ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - The Cardinals have had their fair share of hurdles this season. Injuries to multiple starters, including quarterback Carson Palmer, seemed to have the potential to derail their season.
But, Arizona has been outstanding and resilient, compiling a 3-0 record.
They'll face another obstacle on Sunday as they take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. Head Coach Bruce Arians, Manning's former quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis, understands that injuries and suspensions are part of the game.
"Just stick to the plan and come to work every day and respect the process and that our guys have bought into that," he said regarding his team overcoming adversity. "It sounds like a cliché a lot of times, but it's true. You're not going to have all your guys every week, and coaching is a part of it, but the players win the games."
The Broncos have been busy preparing for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. Check out photos from Thursday's practice at Dove Valley.
In addition to Palmer, John Abraham has been placed on injured reserve due to concussions and inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington were lost in the offseason. Darnell Dockett incurred a season-ending injuring during training camp and backup running back Jonathan Dwyer has been placed on the Non-Football Injury List.
Despite these setbacks, they defeated the Chargers and 49ers at home and dominated the Giants in New York.
"I think our team has learned to overcome all the bumps that are going to happen on the journey," Arians said. "It hasn't been a rosy three weeks, we've had injuries, we've had other things happen from last year. They've got to become a resilient bunch and showing up in the fourth quarter the way we're playing and it makes you proud that they are that."
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, in midst of his fourth year in the NFL, has never faced Manning in the regular season. He has studied Manning and is looking forward to facing the future Hall of Famer.
"I'm looking very forward to facing Peyton Manning," Peterson said. "Obviously this is my first career game going against him in a game that actually means something. I played against him two years in a row in the preseason, but like I said, this game actually means something, so to finally go against him when the game is actually on the line is going to be something special."
The Cardinals' secondary, which is a part of a defense that ranks second in the NFL in points allowed, is working to prevent Manning's vast experience from giving him a leg up. Peterson said Manning has "pretty much seen it all" so they are trying to make everything look the same in the secondary so he can't key in on their coverage and pick them apart.
Peterson said excellent communication within the defense and staying "plastered in our coverages" will be key to containing the Broncos' passing offense.
During his conference call with the Denver media, Peterson discussed the benefits of the AFC West and NFC West playing each other. He appreciates the opportunity to face AFC West opponents as three of the four were playoff teams in 2013. Taking on the Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos and Raiders provides the Cardinals is a "measuring stick" for how good their team is.
"Playing against Denver now, a year removed from the Super Bowl last year, is going to be a great measuring stick, not only for this team, but for the secondary as well, because Peyton Manning has so many great numbers, he added some receivers over there and now you have the tight end [Julius Thomas] playing good ball," Peterson said. "So the secondary, it's going to be a huge test for us. We have to be ready for every single play come Sunday."
Peterson noted that much of the Broncos' success in the air is based on wide receiver screens. Disrupting those screen passes and forcing Manning to throw the ball fast is a key part of the Cardinals' game plan. He said the Broncos' receiving corps will be an excellent test.
"Well the first couple games, we didn't really have a dominant receiving corps, or that one dominant receiver that we had over the last couple years I've been here. Against San Diego, they have a couple good guys there," he said. "Now we have Emmanuel Sanders, Thomas, both Thomases, you've got Welker coming back. So these guys have a good crop of receivers as well, but this week it might be a little more matchup than we did in the previous weeks."
The Arizona secondary has an interesting assignment placed upon them. Heading into this game, Manning currently holds 499 touchdown passes. Peterson said it's going to be a difficult task to prevent that score from happening.
"That's tough because Peyton always finds a way to get the ball in the end zone," he said laughing. "I believe he's on a streak now of at least having one touchdown pass a game. It's going to be difficult, but as a secondary, our goal is to keep opposing teams out of the end zone regardless. Our goal is obviously to keep those guys out of the end zone, and if we do that, we'll have a pretty good opportunity of winning the ball game."