December 03, 2014

Bruce Arians is remaining quite calm for a coach who has watched the Arizona Cardinals' NFC West lead dwindle during a two-game slide, choosing instead to focus on the positives that led them to the top of the division.

The Kansas City Chiefs aren't in nearly as enviable of a position while dealing with a skid that is threatening their playoff chances in the AFC.

Each club seeks a much-needed victory as the Cardinals host the Chiefs on Sunday.

Arizona (9-3) sat alone atop the NFC and led the West by three games following its Nov. 16 win over Detroit, its first contest after Carson Palmer tore his ACL.

Drew Stanton has thrown three touchdowns and five interceptions while completing just 60.8 percent of his passes in three starts since Palmer went down, including a 19-3 loss at Seattle on Nov. 23 and a 29-18 defeat at Atlanta last week.

Larry Fitzgerald missed both losses with a sprained right knee, but Arians isn't making any excuses.

"When you stink, you stink. You point out how you stunk and get it corrected," Arians said. "No, I don't throw chairs and holler and do all that stuff that's non-productive. That's not teaching. You have to teach in order to get things corrected."

Things need to get corrected quickly before it's too late. Arizona's lead is down to one game ahead of the 8-4 Seahawks.

"There's two pictures - the two-game losing streak and being 9-3. We have to get back to the things that got us to this point," Arians said. "The next one is huge to maintain where we're at. The sky has not fallen yet. We're still No. 1, and we need to stay there this week."

Fitzgerald practiced in full pads Wednesday, and is hoping to return against the Chiefs as the Cardinals look to improve to 7-0 at home. They've won 10 of 11 at University of Phoenix Stadium dating back to last season.

"We've played well at home, and this is a great opponent," Arians said. "Jamaal Charles is playing as well as any running back has in awhile. He's always an unbelievable challenge."

Charles didn't get many opportunities last week, though, rushing 10 times for 35 yards and catching four passes for 24 and a touchdown in a 29-16 loss to Denver. It turns out Charles suffered a bruised knee, but coach Andy Reid said Friday that he did not miss a snap in practice this week and will start this game.

Last week marked the second straight defeat for the Chiefs (7-5) after they had a five-game winning streak snapped Nov. 20 with a 24-20 loss to previously winless Oakland. They now sit in third place in the AFC West and are in a jumbled race for a wild-card spot.

"We didn't finish the third quarter (of the season) the way that we wanted to. We've got to go back to it and get that part fixed," coach Andy Reid said.

''We've stalled the last two weeks, so we've got to get this thing turned around and get us straightened up.''

Kansas City has dug a hole for itself the last two games. It fell behind 14-0 against the Raiders and finished with 120 yards in the first half, then had just 59 in the first 30 minutes while allowing the game's first 17 points against Denver.

Alex Smith also threw his first interception in seven games.

''Our defense was out on the field the majority of that first half. Couldn't help them out,'' Smith said. ''To start off the game with those three-and-outs like that, you're just not helping the team, and not getting into any rhythm hurt us.''

The Chiefs' defense ranks first against the pass, giving up 196.8 yards per game, but it is last in the league in rushing yards allowed per attempt at 4.93. Kansas City gave up a season-worst 214 yards on the ground to Denver.

Arizona runs just 39.7 percent of the time - 21st in the league - and had only 11 rushing attempts last week against the Falcons. Now, they'll be without their top back for this one. Andre Ellington was ruled out Friday with a hip pointer, leaving Stepfan Taylor and Marion Grice to get the carries against Kansas City.

The Chiefs are certainly hoping to be better against a Cardinals running game that averages an NFL-worst 3.08 yards per carry.

''It's disappointing,'' defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. ''But we have a couple more games to play. It's not like (the Denver game) was the last one. We still have some stuff to fix. We'll come out this next game and play better.''

Arizona will be without safety Tyrann Mathieu for at least the next few weeks after he underwent surgery to repair a fractured left thumb. The Cardinals have forced two turnovers over their last three games after forcing eight in their previous three.

"It's a sense of urgency, because (defensively) we have to play lights-out football," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We have all the confidence in the world in (Stanton), but we are still playing with a backup quarterback and that changes the dynamics of everything. As a defense, we have to do what got us here, which was taking the ball away, and as an offense, protecting the ball."

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