Confident Ryan Lindley puts Cardinals in position to win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's easy to credit the Seattle Seahawks for Ryan Lindley's career performance Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

They made Lindley look like the definition of a third-string quarterback last week, casting a large shadow of doubt over him. Anything had to be better than how he played against Seattle. This week had to be an improvement.

It was, but the credit should go to Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.

The combination of Lindley having more time to prepare and Arians changing up the offense to give him a chance to succeed produced a career-high 316 yards and the first two touchdown passes of Lindley's career in a 20-17 loss to the 49ers.

Lindley looked more than serviceable Sunday as a replacement for Drew Stanton, who's the replacement for Carson Palmer. In fact, at times, Lindley looked downright good.

"I thought Ryan played extremely well for us, well enough for us to win the ball game," Arians said.

When the Cardinals watch the tape and break it down, they'll see Lindley made mistakes, especially on his three interceptions. He's still young and inexperienced. But the Lindley who played at Levi's Stadium Sunday was the Lindley the Cardinals have been talking about all week: a guy who can be deadly accurate and can sling the ball around without his velocity wavering.

To allow that guy to be seen, however, the right plays had to be called.

Arizona started the game with two drives that ate the clock and previewed what the Cardinals' offensive life would be like with Lindley.

Lindley was 4-for-4 passing on Arizona's opening drive, topped by a 20-yard flea-flicker to Michael Floyd that put Arizona up 7-0 and gave Lindley his first career touchdown pass after 228 attempts without one.

"I have to be honest with you, it hasn't weighed on me a ton, but it's kind of like, 'Let's finally get this thing over with,'" Lindley said. "It was exciting, but at the same time it was good it was early. We could get it over with and focus on the rest of the game."

Sprinkled between Lindley's completions was a commitment to the running game Arians got away from last week. The Cardinals' 29 yards in the first quarter against San Francisco were as many as they had all game last week against Seattle.

It wasn't an overwhelming number Sunday, but they balanced an offense that needed re-calibration.

For as well as Lindley played, he got the help Arians has been preaching about all week. Floyd had his best game of the season with eight catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns. John Brown had four catches for 51 yards. Darren Fells added two catches for 39 yards and Larry Fitzgerald caught two for 29.

With Stanton's status still uncertain for Saturday's wild-card game at Carolina, the Lindley who showed up Sunday will very likely be the quarterback Arizona leans on in a week.

And the offense he ran, the plays Arians called, will be the scheme the Cardinals will go with in Charlotte. It worked. It was effective. And with a week more of practice, it may just win Arizona a game.

"I felt the most comfortable I've felt out on the field since I've been in the NFL," Lindley said.

"I think it's partly with the repetition, probably mostly just getting more time, the reps. It felt better and I think we gained a little bit of confidence. You never want to say it's a moral victory or anything like that, but we gained some things that we can be confident in and we can hang our hat on going into next week."