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A shutout and Giants aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2017 – 7:54 pm

I’ve covered the Cardinals for a long time, and I’ve seen them shut out a couple of (ugly) times. But I’ve never seen them pitch a shutout before Sunday – the first time the franchise has done it since 1992 and only the second time it’s happened since the team moved to Arizona in 1988.

No, the Giants aren’t very good and have lost all of their offensive stars, but it means something that the Cardinals still have that kind of consistent performance. It’s hard not to play what-if, the way this defense is performing. Win in Washington, like they probably should have, and beat the Tom Savage-Texans, like they probably should have, and next week in Seattle is much different.

But instead, the Cardinals will play spoiler, and while that isn’t ideal, it means something. If the Cards can knock the Seahawks out of the postseason, that would mean something.

— I truly believe that Larry Fitzgerald is undecided about playing next year. Actually, I think it’s not just about what he wants to do but also what this team looks like – who is coach, who is quarterback – that will play a factor. Fitz has not told me this. But it is logical.

Regardless, what a showing to close out 2017 at home Sunday. Fitz is fun to watch. Always has been. That the fun has not fallen off as he plays at age 34 – he’s the Cardinals’ best playmaker, for goodness sake – says so much about how good he really is.

— Chandler Jones didn’t get a sack, so he’ll need to do some work against Russell Wilson to get the franchise record for a season. He remains at 15, and Simeon Rice has the record at 16½. Two things on that: One, getting two sacks on Wilson –given his line and his penchant for running around in the pocket – is realistic. Also, Jones had another good pass-rushing game Sunday. He didn’t get a sack, but Pro Football Focus had him with four pressures of Eli Manning.

— The Cardinals rarely over the recent past have had teams miss field goals against them. It’s only happened twice this season. But one was Sunday, a 33-yarder from Aldrick Rosas that obviously allowed the shutout to happen. It doesn’t take away from the Cards’ excellent performance, but sometimes, you need a little luck to blank an NFL team.

— Back to Fitz. I’ve seen him throw a ton of passes over the years, in practice, in OTAs, messing around on the sideline. I’m not talk about plays, per se, but chucking the ball 40 yards on an accurate line back to one of the equipment guys after a practice catch, for instance. I’ve always felt they should try that once in a while. It doesn’t help that he’s not a threat as a runner out of the backfield, but still. The play was supposed to be a bomb to J.J. Nelson, but Nelson got knocked down and Jaron Brown instead got the 21-yard catch.

“I was hoping I was going to be able to throw it deeper, but I had to take what the defense gives me,” Fitzgerald said with a smile. “That’s what I was taught.”

Said QB Drew Stanton, “He’s coming for my job probably.”

— I thought Stanton was solid. He did exactly what Arians was hoping he would do – got them in the end zone, got them a win. The one time Arians has lost in Seattle since coming to Arizona, Stanton was the starting quarterback when Carson Palmer was hurt in 2014. Stanton gets a chance to redeem that next week.

— More (happy) Fitz: He noted that Jaron Brown, with two catches (putting Brown at 30 receptions) earned a $500,000 contract incentive. (Editor’s note: I have not confirmed this is true, but Fitz tends to be accurate when it comes to money.) “I made him an extra $500,000, so I’m happy for him and his family,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m glad I could be a part of that. Merry Christmas, Jaron!”

— Deone Bucannon looked great, and that’s important. You want to see him continue to come back from the ankle surgery that clearly set him back. Robert Nkemdiche too, getting involved, will hopefully be a spark to get him going into next season. Oh, and the signing of veteran safety Antoine Bethea has been a good one. Five picks? And he’s done a solid job all year.

— I could go on but I won’t. It’s Christmas Eve. Hopefully you’re reading this, but I’ve got a family to get home to. Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas to all.


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Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »


22 Responses to “A shutout and Giants aftermath”

  1. By Matt on Dec 24, 2017 | Reply

    Darren:

    What’s going on with Reddick? Is Patrick alright?

  2. By Darren Urban on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Matt —

    RE: Injuries

    I know this is delayed, but both are fine.

  3. By Scott H on Dec 24, 2017 | Reply

    Darren –

    Wasn’t the 1992 shut-out also against the Giants?? For some reason, my memory is telling me it was….

    Anyone?

  4. By Darren Urban on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: shutout

    Yes. http://www.azcardinals.com/news-and-events/article-2/Cardinals-Notch-First-Shutout-Since-1992/e8d2eada-a580-41df-8e52-fc476e378826

  5. By Steve on Dec 24, 2017 | Reply

    Merry Christmas Darren, thanks for putting up with all our guff and continuing to do a great job covering this team!

  6. By Scott H on Dec 24, 2017 | Reply

    Darren –

    Has Fitz ever thrown a pass in a game before??? If he did, I can’t remember it.

    That’s impressive that he was able to check down to a secondary receiver when his primary target fell down. Also, scrambling AND throwing on the run! Not bad for an old dog!

  7. By Darren Urban on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: Fitz passes

    All right here: http://www.azcardinals.com/news-and-events/article-2/Cardinals-Prepare-For-%E2%80%9CPlayoff%E2%80%9D-Game-In-Seattle/19935cd2-4a32-4c8b-b4d9-65397dc26644

  8. By Dr. G. on Dec 24, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks, Darren, for doing the wrap…this one had to be fun the way things turned out on the field today. I think we can be optimistic going into 2018 with the core of guys we have, esp on D.

    Intuition…Fitz can’t leave yet…he’ll be bok!

    Merry Christmas to you, your family, and Cards Staff…

  9. By georgiebird on Dec 24, 2017 | Reply

    Darren,
    Nice wrap on the game and all the Larry stuff.
    Merry Christmas to you

  10. By nate on Dec 24, 2017 | Reply

    Gotta love a win for X-Mas.

    Happy holidays Darren

  11. By mitchaz on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    What Might Have Been—The Ghost of Christmas Past

    Let the spirit take us back to the year 2003. Carson Palmer is taken #1 by the Bengals. When it is time for the Cardinals to pick at #6, suddenly we are reminded that there has been a trade with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have given the Cardinals the #17, #18 and #54 picks in exchange for the #6, #37 and #102 picks. The Saints at #6 select Jonathan Sullivan, DT, Georgia. The Cardinals’ three picks are: #17. Bryant Johnson, WR, Penn. St.; #18 Calvin Pace, DE, Wake Forest; #54 Anquan Boldin, WR, Florida St.

    Meanwhile, with the #7 pick, there is sudden mayhem. The Vikings have not submitted their pick in on time…so the Jaguars rush to the podium and select QB Byron Leftwich of Marshall. Leftwich goes on to record a 24-20 record in his 4 years in Jacksonville with a 51-36 TD/INT ratio.

    Bryant Johnson and Calvin Pace struggle mightily for the Cardinals—but Anquan Boldin becomes an immediate star by amassing 217 versus the Lions in his first start and winning the 2003 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

    2003 is the last year in Arizona for head coach Dave McGinnis, the Ol’ Fuzziwig of coaches—the nicest and most passionate boss imaginable. His starting QB journeyman Jeff Blake goes 3-10 on the season and the QB reins are handed over to 2002 3rd round QB Josh McCown. McCown loses his first two games, but the spirit shows us McCown’s last second TD pass versus the Vikings to Nathan Poole in the right corner of the end zone which knocks the Vikings out of the playoffs and sends Coach McGinnis out with a stunning win…and…in the process…which knocks the Cardinals out of the #1 spot in the 2004 NFL Draft.

    In comes old Minnesota HC Denny Green who promises a Top 5 offense (with a pie chart of his past offenses). And while McCown delivered some last second heroics versus the Vikings, all the pundits and scouts agree that the Cardinals need to use their #3 pick to draft a franchise QB.

    Had the Cardinals not beaten the Vikings, they would have been able to draft QB Eli Manning with the #1 pick. The Raiders at #2 opt to take T Robert Gallery of Iowa. So now the Cardinals at #3 are right in line to select QB Philip Rivers. However, despite using their #17 and #54 picks in the 2003 draft on WRs and having the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in WR Anquan Boldin, Denny Green selects his old Minny water boy WR Larry Fitzgerald.

    Then—all mayhem ensues when it is reported that Eli Manning and the Manning family will not accept going to the Chargers—and in comes the Giants at #4, who select Rivers and swap him for Manning. Could the Cardinals have done that at #3? Would the Mannings have accepted the Cardinals? Would it all have been moot of the Cardinals had taken QB Byron Leftwich with the #6 pick in the 2003 draft? Or—could the Cardinals have taken their chances at #3 in 2004 with another 1st Team All-MAC QB named Ben Roethlisberger?

    Regardless—while Denny Green’s tenure in Arizona was a relatively short and unfulfilled one in Arizona, the spirit shows us how WR Larry Fitzgerald becomes the face of the Cardinals’ franchise—how despite going through myriads of QBs , catching TDs from 17 of them along the way—how he catches fire with QB Kurt Warner in 2008 and 2009, catching 3 TDs in the NFC Championship Game in 2008, catching 2 TDs in Super Bowl XLIII, the second of which he races 64 yards with to give the Cardinals a 23-20 lead with a little over 2 minutes left in the game, alas only to be beaten out on a pass from Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone…a play called in by Steelers’ OC Bruce Arians…

    And Fitzgerald strikes like lightning once again in the 2015 playoffs with Arians now his HC, when in OT Fitz takes a scrambling Carson Palmer’s out pass and races 75 yards around tacklers to the Packers’ 5 yard line and scores right up the middle on the next play on a five yard shovel pass—to cement his legacy as the most prolific WR in the history of the NFL playoffs.

    We watch again as Fitzgerald at age 33 leads the NFL in receptions in 2016 with 107. Then we watch in 2017 as he moves to 3rd place all-time in receiving yards and 2nd all-time in receptions.

    What Is—The Ghost of Christmas Present

    With the Cardinals officially eliminated from the 2017 playoffs and with Bruce Arians handing the QB reins from Blaine Gabbert back over to Drew Stanton—the final home game of the year versus the 2-12 Giants offered little in the way of meaningful competition—that is until it became clear from the outset that Larry Fitzgerald had once again come to play like it was the first round of the playoffs.

    On the second offensive snap, Stanton turned and fired the ball over the middle to Fitzgerald who made a sure handed (as always) catch and it was game on. On the team’s first scoring drive, Fitzgerald caught passes of 19, 20 and 3 yards to set up Phil Dawson’s FG.

    In the second quarter, Fitzgerald threw a nifty 21 yard completion to WR Jaron Brown off a flea flicker, which after the game Fitz was happy to say that it kicked in Brown’s $500K 30 catch incentive.

    A series later, Fitzgerald broke the Cardinals’ 11 quarter TD drought, when he took a 13 yard Stanton pass to the house. No huge celebration from Fitz, as always. But he did keep the football and cradle it with him to the sidelines.

    On Stanton’s other TD to John Brown, Fitz was ecstatic for his oft-injured teammate and tackled him to the turf before other teammate started lifting him off the ground.

    When the inspired defense, led by DE Chandler Jones (4 QB pressures), S Antione Bethea (2 ints.), S Budda Baker (13 tackles); ILB Karlos Dansby (10 tackles) and ILB Deone Bucannon (8 tackles), kept forcing turnovers and 3 and outs, Fitz was the first to celebrate with them as they ran off the field—and was the first to go wild with them when they recorded the Cardinals’ first shutout in 15 years—only the second shutout in Arizona Cardinals’ history.

    After the wonderful 23-0 win, when asked by the media whether Fitz was soaking everything in if indeed this was his last game in Arizona before the home fans—Fitz said what he always says—“my focus is to always be in the moment. That’s the way I always play the game.”

    What’s To Come—The Ghost of Christmas Future

    Before yesterday’s game, Ian Rappaport was reporting some speculation that if HC Bruce Arians retires the Cardinals are showing early interest in Texans’ HC Bill O’Brien and Eagles’ QBC John DeFilippo.

    Arians has not stated whether he intends to return or retire. Rappaport mentioned that BA had been discussing changes to his staff with the FO (an indication that he wants to return) and also that BA has hired a media agent in case he wants to direct his attention to broadcasting.

    Meanwhile, the futures of WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Carson Palmer are very uncertain at this point. Fitz has said that wants to take some time to figure everything out—which likely means he wants to see what the Cardinals’ plans are moving forward.

    The one harrowing question about the 2018 NFL Draft is how close they came in the 2017 to drafting their much needed QBOF—losing out on the 2 QBs they loved, Pat Mahomes to the Chiefs via trade, and then agonizingly right in the spot one pick ahead of them, DeSean Watson to the Texans via trade. While it was nice last year to see the Cardinals win their last two games versus the Seahawks and the Rams—unfortunately that momentum did not carry over into this season—and it likely cost the Cardinals Mahomes or Watson (one of whom could have been the starter yesterday). Winning yesterday knocked the Cardinals further away from the top 10 which may behoove them to trade up for the QBOF they want—which will cost them valuable picks, if they can find a willing trade partner.

    Unfortunately, the NFL rewards losing. Just as the Colts tanked for a year to be able to go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck…the Giants are now going to be able to draft Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen to succeed Eli Manning. Ironically, just as Eli did—Rosen has already made it clear that he does not want to play for the Browns.

    Recently there have ben reports that the Cardinals were interested in talking with Sean McVay about the HC position last year if BA had to retire due to health issues. McVay is looking like a shoe-in for NFL Coach of the Year. The Rams look like they are going to be Super Bowl contenders for years to come. In addition to having a superb play caller in McVay, they have two of the top coordinators in the NFL in DC Wade Phillips and STC John Fassel.

    Meanwhile in SF, QB Jimmy Garoppolo is the hottest QB in the NFL and is now 4-0 with the once hapless 49ers and 6-0 for his career.

    This week the Cardinals travel up to Seattle to play the Seahawks and perennial superstar QB Russell Wilson in a meaningful game for them, as, thanks to their 21-12 road victory over the Cowboys yesterday, they are still in the playoff hunt. To ensure the relevance of the game, the NFL has moved the start of the Falcons vs. Panthers game to 4:25. And to ensure added drama and billboard attention, BA told his players after the game to go get ready for their “home game” in Seattle so that they could “go up there and kick their a*ses.”

    Well, in a year where it has been difficult to know which Cardinals’ team will show up from week to week—one thing is certain—Larry Fitzgerald will show up to once again leave everything he has on the field. He will do what he always does—he will live and relish in the moment.

    Wishing all of you the happiest and merriest of holidays,

    Mitch

  12. By KB of CG on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Merry Christmas Darren…you do good work sir and it is appreciated…thank you

  13. By Scott H on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Darren –

    Never mind my question above about the 1992 shut-out. I was going on memory there at the time of the question but the story elsewhere on the team site clarified the answer.

    Happy Holidays to you, sir! Hope you and yours are happy and healthy.

  14. By Darren Urban on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: Answers

    Sorry, I saw this last. Happy holidays to you too.

  15. By Scott H on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    As I comment repeatedly about how this team needs to rebuild, needs to get younger, needs to move on from so many of the veteran players that are here right now, let me name a few vets I think we SHOULD hold onto for the immediate future…

    Bethea, Tramon Williams, Andy Lee, and maybe Boone. Boone would probably be fine for at least 2018 and we need so much help / up-grading along that O-line, that a sturdy – and talented – veteran would certainly be a welcome presence. We just have to be careful about riding some of these veteran trains too long as we’ve done with others in recent years.

    Based on how he played when he was able to play, I would definitely add Branch to this list, but…..health-wise, he’s just not someone we can count on. Shame.

    As un-likely as it would have seemed, Williams totally saved our collective ass at CB when it became clear ( pretty much immediately….and, gee, what a surprise, huh? ) that Bethel couldn’t play and we had nothing else to fall back on ( and, BTW, is Brandon Williams officially listed as a missing person at this point? ). Can’t even believe I’m saying it ( and others have, too ) but I’m hoping he stays. The way this organization evaluates talent at the CB position…..well, do I even have to finish that thought? Williams is no answer for the CB position beyond 2018, but FOR 2018, he could hold down the fort on the other side while you address glaring needs at other positions. We could do a lot worse. Let’s face it – we HAVE done a lot worse.

    And Lee restored dependability and performance to at least ONE aspect of our ST’s that was lacking since the day Zastudil last played for this team. What a relief. Lee was a pleasure to have here. And one can only hope the organization will recognize that and retain him. Again, one less position to worry about while we focus attention on the needs we have just about everywhere else.

    Oh, and speaking of vets……there’s that Fitzgerald guy…..let’s hope he plays on as well. I’m pretty sure we can find a place for him. Shouldn’t be too hard, huh? I swear, we should have had Larry sign an agreement that stipulated he had to keep playing until another WR on this team out-performed him. Good for him he didn’t. He’d be playing until he was 40! Which, BTW, he probably could.

  16. By Richard S on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Bethea seems to be in the right spot a lot. I wonder how he does it. I hope he’s back next year.

  17. By Joachim on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Simply a fun exercise:

    2018

    QB: Baker Mayfield (drafted)
    RB: David Johnson
    WR: Davante Adams (signed from GB)
    WR: Dante Pettis (drafted)
    SWR: Larry Fitzgerald
    TE: Ricky Seals-Jones
    LT: D.J. Humphries
    LG: Andrew Norwell (signed from CAR)
    C: Evan Boehm
    RG: Joe Berger (signed from MIN)
    RT: Orlando Brown (drafted)

    ED: Markus Golden
    DT: Corey Peters
    DT: Olsen Pierre
    ED: Chandler Jones
    LB: NaVorro Bowman (signed from OAK)
    LB: Haason Reddick
    CB: Patrick Peterson
    CB: Tramon Williams
    SCB: Tyrann Mathieu
    S: Budda Baker
    S: Antoine Bethea

    Cap wise, let’s say Palmer retires (+14 million), Veldheer (+7 million), Iupati (+6.3 million) and Deone Bucannon (+8.7 million) is being released, Spotrac would have them at about 60 million dollars in cap space next year, which would allow this team to be aggressive in free agency I would think.

  18. By NJAzCardsFan on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Mitchaz- Nice write up!

    Scott H.- The last time I saw Brandon Williams, was when I had breakfast… His picture was on the side of the milk carton…..

    To say the least it is going to be a very interesting off-season….

    Happy New Year to the Cards nation…!!!

  19. By ILoveBugel on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    The shutout in 1992 was the first game I ever saw the Cardinals win live on TV. I recorded it on VHS video cassette. I’ve watched it a few times over the years. I remember many things about that game, including the Cardinals getting a safety and Johnny Johnson running in a long touchdown to clinch the game late. It is a great memory for me.

    Just thought I’d share that.
    Thanks

  20. By Andy R on Dec 25, 2017 | Reply

    Joachim, I like the look of that line up and think, in a year or two, it would be dangerous. Hope it happens!

  21. By Scott H on Dec 26, 2017 | Reply

    NJAzCardsFan –

    LOL! Nice, man. You do Cardinals fans from NJ ( all three of us ) proud!

    Yes, I’m assuming there might be at least one more of us.

  22. By Big Ken on Dec 26, 2017 | Reply

    I hope and expect the team to have a whole new look next season. It’s gonna be interesting.

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