-20 in the third quarter, the rest of the afternoon was a rough one, to say the least (more on that below).
Manning, meanwhile, did his Manning thing. The five-time NFL MVP threw his 500th career TD pass — a 7-yard toss to Julius Thomas — in the first quarter, and then added three more: two to Demaryius (for 31 and 86 yards in the second quarter) and a 12-yarder to Julius in the fourth quarter to put the Broncos ahead 34-20 and seal the deal.
It was not a memorable day for Arizona’s defense: Manning’s 479 passing yards were a single-game career-high, and Demaryius Thomas’ 226 receiving yards set a Broncos record.
Here’s how Arizona dropped its first game of the season — and left Sports Authority Field at Mile High in dire straits at the QB position — by the numbers:
To say that Cardinals WR Ted Ginn had an awful day would be to say the air in Denver is a tad thin. Ginn caught zero passes on the game and dropped a couple, and he muffed a punt in the second half that the Broncos were unlucky not to recover.
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A positive note: the Cardinals didn’t turn the ball over and actually had a plus-2 turnover margin today after intercepting Manning twice. But the Cards just couldn’t muster enough offensive firepower to take advantage.
Ellington scored both of Arizona’s touchdowns, but he never got going on the ground. The second-year tailback rushed 16 times for just 32 yards (2.0 yards per carry) Sunday.
Arizona was, shall we say, first-down deficient on Sunday. The Cardinals gained just nine first downs on the game, largely because they were just 3-of-16 on third-down conversions (18.8 percent), their worst mark of the year.
The Broncos had four receivers with at least six catches and 50 yards Sunday. No Arizona receiver had more than four receptions.
Does thin air make footballs slippery?
Arizona’s wideouts dropped a combined eight passes on Sunday. The most important was rookie WR John Brown’s drop on third down with less than two minutes to play before halftime and the Cards trailing 14-13. A catch would’ve given Arizona a first down; instead, the Cardinals had to punt, and on the next play, Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas for an 86-yard score to put Denver ahead 21-13 at the half.
With his record-setting 479-yard performance on Sunday, Manning notched his 13th career 400-yard game.
Before he exited the game, Stanton’s QB rating was an awful 56.2. To be fair, that’s not quite as bad as it looks; the eight-year pro didn’t throw an interception, and several of his passes were perfectly thrown but dropped by Arizona receivers.
From the “it’s funny because it’s true” file: Logan Thomas is averaging 81.0 yards per completion in his young NFL career. Why? Because the rookie completed just 1-of-8 passes for the day, and his sole completion was turned into a long TD by the speedy Ellington.