DENVER — The Arizona Cardinals lost their second-string quarterback, surrendered more yards than they have in four decades and were beaten by three touchdowns in what some on the roster had termed a "statement game."
Yet with all that went wrong, it was a hard-to-see block that drew their coach's harshest words.
Bruce Arians was livid with a chop block that knocked 300-pound defensive end Calais Campbell out of the game with a strained right MCL. It was one of many low points — and injuries — the Cardinals suffered Sunday in a 41-20 loss to the Denver Broncos.
"I've been coaching for 37 years. It's the dirtiest play I've seen in the National Football League," Arians said. "Somebody has got to answer to that. A fine isn't going to do it, when (Campbell) is going to miss three or four weeks, on a blatant chop block."
On the play, tight end Julius Thomas dove at Campbell's legs while tackle Ryan Clady hit the defensive lineman high. After the game, Campbell was receiving treatment on the training table — quite a comedown from his interception and return to the Denver 5 that set up Andre Ellington's TD run to pull Arizona within 14-13 in the second quarter.
"I've never seen anything like it," Arians said of Campbell's injury.
But he has seen plenty of Peyton Manning, serving as the five-time MVP's first quarterbacks coach while both were in Indy in 1998. So watching Manning throw for 479 yards and four scores wasn't too shocking.
That the Cardinals (3-1) were torched for 568 total yards by the Broncos (3-1) was a shock. It's the most yards the defense has allowed since giving up 578 in a 45-10 loss at Dallas on Sept. 30, 1973, according to STATS Inc.
Even more, they lost Drew Stanton to a concussion in the third quarter on a hit by Von Miller. Stanton was making his third straight start with Carson Palmer sidelined because of a nerve problem in his throwing shoulder.
So, in came rookie Logan Thomas, whose only completion of the game was an 81-yard TD strike to Ellington.
He's now just 502 behind Manning.
Manning threw his 500th career TD pass to the tight end drawing Arians' anger, Julius Thomas, in the first quarter. Manning joined Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to reach that milestone.
"Peyton's one heck of a player," Logan Thomas said. "I watched him when I was a kid. Him and Brett Favre were my two favorites."
Manning picked on Arizona's defense all afternoon. His primary target was Demaryius Thomas as he hauled in eight passes for a franchise-record 226 yards and two TDs.
A good portion of his damage was against Antonio Cromartie.
"It's by far the worst game of my career," Cromartie said. "He got the best of me today. That's all I can say."
Patrick Peterson took Manning's big afternoon in stride.
"He's not in the history books for nothing," said Peterson, who left the game with a sprained left ankle, but said afterward he felt fine. "He just came out here and lit us up."
This day wasn't all doom and gloom for Arizona, though. The Cardinals received some potentially good news with Palmer beginning to throw again.
Nothing much, just 20 short-range passes before the game. He said the troublesome nerve in his arm didn't flare up. He's taking that as a positive sign.
"I wasn't burning up anybody's hands," Palmer said. "It's just good to throw again."
Think he'll start next weekend?
"Yeah. I'm always confident," Palmer said. "I was confident two weeks ago also."
Stanton will go through the league's concussion protocol before he's allowed back. Before he left, the 30-year-old Stanton was 11 of 26, with his receivers uncharacteristically dropping quite a few passes.
"They were timely ones, too," Larry Fitzgerald said. "That just kills you."
NOTES: Cardinals CB Justin Bethel (right shoulder) and TE Troy Niklas (ankle) were dinged up in this game. ... Broncos WR Wes Welker broke Rod Smith's mark for most catches by an undrafted player. Welker's 850th career grab covered 5 yards in the second quarter. ... Arians and Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore congratulated Manning after the game. Moore was his offensive coordinator for 13 seasons in Indy. ... CB Jerraud Powers picked off Manning by stepping in front of an intermediate pass. Powers saw that route plenty of times when they were teammates in Indianapolis.
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