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Peterson channels his inner Justin Verlander

Posted by Darren Urban on October 31, 2012 – 3:28 pm

Cornerback Patrick Peterson did not have a good game Monday night against the 49ers, missing a few tackles and giving up a pair of touchdowns to receiver Michael Crabtree. Peterson is a confident guy — important at the position — and said Wednesday he quickly got over the bad performance. But that doesn’t mean he is ignoring it, or dismissing it. He understands games like that can’t happen.

“At the end of the day, Cy Young winners, those guys give up home runs and have to come back, bounce back and hopefully put up a better performance than their last outing,” Peterson said. “I believe that definitely wasn’t my best game, giving up two touchdowns, but it’s all about how I bounce back. This will show what type of player I am, what kind of future I have.”

Peterson has had his ups and downs this season, but no one is questioning his ability and the Cardinals certainly aren’t questioning Peterson’s ability to become an elite cover man.

“We’ve put him on (the opponent’s) best player a lot of times this year,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Having to flip sides and match up, it’s put him in some tough spots, but he’s a competitor. He wants to be the bell cow for that position.”


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Netting 300 through the air

Posted by Darren Urban on October 31, 2012 – 10:32 am

A fan pointed out to me today a stat ESPN ran during the “Monday Night Football” telecast, saying at that point during the game the Cards had gone 46 games without 300 yards passing. That raised my eyebrow, because the Cards have had games where they have thrown the ball a lot and been successful. It didn’t sound right. But the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says “300 yards passing” is what the quarterback did, not what the team’s net passing yards were. And there’s the rub.

Last year alone, Kevin Kolb opened the season with a 309-yard game against the Panthers, and John Skelton got the Eagles (315) and the Browns (313) for 300-plus. But in the NFL, yards lost on sacks is part of the net yards equation. And that’s when it changes things. I started looking back, climbing back into the Kurt Warner era even, before the 300 yards net passing popped up, against the Seahawks on Nov. 15, 2009 — halfway through Warner’s final season. The Cards had 340 net yards passing that day, but Warner went through the rest of the schedule, seven more games, without guiding the Cards to that mark (although he did pass for 313 yards in the next-to-last game against the Rams).

The one caveat to this streak: Warner’s epic performance against the Packers in the Wild Card playoff game technically does not count, since such streaks, like all records, are measured in the regular-season only. But Warner’s awesome 29-for-33 day, for 379 yards and five touchdowns (it’s still crazy to think he had more TDs than incompletions) provided 375 net yards passing.


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Trade winds blow

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2012 – 4:58 pm

Because of that storm called Sandy, the NFL’s trading deadline was moved back to Thursday this week. That means a couple of extra days of the rumor mill for a time that already picked up some steam because it is a couple of weeks later this year than in year’s past.

Today, we know:

– The Rams’ Steven Jackson, oft talked about, is staying put.

– Ravens T Bryant McKinnie, who is no longer playing because he was supplanted by a rookie, could be had. Peter King wrote the Cardinals “I hear have some interest in him.” What that means is anyone’ guess. Even King says McKinnie would just be a band-aid, and what exactly would you give up for a band-aid?

Coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked about the trade deadline today. “Well, we’re looking,” Whisenhunt said, and that’s really standard operating procedure for any team. “We’re always looking for ways to help this team. We always have been, so if there’s something available, we’ve got until Thursday. If we had an opportunity to get somebody we think can help us, we certainly would try to do that.”

I’ve said a few times, on Twitter and in response to blog comments, I’m not sure any trade will happen. Take McKinnie for instance. Is he an upgrade? You’d think so. He was also beaten out by a rookie. He’s had all kinds of off-field issues. The Vikings let him walk away rather than deal with him anymore. If he were a free agent, a band-aid makes sense. To give up a draft pick, even a later one, to me takes some consideration, especially if he is just a band-aid that won’t be around in the future.

If there was a deal, I can’t see it being for anything but an offensive lineman. Just my opinion.

We’ll see how this plays out.

– Whiz said running back Beanie Wells “is not there yet” but is on track to return to practice next week — the soonest he can off the IR-return list — and I would assume that means right now it looks encouraging for Wells to play in his first chance to come back, which is the Nov. 25 home game against the Rams. What will be something to watch is if Beanie’s whole body is right after this time off. Not just the torn ligament in the toe but also his knee, which still looked like it left him out of sorts earlier in the season.

– There are many wondering why Whiz doesn’t play rookie QB Ryan Lindley, and he isn’t, saying John Skelton is his starter. I get questions of why that is, and I’m not going to argue that Skelton isn’t exactly playing stellar right now. But there are a lot of issues that go into the offensive problems, and QB isn’t the only one. The Cardinals and Whisenhunt have been through the rookie thing before, and it usually isn’t pretty.

I’d guess Lindley will take some snaps in a game this season. I don’t expect it to be in a start, and I’m not even saying it will be soon. If a game gets out of hand, maybe we see him. Skelton has been through some things by now, though, and Lindley hasn’t, and while I’m sure I will get “Yeah, but Skelton can’t do it anyway and we might as well get Lindley experience,” well, that’s a fine line to walk as a team and as a coach.


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Deserving of wins and losses

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2012 – 9:45 am

It was a rough Monday night for Larry Fitzgerald. Twice he came off the field dealing with eye issues, and one of those times came after a pretty violent rip of the facemask from 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver that went uncalled. After the game, he spoke at his locker, quietly. The wide receiver has made it plain he wants to win at this point in his career, and the Cards were far from that against San Francisco.

He was asked about the Cardinals’ 4-0 start, and the perception picking up steam that it was a mirage.

“I’ve been here since 2004,” Fitzgerald said. “The Arizona Cardinals have always been considered a mirage. It’s nothing that we haven’t heard and it really doesn’t affect us in this locker room. We know what we are capable of, we know the quality and character of the men and their resolve. The only way we’re going to get through this is by buckling down. It doesn’t get any easier from this point. It’s an uphill battle, but you wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Personally, I get the “mirage” question but it’s an oversimplification. I tend to believe the Bill Parcells’ line of thinking: You are what your record says you are. (Ken Whisenhunt, who once worked under Parcells, has been known to utter the same phrase.) The Cardinals deserved to win the games they did because they did. They had some breaks, of course. But they made some breaks too. They have lost the games they have lost because they played, on those Sundays, losing football. There is an ebb and flow to every season and often, every week. The Cardinals were doomed to the No. 1 pick in the draft last year during their six-game losing streak — at least, that’s all I heard — and then they were .500. No one asks if that six-game losing streak was a mirage, although it felt that way a little by the end of the season.

The Cardinals are not playing well right now, especially offensively. If that doesn’t change, the losing will continue, and there are definitely holes on this team that are hurting the end-product. We’ll see where this goes.

“If we want to get ourselves out of the predicament we find ourselves in, we’re going to have to fight our way out of it,” Fitzgerald said. “We have to do it together. We can’t fray apart, we can’t be broken. We have to be as one.”

They might as well. When it’s over, the Cardinals will be judged as a whole anyway, whatever the final record might be.


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Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2012 – 11:20 pm

Ken Whisenhunt called it a test, Monday night’s game. The grade was not good. The defeat was very methodical, but that’s the 49ers, isn’t it? The Niners’ run game gashed the Cards early, then when the Cards stiffened San Francisco went to the air, and it’s just too hard to score against that defense. Not when the Cards’ offense is looking for answers.

“We have to get tougher and more physical and get after them that way because at this point we aren’t doing a whole bunch of things successfully,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “We just have to start punching people in the mouth.”

There was absolutely no room to run. LaRod Stephens-Howling was swamped almost every time he carried the ball, and the run game was hurting more than it was helping. With a game in Lambeau this coming weekend against an offense that can score a lot more than the 49ers do, the Cards need to find a way to generate more points. Yes, that’s obvious. But that’s also the fact.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked if he was comfortable with the starting offense. Like Larry Fitzgerald said later, noting that the guys in the locker room were the ones who were going to be in it for the long haul, Whiz knows options are limited.

“I guess we don’t have a lot of choices,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re always looking to get better, but we have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities.”

So, although the trading deadline is coming up, I’m not expecting Steven Jackson or DeAngelo Williams to come walking through that door. And certainly not Kurt Warner.

– Darnell Dockett said the first thing after the loss he thought of wasn’t the four-game losing streak. It was Whisenhunt.

“We are letting our coach down,” Dockett said. “I think Coach Whiz is very fair with us, he’s a player’s coach and I feel like as players we are not giving enough back to him. I felt that more than anything after the game. He’s really been looking out for us. He works us hard but he wants us to be more mature. I felt we let him down in the Buffalo game. He asked us to give him everything we got and I felt some of us didn’t. We didn’t last week. I can see it on his face.”

– Dockett talked about players staying professional, which is why they won’t slide off the map this season, even with things looking grim. But he said he was ready to say some things that were said first by Whisenhunt.

“Coach called out a lot of things today that I wanted to say to some guys,” Dockett said. “Guys in the training room that we need on the field. We need them. Hopefully the message rings a bell.”

– That was the first time the Cards had allowed more than 21 points in a game this season. The defense did not play well, and in a game that was supposed to be a tight, defensive affair, the early missed tackles are unacceptable. But it’s not like the Niners hung 45 on them.

– That huge hit Dashon Goldson put on Early Doucet made me think of the scuffle they got into last year. Not that it had anything to do with the hit itself, but funny how those two keep meeting. Physically.

– Niners coach Jim Harbaugh obviously didn’t like the stories about quarterback Alex Smith losing confidence or Harbaugh losing confidence in him. So, after Smith completed 18 of 19 passes and was nearly perfect, Harbaugh had his shot when asked about the showing helping Smith’s confidence.

“I don’t think there was ever a question there,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s just a lot of gobble, gobble, turkey. Just gobble, gobble, gobble, turkey. That paints a pretty good picture. He’s a very confident guy.”

Alrighty then.

– Linebacker Daryl Washington had two sacks again. He becomes the first Cardinal to have two sacks in back-to-back games since Eric Swann did it back in 1999.

– The Cardinals are only the third team ever to start a season 4-0 and then lose their next four games. The first team to do that, the 1993 Philadelphia Eagles, finished the season 8-8. OK, not ideal. But the 2002 Oakland Raiders ended up going 11-5 and making it to the Super Bowl. Obviously, I’m not predicting that, but this losing streak does not have to be a death knell.

– Now, if the Cards can’t generate more offense, well, that could be the death knell. I can’t remember points being at such a premium for this team. But they were finding ways to score some points earlier this season. It can’t be that they have just forgotten. They’ll never be the Patriots or Packers, but it shouldn’t be like this and they know it. That’s why the frustration grows.

It’s late. It’s a short week, and I have a long drive home. We can talk more tomorrow.


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New starting OL with Snyder out; Heap still down

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2012 – 4:10 pm

The Cardinals will have a change in the starting offensive line for the first time this season, with right guard Adam Snyder sitting out with his quad injury, sending Rich Orhnberger into the lineup against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.” Ohrnberger did a decent job in relief of Snyder in Minnesota after Snyder got hurt.

Tight end Todd Heap (knee) also remains sidelined for a sixth straight game.

The rest of the inactive list for the Cardinals is:

– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

– CB Greg Toler (hamstring)

– WR LaRon Byrd

– LB Jamaal Westerman

– G Senio Kelemete

And in case you missed it, the roof will be open tonight as well at University of Phoenix Stadium, the first time this season.


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A vote for Cards is a vote for America

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2012 – 9:16 am

OK, maybe not quite all of America, but hey, in the spirit of the election season and in the spirit of getting some Cardinals to the Pro Bowl, it’s time to vote. You can go here to vote, but if you are truly a concerned citizen, you can do so much more.

For instance, you can sport one of the election buttons seen below. Fans can get them at tonight’s “Monday Night Football” game outside Gate 2 at the brand-new Cardinals #FanVan — and this thing is impressive in its own right — or inside the stadium at season-ticket tables. Fair warning: Supplies are limited. More will be available in coming weeks at various Cardinals events and this coming Sunday at Tom’s Tavern downtown when the Cardinals are in Green Bay to play the Packers.

 

 


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Saturday before the 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 27, 2012 – 3:30 pm

Considering the Cardinals are on a three-game losing streak, the mood was, dare I say, pretty good in the locker room this week. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald – I mean, don’t get me wrong, no one is happy with the slide. I’m not sure if it’s the juice provided when the 49ers come to town, or “Monday Night Football,” or what. Clearly, though, the Cards seem in a good place mentally. Certainly there isn’t a vibe of being overwhelmed against the Niners. Not that there would be – this is a team they face twice a season. Familiarity usually takes worry off the table.

The Cardinals say their minds are in the right place. It feels that way.

“It’s going to be one of those backyard fights where your Mom can’t get in it, no referees,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “It’ll be blow for blow. Who will break first? If you can bend, you bend to the max. They’re a physical football team. We’re a physical football team. We’ll see where it goes.”

– The 49ers have the top-ranked pass defense in the league. That doesn’t seem to bode well for getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, but then again, the Niners had a great pass defense last year and Fitz blew up against them out at University of Phoenix Stadium (7 catches, 149 yards). Quarterback John Skelton also ended up with a pretty good day, with three TD passes after coming in in relief of a concussed Kevin Kolb. The key, of course, will be keeping Skelton upright under the San Francisco pass rush. That will be a key every week with this team, obviously.

– Speaking of Skelton, he said the ankle he hurt in the opener is “not hindering me in any way.”

– And speaking of Fitz, he knows the questions are coming every time he has a game without many stats – we went through it early last year too – about getting him the ball. Fitzgerald had a pretty good stretch of four straight games of producing before Minnesota, whose defense was all about shutting him down, it seemed. Right now, Fitz is on pace for 91 catches, 1,049 yards and 7 touchdowns.

But this is a different Fitz that 2006 too.

“My pursuit is the same,” Fitzgerald said. “I work hard. I try to improve on my skills daily and be the best I can. But I want to win. Some days it might be one (catch) for four (yards) like it was in New England. I wouldn’t trade 10-for-230 and a touchdown in a loss as opposed to one-for-five in a win. I have changed that way. But I still want to be productive and help my team.”

– Remember former Cardinals guard-turned-tackle-turned-Pro Bowl guard in Dallas, Leonard Davis? Good old “Bigg,” who left as a free agent just as Whisenhunt was coming in, plays for San Francisco these days. He gets work in certain packages and is used as a sixth offensive lineman.

“He’s been fantastic, really one of my personal favorite guys to be around,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s been good on Sundays too.”

– Patrick Peterson will likely get a lot of Michael Crabtree Monday, since Crabtree is the 49ers best receiver. But the Cards’ cornerback is most looking forward to meeting Randy Moss, who plays – although not much – for the Niners.

“I can’t wait,” Peterson said. “I remember being so young, being in high school, watching him make those one-hand catches. I used to run around the neighborhood (saying) I want to ‘Moss’ somebody.”

– Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling will try to follow up his first 100-yard game with another productive outing, something the Cards need. Stephens-Howling, who is playing under a one-year tender offer after restricted free agency, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. General manager Rod Graves said in training camp the Cardinals would like to sign Stephens-Howling to an extension, but thus far talks have been slow.

Stephens-Howling said he’s doing the best he can to forget about it but “you’re human.”

“We just wish something could get done,” the Hyphen said. “I want to stay a Cardinal. But I have to play on Monday, so that’s my focus.”

– Stephens-Howling has enjoyed getting to do a little more at running back with the injuries to Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, and acknowledged his role was “something else we’d have to talk about.”

But “I love playing my role, and whatever they ask me to do I’m going to do,” he said. “But I’m taking it one game at a time, one week at a time. I look at the game plan, see what (packages) I am in for, and go from there. And that’s what I’m going to put my heart into.”

– So far, Peterson’s follow-up to his electrifying rookie season returning punts has been anything but. His long return is 26 yards and he has averaged only 8.8 yards a return as teams have clearly made preventing him from breaking one a priority. Against the Vikings, Chris Kluwe kept kicking high punts short and Peterson had to scramble just to catch them.

“Now teams are scheming, they kind of want to hand pick when they’ll give me the opportunity to return the ball,” Peterson said. “I have to continue being patient.”

– This is a big one. Obviously. If the Cardinals have shown anything over the past couple years, it’s that they are very tough at home. They need to make that matter Monday.


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Rough road for Massie

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2012 – 3:45 pm

There is no other way to describe right tackle Bobby Massie’s rookie season other than rough.

That’s one of the words coach Ken Whisenhunt used. It’s the word Massie used. It’s the reason Whisenhunt is usually wary of playing rookies from the get-go.

“It’s going through struggles,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s basically what it is. You can see only so much in practice and, with the rules now, even in training camp. A lot of times you don’t see (then) what you see in-season. In terms of stunts, techniques. How do you simulate a spin move by the Minnesota defensive end, because that guy does it really well? Dwight Freeney, you can practice (for him) all you want, but you’re only going to see that in games against certain players. He’s going through some tough times.

“That’s why when people say, ‘Play the rookie,’ well, I understand that. But you have to understand you will go through some growing pains with them.”

Massie, according to profootballfocus.com, has already allowed double-digit sacks. They aren’t all him — one sack he “allowed” against the Vikings came after Brian Robison went well around the Massie block and quarterback John Skelton needed to get the ball out sooner — but he knows he isn’t playing like he’d like or needs to be. He doesn’t consider much how it could have been different had he been able to sit and learn this season.

“I don’t really have time to think about that,” Massie said. “If the circumstances would have been right, it would have been nice. But I’ve gotta play. Can’t think about that.”

Whisenhunt said that with some rookies, there is a fear of lost confidence when things aren’t going well. He isn’t worried about that with Massie, however, and Massie said it isn’t a problem.

“I still feel confident, but things aren’t going the way I’m used to them going,” Massie said. “I’m not dominating like I was last year, so it’s rough. But I haven’t lost confidence. This game ain’t easy, man, so I just have to keep getting better.”

Whisenhunt said the sacks the Cards have allowed are always going to be blamed on the offensive line and “that’s glossing it over,” he said. Other things are involved. “Regardless of the statistics, we haven’t been good enough in that area,” Whisenhunt said. “We have to play better. We’ve been trying to do that.”

– Whisenhunt continues to be optimistic safety Kerry Rhodes will be able to play Monday, and sounded the same when it came to special teams captains fullback Anthony Sherman and linebacker Reggie Walker. He sounded less so about guard Adam Snyder, but the former 49er “wants to play,” Whisenhunt said.


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A salute to Roberts’ roots

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2012 – 12:32 pm

Wide receiver Andre Roberts has already scored more touchdowns this season in seven games — five – than he had total in his first two seasons — four. I’m not sure he saw such an outburst coming, but he was ready for it. Right before the season, he started contemplating a post-touchdown celebration, although it wasn’t really a celebration. A salute “just came to me,” Roberts said, and it made sense, because Roberts attended the military school The Citadel in South Carolina.

“I remember where I came from,” Roberts said. “Going to The Citadel, I learned to work hard and be disciplined. Hard work always pays off. If it wasn’t for The Citadel, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Which, more often than the past, includes trips to the end zone. Roberts already has 29 receptions for 389 yards too, and has developed into the kind of receiver the Cards were counting on when they drafted him. He’s able to block, he’s a smart player, he’s got a pair of 100-yard games already, and as he has proven, he can make the important plays, like scoring.

“I’ve already got five,” Roberts said. “That works for me.”


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