Defensive end Calais Campbell is tripped up by quarterback Peyton Manning after Campbell's interception Sunday.
DENVER – It looked like the perfect homecoming for Colorado native Calais Campbell.
The defensive end's interception gave the Cardinals a shot of adrenaline in the second quarter Sunday, a pick that put his team right in the middle of things. But by the time the game was over, coach Bruce Arians was outraged at the hosts.
On a 3rd-and-7 with 13:33 left in the third quarter, Broncos tight end Julius Thomas made a deliberate dive
at Campbell's knee. Denver was penalized for the chop block infraction, but it was little consolation to Arians after the game.
"I've been coaching for 37 years and that's the dirtiest play I've ever seen in the National Football League," Arians said. "It was a flat chop block that put him out of the game. I've never seen anything like it. I know (Broncos coach) John Fox, and he's a great coach and a great guy. Somebody has got to answer to that. A fine isn't going to do it when he's going to miss three to four weeks on a blatant chop block."
Campbell was not available to talk after the game.
Arians said the early diagnosis is an MCL injury, though he's unsure if it's a sprain or a partial tear. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald thought Thomas' actions should have resulted in an ejection.
"It was bull ... I mean, it was a bad," Fitzgerald said. "It was terrible man. We all saw it. We lose our defensive captain, and the guys go out to catch two more touchdowns in the game. I feel like he should have been thrown out of the game. That could have been a career-ending injury. We obviously lost him from the game. We don't know how long he's going to be down."
The Cardinals allowed four rushing yards on seven carries prior to Campbell's injury, and 90 yards on 19 carries the rest of the way, not including two late kneel-downs by quarterback Peyton Manning.
He also gave the team the huge boost with the interception on a screen pass, returning it 23 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown run by running back Andre Ellington one play later. The sequence cut the Cardinals' deficit to 14-13 just as Denver looked to be taking control of the game. Once Campbell left, the Broncos stepped on the accelerator.
"(The defense) changes dramatically," Arians said of playing without Campbell. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, great player coming out and putting a rookie in."
PALMER FINDS SHOULDER HELP, BUT QB SITUATION DICEY
Each of the Cardinals' three quarterbacks has taken snaps in meaningful action now that rookie Logan Thomas played most of the second half against the Broncos following the concussion to Drew Stanton. As
for the starter in next week's game against the Redskins, that's in limbo.
Starter Carson Palmer sat out his third straight game against the Broncos but is encouraged by the progress in his throwing shoulder after he saw another specialist in Denver this weekend. He's tried several different remedies, and said a recommendation to stimulate the muscles has gotten the desired result.
Palmer tossed 20 short passes in pregame, which he called a "breakthrough" following this week's stunted healing process, but still has no timetable for a return.
"I think we may have found something," Palmer said. "I'll continue to do that, and hopefully that's the answer."
Stanton was 11-of-26 for 118 yards before getting hurt. Thomas finished 1-of-8 for 81 yards and a touchdown and said he's prepared to start if needed.
"I've got to come in and prepare just like Carson and Drew prepare, because it's the 'Next Man Up' around here," Thomas said. "It's my turn, it's my job, and the other 52 guys are counting on me to get the job done. I'll take that in and give it everything I've got."
ELLINGTON INVOLVED IN PASSING GAME
Running back Andre Ellington didn't have much success on the ground – 16 carries for 32 yards and the score – but caught four passes for 112 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown down the right sideline. The
score brought the Cardinals to within striking distance at 24-20 late in the third quarter before the Broncos pulled away.
It was the second-longest scoring reception by a running back in Cardinals' history.
"It was a great throw," Ellington said. "(Thomas) put it right where he needed to put it. I made the catch and it was just off to the races from there."
Ellington had all but three of the Cardinals' carries and stayed in the game during goal-line situations, a role which he may see more of without the presence of Jonathan Dwyer. Ellington finished with 20 touches.
"Any chance I can get the ball in my hand, I'm willing to do it," Ellington said.
CATANZARO STAYS PERFECT
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro continued his impressive early-season field goal streak by hitting successfully from 33 and 48 yards. He is 11-for-11 on the season after winning the job in training camp.
All five of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.