- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Defense has been the backbone of the Arizona Cardinals in their 11-win season. That will be even more the case when they meet the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

With the Cardinals using their third starting quarterback of the season against the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL, Arizona’s best chance would seem to be keeping it a low-scoring game.

“When Carson (Palmer) was the quarterback, we always felt we can’t let any team score,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said after practice on Thursday. “That’s our mentality week in and week out. Now that we have our third-string quarterback it’s even more at a high demand.”

Palmer went down with a season-ending knee injury, giving the job to Drew Stanton. Stanton sprained his right knee last Thursday night in St. Louis.

So Ryan Lindley will start at quarterback in what wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald called the biggest regular-season game of his career.

The quarterback issues have made Seattle an eight-point favorite on the road. With two tough defenses, oddsmakers are expecting a low-scoring game. The over-under is a measly 36 ½ points.

The stakes in the game are big.

Seattle will close in on another NFC West title with a victory. Arizona can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win.

For most of the game a month ago in Seattle, the Cardinals held the Seahawks offense in check. They held Marshawn Lynch to 39 yards rushing and sacked Russell Wilson seven times. But Wilson slipped away for 73 yards rushing, 40 of them in one play during the only touchdown drive of Seattle’s 19-3 victory.

“Russell’s a great player. You can’t help but credit him,” Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “We just have to find ways to get enough stops to win the ball game. I don’t think you can stop him. You try to slow him down a little bit and makes some plays in between.”

Seattle is a bit beat up on the offensive line.

And the Cardinals feel the defensive line is one of their strengths, anchored by Calais Campbell and Dan Williams with significant contributions from Frostee Rucker and Tommy Kelly.

“We rotate as much as we can,” Rucker said, “and it puts a lot of professionalism on the guys to study and know every position down the line, so there’s no setback when anyone goes in.”

Rucker is the unsung hero of the bunch with a career-high five sacks along with a forced fumble.

“He’s been outstanding for us,” Bowles said. “He’s not a flashy player but he’s tough, he’s gritty. He makes plays and he’s come up with some sacks lately.”

The Cardinals have 25 takeaways and lead the NFL with nine defensive touchdowns. With their offense a big question mark, they sure could use one against the Seahawks.

“Turnover and field position probably will be big in this ball game,” Bowles said. “It’s for the title. They’re coming for us, we’re coming for them, so it’s going to be critical.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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