TEMPE, Ariz. — The most important takeaway from Sunday’s 32-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers is that defensive end Calais Campbell is going to be OK.
Campbell was wheeled off the field on a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital for tests after feeling numbness and tingling in his extremities that went “all the way down to my feet,” but he was back at the Cardinals complex on Monday for a team meeting and then spoke to the media.
“I feel pretty good,” Campbell said. “A little sore. It was a scary moment for a second.”
Campbell said he was trying to strip 49ers running back Frank Gore and put his head down when he took a blow that he said created feelings similar to a stinger. He said he started feeling “pretty good” on the field and wanted to get up, but the medical staff wanted to be sure he was OK and took extra precautions.
He was unaware that fans started a wave while he was down.
“When I came off the field, they were cheering for me, so I was happy,” he said.
It is still unclear whether Campbell will play Thursday against the Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. He was scheduled for more tests Monday afternoon.
“My goal — I’m hopeful I can play Thursday but I have to get cleared,” he said. “I feel like we’re in a situation where we need to stack some wins in order to give ourselves a chance to play in the playoffs so this is an important game. I really want to be out there.”
Coach Bruce Arians termed the injury “more of a bruised spine” and said he is crossing his fingers that Campbell will play.
Now for a look back at Sunday’s loss to the defending NFC champs.
Larry Fitzgerald’s fumble: The Cardinals had just scored on a 9-play drive to pull within 22-20 when the defense forced a 49ers punt after four plays. On what looked like the best offensive series of the day, the Cardinals mixed the run and pass perfectly and appeared headed for the lead when Fitzgerald caught a pass and ran to the 49ers 23-yard line. But as he was going down, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis stripped the ball and the 49ers recovered. The 49ers engineered an 18-play, 83-yard drive that chewed up 9:32 of clock and ended with Kendall Hunter’s 6-yard run. Game, set, match.
RB Andre Ellington: He caught all five balls thrown his way for 36 yards, he ran seven times for 56 yards and, just as important, he held onto the ball. It’s pretty clear now that Ellington was a terrific pick in the sixth round. Now if he can just learn where the first-down markers are …
LB Karlos Dansby: He had a team-high 11 tackles, a half sack, three passes defensed and a QB hit. Those stats perfectly reflect the fact that Dansby was all over the field on Sunday.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
The Cards need a new game plan for tight ends: Vernon Davis had eight catches for 180 yards and two TDs, setting a career high for yardage. That’s the third time this season a tight end has absolutely torched the Cardinals linebackers and secondary. Safety Yeremiah Bell can’t cover elite tight ends. Neither can Dansby, cornerback Jerraud Powers or Tyrann Mathieu. The Cards either have to accept that Daryl Washington must assume those duties, pulling him away from the line of scrimmage, or they have to use a bracketed form of coverage. Davis and St. Louis tight end Jared Cook are on the schedule again this season.
Interceptions and Carson Palmer go hand in hand: The stats don’t lie. In 128 career games, Palmer has thrown 141 interceptions. He is capable of coming back from them in a game, but he doesn’t seem to be able to eliminate them, and you have to wonder if the Cardinals offense can only go so far with that reality at hand. Arians said the two picks were a product of receivers being in the wrong spots, but on the second, it sure looked like Palmer tried to force a ball in. It’s hard to say because we don’t see the game plan, but you have to wonder if Arians is trying to protect his QB from confidence-sapping criticism. If so, how does that sit with the rest of the team? Palmer has thrown at least one pick in every game this season and has 11 picks overall, second only to the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, who has 15. By the way, his passer rating this season (69.3) is the second lowest of his career, bested only by the 2008 season when he played only four games due to injury.
The Cards are giving LT Bradley Sowell help: A look back at the game film showed the Cards helping Sowell often on Palmer’s deep sets with a back in place to chip pass rushers. Arizona also used a lot of quick drops and quick passes in the game plan on Sunday. That’s fine. That’s what the Cards should be doing with a below average left tackle. On Sunday, it didn’t severely hamper what they were able to do on offense, but for what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus gave Sowell the lowest grade of any Cardinals offensive player (minus 6.4), noting that he allowed seven QB hurries, a sack and a QB hit. One area where Sowell does OK in pass protection? He’s adept at forcing rushers upfield because he is lighter on his feet than Levi Brown.
Aside from Campbell, WR Larry Fitzgerald has a right hamstring injury that left him gimpy after Sunday’s game. The quick turnaround won’t help Fitz heal, so we’re expecting very little from him in practice this week. Receiver Brittan Golden pulled a hamstring on his 53-yard catch and is doubtful to play this week. Golden, who was just elevated from the practice squad last week, gave the Cardinals a deep threat that they have not had this season.
On the official injury report, Campbell and Golden did not practice while Fitzgerald, TE Rob Housler (ankle), LB John Abraham (shoulder) and LB Karlos Dansby (quad) were limited.
ODDS AND ENDS
— Tight end Rob Housler had four catches for 32 yards on Sunday, giving him six receptions for 68 yards this season. Remember all that talk about Housler being a mismatch for defenses, a safe bet to become another elite pass catching tight end? Anybody still believe it? Arians said Monday that Housler “is not performing at that level.” Despite the season high in catches, Housler was still a minor part of the offense in San Francisco, and that might be where he stays. There are only so many balls to go around. Plenty of those need to go to Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Ellington, all of whom are playing at a higher level than Housler.
— Rashard Mendenhall is going to be a favorite target of fans all season because he doesn’t put up big numbers, but don’t expect Arians to switch to Ryan Williams. Mendenhall does a lot of little things that go unnoticed. He runs for the hard yards in the hard places, and he’s a good pass protector. It’s likely that Williams’ only shot will come via injury to Mendenhall.
— Arians said the team really won’t practice this week with only three days to prepare for Seattle and many bodies banged up. They’ll essentially have walk-throughs as they install the game plan just to get what Arians called “mental reps.”
— Arians said he never considered replacing Palmer with backup Drew Stanton.
Seattle: Thursday at 5:25 p.m. PT at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Seahawks had their struggles with Tennessee one week after falling for the first time this season in a terrific game at Indianapolis. But the Seahawks are 5-1, atop the NFC West and tied for the conference lead. If the Cards are to entertain any thoughts of a playoff spot, beginning the division slate 0-3 and losing their fourth conference game just seven weeks into the season won’t help.