Friday before the Panthers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2009 – 5:06 pm

Funny how the week seems to fly by when the team is playing well and the storylines are basically positive. And there’s no plane to climb aboard this week. OK, maybe it’s not funny. Just pleasant.

But enough chit-chat. I have a ton of stuff I haven’t been able to notebook/blog until now. So let’s get to it:

— The last time the Panthers came to Arizona, it was quite the result, if you don’t remember. It was 2007, and WarnerHurtCarolinaBlogMatt Leinart had just broken his collarbone the week before. The Cards wanted to sign Vinny Testaverde to back up Kurt Warner, but the Panthers, looking for a replacement for the injured Jake Delhomme, convinced Testaverde to go there instead – and he started despite being in Carolina all of three practices. The Cards signed Tim Rattay, and when Warner badly hurt his left elbow (pictured) on a Julius Peppers’ sack early in the game, Rattay – who also only had three practices – was forced to play. Eventually, Carolina pulled away late in a 25-10 win, a game the Cards always regretted after finishing 8-8.

— To think, Warner began his current 37-game starting streak that day and kept it up the very next week even though his elbow was scrambled and he had to play with a brace. That told me and a lot of people about Warner’s toughness (And no, before you all send e-mails or comments that I’m jinxing Warner, no I’m not. That’s simply a silly thought).

— Speaking of Warner, keeping him clean is the key, right? If he’s sacked two times or less, the Cards are 4-0 this season. More than twice, 0-2. For his career, those numbers are similar: 46-22 when sacked twice or less, 15-24 when sacked at least three times. His passing stats are also much better in the former than the latter. Yes, I know it’s kind of a “duh” stat. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pointed out.

— Whisenhunt has been leaning toward taking the ball if the Cards win the toss this season rather than deferring. “How many times have we scored on the opening drive?” Whisenhunt said. “We would have had (Sunday) night too.” I agree. If Tim Hightower hadn’t fumbled in New York, I have no doubt the Cards would have gotten at least three points there.

— The last time the Cardinals (4-2 going into the Panthers’ game) started 5-2 in a season was 1976, when they were actually 5-1. They eventually ran their record to 8-2 before finishing the 14-game season with a 10-4 mark.

— One man who doesn’t get mentioned much is backup safety/special teamer Matt Ware, who was in a serious fight in training camp with two others – Aaron Francisco and Keith Lewis – for one roster spot. Whisenhunt specifically talked about him today, noting it was Ware who caused the fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw in the Giants’ game. “The arrow is going up with him,” Whisenhunt said.

— No, the Cardinals aren’t going to wear white-on-white this weekend, because they didn’t request it in the offseason (the last home game was planned because of the pink for breast cancer awareness). Had Whisenhunt been given a choice, knowing the Cards are 4-0 this season wearing white jerseys and knowing how superstitious he is, would he have? Heck yeah. “You know I’m aware of it, that’s for sure,” Whisenhunt said.

— A couple fans have asked me about dropped passes and the Cards. The bottom line, there haven’t been many, not officially. The Cardinals have been charged with only 10 dropped passes out of 175 catchable balls, and their 5.7 percentage is sixth-best in the NFL (The Bears, at 3.5 percent, are first; the Browns, at 17.3 percent drops, are last). Fullback Dan Kreider has two of the drops; running back Tim Hightower three. Fitz has been charged with one drop in 63 passes targeted his way. Anquan Boldin has two in 51 targets, Steve Breaston none in 32 and Jerheme Urban none in 23.

— I do say, in light of the fines announced today by the NFL, I did enjoy Darnell Dockett’s response to the Ahmad Bradshaw fine for hitting Dockett.

— The Cards could make an impact with a sudden score, given that the Panthers have had trouble in that area. Carolina, in six games, has given up five such touchdowns – one kickoff return, one punt return, one fumble return and two interception returns.

— I think Fitz could be due for a big game. Sure, the Panthers lead the league in pass defense, but they are dead last in the NFL in pass attempts against. That tends to help your yardage average. Teams run the ball against Carolina (Beanie?) and don’t need to pass as much. The Cards, with Hightower and Edgerrin James, had 145 yards rushing in the playoff game in Carolina. And something tells me that’s going to free Fitz deep.

— Speaking of Fitz, if you haven’t caught it already, Fox Sports Arizona is airing one more time his story on an episode of VIZIO’s Pro Football PROfiles tonight at 11 p.m.

— Finally, it’ll be interesting to see what the Panthers do to free up Steve Smith, who’s been a non-factor. The Pro Bowl receiver used to always torch the Cards, all the way up until the playoff game. “He’s got that big-guy mentality,” Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “He doesn’t fear anything.”

That’s probably true. But the Cards’ defense is playing so well right now. They handled Smith in the playoffs. Their run defense is prepared for DeAngelo Williams. Here’s hoping for another quick week around the Tempe office come Monday morning.


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A sellout and Giants’ fine fallout UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2009 – 1:24 pm

The Cardinals’ game Sunday is officially sold out, meaning it will air on local TV (Fox) and not be blacked out. There are still a handful of various tickets available, though, so don’t hesitate to look into it if you want to attend.

But some final news from the Giants’ game. Many were wondering if there would be any fines levied from the game. Yes there were. Safety Antrel Rolle was fined $7,500 for his hit on TE Kevin Boss (which was not flagged) for unnecessarily striking a defenseless receiver. Giants defensive back Michael Johnson was fined $5,000 for striking Cards QB Kurt Warner in the head area (which also didn’t get flagged and left Warner very angry at the time). Two fines were handed out for penalties that were called: $5,000 each to Cardinals tackle Levi Brown for his chop block and to Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw for his punch to the head area of defensive end Darnell Dockett.

UPDATE: For those wanting clarification on the Rolle fine, this from the NFL: “His actions violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8(k) of the NFL Official Playing Rules, which states that it is unnecessary roughness ‘if the initial force of the contact by a defender’s helmet, forearm or shoulder is to the head or neck area of a defenseless receiver who is catching or attempting to catch a pass.’ ”  

The rule was new player safety rule just approved by teams at the NFL meetings last March. It’s not just helmet-to-helmet that’s illegal. It includes any shoulder- or forearm-to-head hits on defenseless receivers as well.

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Rolle returns to practice

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2009 – 12:32 pm

Safety Antrel Rolle, looking remarkably spry considering he didn’t practice the past two days because of a sore foot, was back on Friday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the key will be to see how the foot responds tomorrow after Rolle worked on it, but if I had to guess, I’d guess Rolle will be able to play. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (ankle) looks better, Whisenhunt said, even though he remains limited, so I’d expect Boldin to play too. Tight end Stephen Spach (ankle) continues to improve, although his availability — given how long he has been out — is more of an issue.

The only harsh news comes from the practice squad, where defensive lineman Keilen Dykes tore a bicep this week and will have to undergo surgery Tuesday to get it fixed. Otherwise, the Cards will have their roster available — CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie continued to not miss a beat after hurting his ankle as well.

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McFadden’s huddle

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2009 – 9:43 am

At the end of the Giants’ game, cornerback Bryant McFadden — who, along with hurting safety Antrel Rolle, held the secondary together late through a host of injuries — brought together the defense on the sideline and huddled, holding hands on one knee as the offense ran out the clock.

(It was important the defense was off the field too. Rolle, whose sore foot was bad enough that he admitted he would have come out if teammates Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Adrian Wilson weren’t already out, said his thoughts after his game-clinching interception were: “Get this ball and get this game over with and get to the bus, because it was painful. I was hurting.”)

McFadden said his message for his teammates was simple. “I just felt like we, as a unit, needed to give thanks to the Man above,” McFadden said. “The game we play, it’s a blessing to be able to do it. And to be a part of this unit we have … we don’t want to take it for granted. We played outstanding, and nobody believed we would except the guys in this building.”

That said, when the huddle broke, the Cardinals also made sure they delivered a message to the Giants’ fans who had not held back from their verbal slings and arrows through the game. “That’s one of the best situations,” McFadden said. “They were on us the whole game. We just wanted to be patient. ‘Be patient, wait, wait, wait … finally! Now we can say something!’ That was a great feeling right there, to say something and (the fans) just put their heads down and quietly walked away.”


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Could NBC flex the Cards?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2009 – 5:44 pm

Here’s one benefit of the Cards’ big win on “Sunday Night Football” in New York: It could earn them another NBC appearance.

Right now, NBC doesn’t have the Vikings on their schedule and are missing out on the Brett Favre gravy train (however irritating that may sound to some). The Vikings come to University of Phoenix Stadium Dec. 6 in what could be a perfect opportunity to flex out of the current Patriots-Dolphins game that night (NBC can’t start flexing games until the week of Nov. 22). Now, the Dolphins could get hot and that AFC game could still be attractive. Or the Vikings — or Cards — could hit a bump and not look as good by then. But it is possible. Fox and CBS can “protect” games from being flexed, but those week-by-week choices have already been made and Fox didn’t touch Cardinals-Vikings.

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Blackout deadline extended

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2009 – 1:52 pm

The Cardinals, with about 1,000 tickets remaining, have received a extension to the blackout deadline for Sunday’s game. That means they have until 2:15 p.m. tomorrow to sell the game out and still have it televised locally.

That was the biggest news from practice. Tight end Stephen Spach (ankle) and defensive end Kenny Iwebema (knee) each returned to limited work in the only change to the injury report. Safety Antrel Rolle, dealing with a combination of a sprained arch and Plantar fasciitis, sat out for a second straight day. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie practiced full again.

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Tickets and other odds/ends

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2009 – 9:35 am

I’ve had a few questions about the ticket situation and a possible blackout. There are approximately 1,500 tickets remaining for Sunday’s game against Carolina. The blackout deadline is 2:15 p.m. today, but if the Cards are close — and they already are — they can always ask for a 24-hour extension. My gut is still that the game sells out, and if you’re not sure if you want to go, tickets are there, so go get some.

Some other stuff:

— The Big Red Rage is tonight, and Bertrand Berry’s guest is defensive lineman Alan Branch, who notched the first two sacks of his career on Sunday night. As usual, it’s at 6 p.m. at Majerle’s Sports Grill at Chandler Fashion Center. If you can’t make it, it airs live on Sports 620 KTAR.

— Kurt Warner’s First Things First foundation is spearheading another athletic ball drive for U.S. troops overseas. The troops not only have something to do on their downtime, but they give out the athletic equipment as a form of friendly communication to the locals where they are serving. Fans can bring new or gently-used sports equipment to the game against the Panthers Sunday or other participating outlets. More info — including drop-off points — can be found on The ball drive runs through Nov. 8.

Pro Bowl balloting has begun, so anyone interested can vote for their favorite players, which hopefully include many Cardinals.


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DRC practices, Rolle doesn’t

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2009 – 2:04 pm

The Cards had three players unable to practice today, but none of them were cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who sprained his ankle Sunday. DRC admitted he was a little surprised he has gotten that much better that fast — he estimated himself at 85 percent — and he actually practiced fully. Safety Antrel Rolle gutted out a sore foot Sunday and was resting Wednesday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is hopeful Rolle’s rest will help him later in the week. Defensive end Kenny Iwebema (knee) also sat out — it isn’t considered serious — as did tight end Stephen Spach (ankle).

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (ankle) remained limited.

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Cards will face Delhomme

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2009 – 11:08 am

Panthers coach John Fox just said on the conference call with Arizona reporters that struggling veteran Jake Delhomme — the man who had six turnovers against the Cards in the playoffs last year — will start at quarterback for Carolina Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. It’s not really a surprise, not when Matt Moore is the backup. But it certainly will bring up some ugly storylines for both Delhomme and the Panthers, given that playoff day.

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To players, Fitz most dangerous

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2009 – 10:01 am

In the latest Sports Illustrated players poll — in questioning conducted just after the regular season started this year — Larry Fitzgerald was named the league’s most dangerous receiver, beating out the Patriots’ Randy Moss by a healthy margin. And Anquan Boldin was seventh in the balloting, in which you couldn’t vote for a teammate. And to think, Fitz’s big plays are down this year. If the Cards’ passing game evolves to where it was a season ago and the explosive running of Beanie Wells is added in and the Cards’ defense continues playing at its already high level …




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