Cardinals lose more than game in Denver

Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton is helped up after a hard hit during the second half Sunday in Denver.

David Zalubowski/AP

DENVER — A simple loss on Sunday would have been OK in the long run. This was Peyton Manning’s house, the Cardinals were playing their backup quarterback and Arizona already had a 3-0 start in the bag.

But this wasn’t just a 41-20 loss to the defending AFC champs. It was a defeat with more devastating personnel losses on a team that cannot afford them. 

"I’ve been coaching for 37 years and that’s the dirtiest play I’ve ever seen in the National Football League," Arians said. "They’ll fine the guy but what do we get? We lose our guy for two to three weeks, maybe four." 

Unless Carson Palmer’s bruised right shoulder nerve is ready to go on Sunday against the Washington Redskins, the Cardinals will also have just one healthy quarterback — rookie Logan Thomas — and may be forced to sign another.

That is the brand of bravado you always hear from NFL locker rooms when key players go down. But take a look at the Cardinals’ defensive losses since the offseason when linebacker Karlos Dansby departed unexpectedly in free agency. 

Inside linebacker Daryl Washington is suspended for the season for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. Defensive end/tackle Darnell Dockett is out for the season with a torn ACL and linebacker John Abraham is on season-ending injured reserve with recurring concussion symptoms. 

And now Campbell.

Washington, Dockett and Abraham all have been to Pro Bowls; Campbell is worthy of the same honor. Toss in the losses of Palmer and Stanton and this is getting plain ridiculous. 

Broncos 41, Cardinals 20

"It’s about how to face adversity," said cornerback Patrick Peterson, who also suffered an ankle injury Sunday but isn’t expected to miss any time. "How to respond when guys go down. That’s what it’s all about."

The Cardinals could start by brushing up on some finer points that looked a bit dull on Sunday. Their pass rush was virtually non-existent, a season-long problem that may be unsolvable given the aforementioned personnel issues.

Arizona’s offense — Arians’ calling card — was sloppy. Cardinals receivers dropped at least seven passes, the Cardinals were 3 of 16 on third down and the running game continues to be a problem for an offensive line that has taken major strides in pass protection. Arizona managed just 37 yards on 19 attempts.

In spite of all that, the Cardinals somehow pulled within 24-20 late in the third quarter when Thomas completed his only pass of the game to Andre Ellington, who ran most of the 81 yards for a touchdown.

That’s when Broncos QB Peyton Manning took over, leading Denver on three scoring drives in the final period, including a touchdown pass to Thomas that gave him 503 in his career — five short of tying Brett Favre for the NFL record.  

"He’s not in the history books for nothing," Peterson said. "The guy is awesome. He’s everything that everyone speaks about him. He just came out here and lit us up."

With defensive starters dropping like flies, it only will get harder for the Cardinals to avoid a similar fate on a weekly basis.

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter