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Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton makes first start since 2010, plays turnover-free football

Given their connection dating back to the 2012 season with the Indianapolis Colts, it made perfect sense for Drew Stanton to follow Bruce Arians to Arizona last March.

But before the ink even had time to dry on Stanton’s three-year contract with the Cardinals, general manager Steve Keim had already orchestrated a deal with the Oakland Raiders to land former Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer.

Just like that, Stanton was back to holding the clipboard — something he’d done with regularity since being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

For all intents and purposes, Stanton was a member of the Cardinals’ 10-6 squad a season ago — though he didn’t throw a pass let alone take a single snap in relief of Palmer.

That all changed, however, Sunday, when the former Michigan State standout was tasked with starting in place of Palmer, after the starter was ruled out with a shoulder injury.

He didn’t light up the scoreboard or even reach the end zone, but Stanton was more than admirable in Arizona’s 25-14 victory, going 14-of-29 for 169 yards.

“The win,” Stanton replied when asked by Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Paul Calvisi as to what he enjoyed most about Sunday’s game. “That’s what I was most focused on all week, if I was going to get an opportunity to just go in there and move the offense.

“Be efficient and try and get points.”

Arizona’s other units certainly helped in the latter category, but the 30-year-old played the part of a capable passer with relative ease in his first NFL action since Dec. 19, 2010.

In all, Stanton completed passes to six different receivers and delivered four balls for 19 yards or more.

Most importantly, he didn’t register a single turnover — an essential for any back-up quarterback trying to run the show after an extended absence.

“I think the biggest thing is you have to be prepared, because you never know when it’s going to happen,” said Stanton. “I think 2010 was the last time I’ve started a game or even touched the field. It was awhile for a meaningful game, but at the same time I think everything that you’re doing as back-up is trying to prepare as if that time is going to come. Because you don’t know when it’s going to come.

“You’d hate to look back and say, ‘Gosh, I wish I would have prepared a little bit more. I wish I would have known exactly where I wanted to go with that read.’ But, I felt really good all week with everything. Felt good with the package, and we were able to come out here with a win.”

Winning with Stanton behind center wasn’t a surprise at all to Arians, who insisted he had complete confidence in his backup’s ability to play a smart football game.

“There was no question mark in my mind,” said Arians. “I’m sure all the fans went, ‘Oh my god.’ But, I’ve been around this kid for a long time. He reminds me a lot of Kelly Holcomb. He’s very accurate. He’s extremely smart. He’s tough.

“He’s a starting quarterback in the National Football League. He just needs his opportunities, and when those guys get them they usually play really, really well because they’re extremely confident and smart in what they do.”

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