TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona's Ryan Lindley says he's ready for the challenge of starting in a playoff game after an at least somewhat successful performance in the regular-season finale.
And since Stanton had his injured knee scoped just last Wednesday, such a comeback seems improbable, even if Arians won't say so.
That leaves the job to Lindley, who completed 23 of 39 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted three times in Sunday's 20-17 loss at San Francisco.
''Guys made catches for him,'' Arians said. ''That's what we talked about. No matter who is playing quarterback, you put it out there, somebody's got to make a play. And they're all capable of making whatever play.''
Lindley wasn't on the Arizona roster this season until he was signed off the San Diego practice squad after Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Now he's on the brink of starting at quarterback in a playoff game for an Arizona team that released him at the end of the preseason.
Asked what he would have said six weeks ago if he was told that would be the case, Lindley said, ''I would probably have told you that was a dream, but I'm excited now that it's a reality.''
Arians said that the players gained confidence in Lindley based on his play against San Francisco, particularly in the first half, when he threw for 260 yards.
''That's as good a half of football as we've had anybody play quarterback this year,'' Arians said.
Lindley said added preparation was the main reason he was able to play so much better than he did in a blowout loss at Seattle the previous week.
''I think that if you know what you're doing, you stay within the game,'' he said. ''You kind of just let it flow the way it will and you feel more comfortable.''
Largely because of their issues at quarterback, the Cardinals (11-5) are 5 1/2-point underdogs against the Panthers (7-8-1), who won the NFC South despite a losing record.
Lindley had an NFL-record 229 pass attempts without a touchdown before he threw a 20-yarder to Michael Floyd on a flea-flicker play on Arizona's opening possession in San Francisco.
''It was good to get the monkey off my back a little bit,'' he said, ''but I'm glad I got it out of the way in the beginning and just finished up the game and let it roll.''
Looking back, Lindley said, the streak without a TD was ''slightly'' bothering him.
''In a sense, it's like, `When am I finally going to get one?''' he said. ''The biggest thing this week is that I really just said, `Calm down. It's going to come when it comes.'''
The second touchdown pass also went to Floyd, who had eight catches for 159 yards in easily his best game of the season.
Lindley said the San Francisco game taught him to ''just to go out there and have fun.''
''Just play with confidence,'' he said. ''One thing that (quarterbacks coach) Freddie (Kitchens) told me jokingly during the game was, `It's fun and easy when you know what you're doing.' It's funny how simple, yet complex, the game is in the NFL. If you do everything you can to prepare, and you know what you're doing and you're confident, then you can go out there and have fun.''
Not many teams can succeed in the playoffs with a third-string quarterback, but Arians said that's not the way the Cardinals look at it.
''We don't look at it as a team with a third-string quarterback, it's our starting quarterback,'' he said. ''He's a Cardinal so we'd look for the same level of efficience that we'd see if Carson or Drew were out there. I think last week gave everybody, defensively and offensively, more confidence that they're ready to go this week.''
Notes: The Cardinals moved their schedule up a day and will travel to Charlotte on Thursday, then have a walk-through practice on Friday. ... Inside linebacker Larry Foote proudly sported a University of Michigan T-shirt in the locker room, joking that he'd picked Jim Harbaugh up at the airport the previous day.
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