How the Cardinals have fared recently against backup quarterbacks

Jan 2, 2021, 7:07 AM | Updated: Jan 3, 2021, 11:26 am
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After failing to pick up a crucial win against a third-string quarterback in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday, the Arizona Cardinals will get another chance against a backup quarterback when they play the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

With Rams signal caller Jared Goff having thumb surgery and being ruled out by head coach Sean McVay on Monday, the Cardinals will take on former Arizona Hotshots (Alliance of American Football) quarterback John Wolford in a win-or-go-home scenario for both teams in the regular season finale.

It will mark the sixth time the Arizona Cardinals will face a backup quarterback this season, tying for the most faced in a single season dating back to 2010. Arizona has gone 3-2 in its against backups this year and is 3-4 against them in the Kliff Kingsbury era.

The Cardinals went 0-2 last season against quarterbacks who didn’t start the season as the lead man under center, losing to Kyle Allen and the Carolina Panthers and Devlin Hodges of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Historically, the Cardinals have gone 20-11 against backup signal callers since the 2010 season.

This year, Arizona picked up back-to-back wins against Joe Flacco (New York Jets) and Andy Dalton (Dallas Cowboys) in October, along with another victory against Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Jalen Hurts on Dec. 20.

The Cardinals lost to the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 draft and quarterback of the future for the Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa, on Nov. 8.

Most recently, they fell to C.J. Beathard of the 49ers on Saturday.

The Cardinals defense facing backup quarterbacks hasn’t meant a difference in regards to yards allowed. Opponents with starting quarterbacks have accounted for an average of 353 yards, while offenses led by backups have averaged 352 in 2020.

Arizona’s offense shows a clear difference with an average of 450 yards against teams with backup quarterbacks, the most being 496 yards against the Jets and 526 yards against the Eagles. That compares to averaging 368 yards against teams whose regular starter is under center.

This wasn’t the case on Saturday against the 49ers, however, as the offense only had 350 yards in a 12-point performance against a defense missing a handful of key players. The Cardinals’ defense allowed 398 yards to Beathard, who hadn’t started a game since October 2018. Injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens forced him into action.

The situation is a bit different on Sunday, as Wolford will be taking his first snaps as an NFL quarterback in a regular season game. He had 1,617 yards, a 63.4% completion percentage and 14 touchdown passes in eight games with the Hotshots last season before the league folded.

The Rams will also be missing wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who was placed on the COVID-19 list ahead of the game, and they are beat up at running back.

Here’s a snapshot of how the Cardinals have fared against backup quarterbacks over the last decade. We counted players who entered the season as backups whether the starter was benched or injured.

Cardinals record vs. backup quarterbacks since 2010


24-23 W vs. Raiders — Bruce Gradkowski

27-6 L vs. 49ers — Troy Smith

19-12 L vs. Panthers — Jimmy Clausen

27-26 W vs. Cowboys — John Kitna and Stephen McGee


20-17 OT W vs. Browns — Seneca Wallace


27-13 L vs. 49ers — Colin Kaepernick


13-10 W vs. Buccaneers — Mike Glennon

27-24 W vs. Texans — Case Keenum

27-14 W vs. Jaguars — Chad Henne

24-21 L vs. Eagles — Nick Foles

30-10 W vs. Rams — Kellen Clemens

37-34 OT W vs. Titans — Ryan Fitzpatrick


30-20 W vs. Washington — Kirk Cousins

28-17 W vs. Cowboys — Brandon Weeden

12-6 W vs. Rams — Shaun Hill


25-13 L vs. Steelers — Michael Vick/Landry Jones

19-13 W vs. 49ers — Blaine Gabbert


23-21 L vs. Patriots — Jimmy Garoppolo

23-20 W vs. 49ers — Colin Kaepernick

44-6 W vs. Rams — Jared Goff


20-10 W vs. 49ers — C.J. Beathard

31-21 L vs. Texans — Tom Savage


28-18 W vs. 49ers — C.J. Beathard

18-15 W vs. 49ers — C.J. Beathard


38-20 L vs. Panthers — Kyle Allen

23-17 L vs. Steelers — Devlin Hodges


30-10 W vs. Jets — Joe Flacco

38-10 W vs. Cowboys — Andy Dalton

34-31 L vs. Dolphins — Tua Tagovailoa

33-26 W vs. Eagles — Jalen Hurts

20-12 L vs. 49ers — C.J. Beathard

Arizona Sports’ Erin Maloney contributed to this story.

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