Once again, Arizona Cardinals find a way to push through adversity and win

Nov 10, 2014, 3:04 AM | Updated: 10:19 pm

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals were trailing 14-10 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, had left the field on a cart with a knee injury, and whatever air was present in University of Phoenix Stadium had been sucked out.

Enter Drew Stanton, the backup QB who led the Cardinals to a pair of victories earlier in the season when Palmer was unable to play due to nerve issues in his throwing shoulder.

“It was fine,” Stanton said of the mood in the huddle when he entered the game. “I got in there and said, ‘We need to go down there and get a touchdown. There’s no reason why we can’t.'”

They did, needing just four plays to go 89 yards, with the capper being a 48-yard bomb from Stanton to rookie John Brown.

The Cardinals took the lead on the play, and from there the rout was on.

Patrick Peterson intercepted two passes — returning one of them for a touchdown — and Antonio Cromartie took an Austin Davis fumble back 14 yards for a score of his own.

The 31-14 final belies how this game actually went, but then again, the 2014 Cardinals seem to belie conventional wisdom.

They’ve faced all kinds of adversity this season, yet nothing seems to faze them.

“We didn’t fold; we bent but we didn’t break,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “We have been going through this since the spring. We have a lot of guys going down and have had guys suspended. I think we really stepped up and showed that we are a mature football team with great leaders. That’s how we finished out that game today.”

Because they were able to persevere, the Cardinals now find themselves with an 8-1 record. It’s still the best mark in the NFL, and they still have a two-game lead in the ultra-competitive NFC West.

They were never really anyone’s favorite to win much with Palmer, and they certainly won’t be picked to go far if he’s out for an extended period of time.

Yet, all season long people have been wondering what it would take to break this team, and they’re still waiting for the answer.

Because if you think it could be the loss of Palmer, think again. The fact that Stanton has already led the team to a pair of tough wins this season was enough to win over the locker room.

“New York and San Francisco, we’re very confident he can go out there and get it done,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He’s got a lively arm, he understands what he is doing, he knows where he wants to go with the football, he’s got great command of the huddle and guys really believe in him.”

They believe in Stanton as well as the system that has been put into place. In all but one game this season, whenever the team has needed a play, someone has delivered.

In New York it was Ted Ginn, Jr. returning a fourth-quarter punt for a touchdown. Against the 49ers the following week, it was Stanton finding John Brown for a pair of scores. Just a couple weeks ago it was Palmer hitting Brown with a 75-yard bomb to beat the Eagles — which was followed by a great defensive stand in the final seconds — and this weekend, well, it was a collective effort.

Which, no doubt, is the sign of a good team.

While there’s no doubt losing Palmer is a blow — it was described as “tough,” “difficult” by different players, while Fitzgerald noted that they’re all human, so seeing their captain and friend lying on the ground is tough to deal with, if any team is able to weather this storm, you’d have to think it’s these Cardinals.

It’s not that they have an exorbitant amount of talent to offset their injuries or a favorable schedule to help them skirt by, but instead it’s a mentality, a toughness that cannot be quantified yet is very much apparent that gives reason for optimism.

“That’s one thing about this bunch,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s whoever is next up is ready to roll. I think Drew led the charge early in the season for us and everybody else had already bought in, but they really bought in then.”

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