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Cardinals go black for Niners game

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2014 – 12:05 pm

The Cardinals will be wearing their black alternate uniforms Sunday against the 49ers. I’m not sure how many times they are going to use them — the rule was that the alternate unis couldn’t be used once games started being flexed, and the flex schedule starts early this season, as soon as the Cardinals come off their bye. It will be interesting to see the color scheme at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers, who had a ton of fans in Dallas for the regular-season opener, are trying hard to do the same in Arizona this coming weekend. Cardinals fans will be under the microscope to make sure the game has a home-field advantage for the actual home team.

(Although it’s funny — by all accounts, new Levi’s Stadium where the 49ers now play, was not very loud in Sunday night’s 49ers-Bears game and the twitterverse seems to believe it never really will be given the cost of tickets and the demographic of who is going to games — fewer die-hards and more there just for the event.)

BlackBloguse


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Peterson’s “poorest game” and proper penalties

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2014 – 3:52 pm

Bruce Arians is usually blunt, and he was again when assessing Patrick Peterson’s game in New York.

“I thought it was probably his poorest game since I’ve been here,” Arians said.

It wasn’t a good day for the Cardinals’ Pro Bowl cornerback. He was beaten on a (pretty and one-handed) seven-yard touchdown fade by big wide receiver Reuben Randle. The Giants got him on some other short stuff, and his physical play was not a good match for what the officials were calling. In total, there were five illegal contacts, five defensive holds and two pass interference calls against defenders trying to cover receivers for both teams. On the Giants’ second touchdown drive, Peterson was called for a defensive hold (teammate Jerraud Powers was called for one on the same play, too), setting off Peterson. In his anger he appeared to bump an official, although he was not flagged. And then a few plays later, he intentionally grabbed Victor Cruz in the end zone to prevent a TD pass, and the 25-yard penalty set up a one-yard TD toss.

Peterson was still fuming when he came to the bench, calmed down by, among others, injured teammate Darnell Dockett.

“He got frustrated and let the referees get to him,” Arians said.

The officials were given an edict from the league to crack down on such penalties. It’s not a surprise. Peterson gathered himself and when talking after the game, said exactly what needed to be said, which was that he needed to play within the rules as they are now being called.

“As a secondary, and as a defensive back, you have to adapt,” Peterson said. “There are no excuses. The way this league is an offensive league, they are trying to make the best way possible to get more points on the board because that’s what draws fans. I just have to be smart, I – we – just have to get our hands off the receivers, and just play smart football.”

That’s one area in which Arians will agree with. Arians said after the game the calls were correct, and he followed it up Monday by saying the officials called “a heck of a game.”

“The players played a bad one,” Arians said. “There was a lot of holding on both sides. We were as guilty as they were. The referees did a heck of a job, I thought, continuing to throw the flags because guys continued to grab. You better learn how to play with the rules.”

PPcomplainUSE


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Keim: Still waiting on Abraham decision UPDATED

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2014 – 8:08 am

The Cardinals do not yet know if linebacker John Abraham will retire or not. General Manager Steve Keim, Monday on his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show, said the team is still giving the veteran his space and that the team expects Abraham’s decision “in the next 24 hours.” Certainly there remains a chance Abraham could end up playing against the 49ers. “That’s a tough question,” Keim said. We know Bruce Arians (half-)joked yesterday he was hoping someone — someone being Abraham — came out of retirement to help the pass rush. The funny thing is, if Abraham does return, there is no guarantee he’ll produce. But the Cardinals want to be able to find out.

UPDATE: Bruce Arians said Abraham is indeed returning to the team.

– The right shoulder nerve injury with quarterback Carson Palmer leaves him day to day, Keim said. “The timeline is a little bit of an unknown,” Keim said. The injury should only get better, Keim added, but now, it’s day to day. It’s still possible Drew Stanton gets the 49ers start this coming Sunday.

– Keim said he thought S Tyrann Mathieu did fine in his season debut. Mathieu only played five snaps, recording a tackle. Keim said the package that includes Mathieu will increase each week.

– Keim was happy with the rescue job of backup quarterback Drew Stanton, noting that Stanton was one of the first players he signed when he became GM and could have been the starter if the Palmer trade had not happened. Still, you get the sense Keim would prefer, not surprisingly, for Palmer to be able to return sooner rather than later. At least Stanton got off to a positive start. “I’m sure some of those guys on defense didn’t even know who I was,” Stanton joked after the game.

– Keim praised left tackle Jared Veldheer, and good blind-side protection will mean a lot going against the 49ers.


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Giants aftermath, with a Stanton twist

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2014 – 4:56 pm

Carson Palmer couldn’t play. Might not be able to play, at least another game. So that gives you … a Bruce Arians shrug. “Drew’s a starter in this league in my opinion,” Arians said. “Always has been.”

Drew being Drew Stanton, of course, and he was at a starter Sunday. Unlike the recent past, where backup quarterbacks would come in for the Cardinals and it usually meant problems – although at that time, the starters weren’t all that good either – this team is equipped to live through something like the quarterback going down and still coming away, after a cross country flight, with a victory.

The Giants are not the 49ers, of course, and if Stanton is still in the lineup next week, the Cards aregoing to have to up their overall game. The same can be said even if Palmer plays, realistically. But 2-0 is certainly much better than any of the alternatives.

The fact Stanton didn’t turn the ball over was a big deal. Sure, Eli Manning had better stats, but Stanton avoided causing his team trouble. Arians said Stanton played better than his stats would indicate. Perhaps. Stanton does need to capitalize on a couple of red-zone attempts – he wasn’t that close on some throws and another touchdown would have made life a lot easier – but he looks like a guy who knows the offense.

– When Palmer comes back is anyone’s guess. He kept talking about the nerve “waking up.” I would think it will be ready when it’s ready. Arians said he’s looking at this long-term with most of the season to go, so I’d expect Stanton against San Francisco if Palmer isn’t sure. Then again, if Palmer was possible to play Sunday Arians was going to put him in, so it sounds like it’s on Carson.

– What a day for special teams coordinator Amos Jones. Bad kickoff returns from Ted Ginn – Arians said he might be firing Ginn from that part of the game – and another punt block, this time because protector Robert Hughes allowed Rashad Jennings to push him back enough so that Jennings could get a hand on the ball. That’s two blocks in two games because of a poor block. But then Ginn snapped off his 71-yard return – and Ginn most certainly isn’t leaving punt returns – showing off his hellaspeed, and then Kenny Demens knocked loose the ensuing kickoff return for a fumble the Cardinals turned into a field goal.

– It was a rough game for Patrick Peterson. It did not help the physical cornerback was in a game with an officiating crew that was taking the edict on emphasizing illegal contacts/defensive holding very seriously. But Peterson said after he has to adapt, and he’s right. There is no other choice. The TD he gave up on the fade to Reuben Randle was a nice throw and a great one-handed catch from Randle, but in the end, that’s the kind of play Peterson – who now carries the weight and expectations of being the highest-paid cornerback – has to make.

– Andre Ellington was excellent Sunday. He nearly got to 100 yards – 91, actually – on only 15 carries, and this is a guy who isn’t 100 percent. Ellington said he isn’t even sure if he’ll be 100 percent at any point because his foot only gets better with rest and the bye week may not be enough time. Regardless, if he plays like Sunday, he and the Cardinals will make it work. The guy is a threat with his speed to get a first-down running on third-and-14, like he did Sunday.

– Safe to say going with Chandler Catanzaro was a good call? The kid looks good.

– For those scoring at home, that’s Cardinals 27, opponents 0 in the fourth quarter this season. And a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks.

– Fitz was back. Ten targets, six catches (for 51 yards). Almost had a touchdown, and should’ve have another catch for 36 yards had Jared Veldheer not been caught facemasking a pass rusher.

– Big game for Calais Campbell. A team-high 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and would’ve had a another sack (and forced fumble the Cardinals recovered) if not for one of those pesky illegal contacts. He has to play like the great player he is for this defense to survive all its losses.

– Antonio Cromartie made a great play on that third down bomb late in the game to Randle, getting his hand in just enough to mess up a potential catch. That hits, and all kinds of drama. Instead, the Cardinals stopped the Giants the next play, and the game was over.

– Larry Foote on his game-ending interception: “There’s a dirty rumor going around my locker room that I can’t catch,” Foote said. “I told ’em I’d catch it when it counts.” Looked Fitz-like to me.

– Tyrann Mathieu with only a few plays (but his first tackle). It’s going to be a slow process, but he’s back on the field.

– The Seahawks lost. On the road, but it was to a Chargers team the Cardinals just beat. Yes, the NFC West should be interesting all year.

Rueben Randle, Patrick Peterson


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Palmer will sit vs. Giants; Mathieu, Ellington play

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2014 – 8:13 am

QB Carson Palmer is not playing today because of his sore right shoulder. It’s a difficult blow for the Cardinals, who have an opportunity against a struggling Giants team on the road. Drew Stanton would get the start, which would be his first regular-season appearance since he played six games for Detroit (starting three) back in 2010. Stanton has five career starts. That’s three full seasons of sitting, although Stanton got the vast majority of work in practice this week while Palmer worked with his sore shoulder. He definitely knows the offense given this is his third straight year with coach Bruce Arians, as a backup in Indianapolis in 2012 and then coming to Arizona last year.

Stanton’s last start was 12/9/10 for the Lions in Tampa Bay. He completed 23 of 37 passes for 252 yards a a touchdown. The Lions won.

Not sure when Palmer got hurt against the Chargers, but he spent a chunk of time with the trainers when the offense wasn’t on the field during the game. Now we see if the Cardinals can overcome his first absence since he arrived.

S Tyrann Mathieu is playing today and get his first game in since tearing his knee up last December. RB Andre Ellington is also playing.

The whole inactive list:

– Palmer

– P Dave Zastudil (groin)

– LB Glenn Carson

– LB Alex Okafor (thigh)

– LB Marcus Benard

– TE Darren Fells

– DE Frostee Rucker (calf)

 


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Friday before the Giants

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2014 – 2:23 pm

The Cardinals moved up practice this week, starting at 10 a.m. on the field. That way, the players are “used” to playing football at 10 a.m., which is kickoff time for Sunday in New York against the Giants. Anything to be as prepared as possible for the earliest start time of the seasom.

“You do everything you can,” coach Bruce Arians said.

Larry Fitzgerald shrugged off the early-start-is-tough-on-the-Cardinals storyline this week – “That’s in the past, he said – and sometimes, there’s only so much you can do anyway. The Cardinals stayed in Florida all week last year after their road game in New Orleans to be properly adjusted for the game in Tampa Bay, and then they were terrible in the first half.

What the Cardinals didn’t have at that point last year was the confidence this group has these days. That makes a difference.

– There are plenty of injury questions for the Cardinals heading into the game, from Carson Palmer’s shoulder (he should be playing) to Andre Ellington’s foot (he thinks he’ll be playing) but maybe the most interesting thing at this point on the injury report is the fact Tyrann Mathieu is listed as probable. If he wasn’t likely to play, there’s no reason to not list him as questionable again. Food for thought as we wait the couple of days to see who is on the inactive list.

– The Giants’ passing game, under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, has been a mess. Eli Manning is trying to learn a new system after years under Kevin Gilbride, his weapons are questionable and his offensive line struggles. It’s a situation upon which the Cardinals can capitalize, especially if they continue to defend the run as well as they do.

That said, the Giants are already frustrated. Bruce Arians told the New York media this week it takes a half-season for a veteran QB to get comfortable in a new offense – paging 2013 Carson Palmer – but that’s not exactly the timeframe Giants coach Tom Coughlin was hoping for.

“I’m not patient,” Coughlin said. “I’m not one of those. I don’t have a real good handle on that maybe because we haven’t done that around here and I haven’t done that for a long time. I have to bite my tongue sometimes and kind of step back and realize it’s a process.”

– I want to see Chandler Catanzaro kick outside in a place that can have interesting weather. The Cat Man is off to a great start.

– The Giants got some pass rush on Matthew Stafford Monday. Their secondary seemed a little out of sorts (covering Calvin Johnson can do that). But I think the Cards’ offensive line held up well enough in the opener. That must continue.

– Don’t remember a game in which both starting punters might be sidelined with injuries, but Dave Zastudil is questionable with his bad groin and the Giants’ Steve Weatherford is questionable after hurting his ankle. The difference is the Cardinals already have a backup punter on the roster with Drew Butler. The Giants haven’t made such a move yet.

– There is always emotion at play during an NFL game. At the end of the Cardinals’ win – when running back Jonathan Dwyer was about to get a third straight handoff on third-and-5 trying to seal the win – offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said “a couple of choice words for him to keep the ball inside.”

“As big as he is, you saw the last run, he kept it inside and ran full speed, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Goodwin said.

Dwyer slammed up into the line for seven yards and a game-clinching first down.

“He was yelling, he said something, and it kinda pissed me off,” Dwyer said. “But I knew what he was talking about. I wanted to get the first down for my team. That’s what they brought me in to do.”

– If you missed this week’s Cardinals Underground podcast – and it was easy to miss – here’s a link.

– Lost in the will-Fitzgerald-get-more-targets stories of the week was the fantastic start to the season of Michael Floyd. Five catches, 119 yards, proof he’s a dangerous deep threat and the continuing uptick of his growth. He doesn’t get the spotlight, although that’s just how he likes it. That’ll change if he keeps playing this way.

FloydFridayBefore1USE


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Palmer limited, but it might not mean much

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2014 – 12:41 pm

Quarterback Carson Palmer took his turn talking to the media Wednesday, as usual, in a session that happens before practice, as usual. The injury report didn’t come out until a few hours later, when Palmer appeared on it as limited with a right shoulder issue. He remained limited all week and is officially questionable for the game Sunday against the Giants. This, however, is not cause for concern.

At least, it isn’t for coach Bruce Arians. “It’s been sore,” Arians said about Palmer, “but we’ve been down this road before. The best game he had last year, he didn’t practice all week.”

That is true. Last season in early December, Palmer was officially limited all week with a right elbow injury. It came to light after the fact that “limited” was in the full context of the word; Palmer and Arians both said after that Sunday’s game against the Rams Palmer had not thrown a single pass in practice. He ended up completing 27 of 32 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown in a brutally efficient 30-10 win. So there’s that.

“Sometimes, at his age, it’s good not to throw it (in practice),” Arians said.

Arians said it was a “nerve thing” bothering Palmer, but he thinks Palmer will be fine. Drew Stanton is the backup, and Arians has said numerous times he has full confidence in Stanton if Stanton would have to play. Arians did say the Cardinals may be working with Palmer on his sliding during the bye week, because his sliding performance against the Chargers — as in, there wasn’t really any — is something that needs to improve.

– Running back Andre Ellington was limited too, but he said he’s “good to go” for Sunday and it would probably be an upset at this point if Ellington does not play.

– Interestingly, safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has been practicing full since the season started, was listed as probable for the first time. That would seem to bode well that he would be active, but Arians wouldn’t go that far. Instead, he reiterated Mathieu is “very, very close.”

CPlimitedblog


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Back on 9/11

Posted by Darren Urban on September 11, 2014 – 10:17 am

It’s hard to believe, but before the Houston Texans came along and there were 31 NFL teams, there was a bye every week — including opening weekend. In 2001, that team that had to sit out the NFL’s first week of play was the Arizona Cardinals. So that “bye” week — if you can call it that, since the Cardinals last played a meaningless fourth preseason game and were mostly just waiting — came and went slowly, and the players were ready to get going with a road game against NFC East rival Washington coming up Sunday.

Back in those days, Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis met with the media daily, including the players’ off day of Tuesday, so I — working for the East Valley Tribune — was still going to be headed over to the Cards’ facility. But I was woke up a little early by my wife, who had flipped on the TV in our bedroom a little after 6 a.m. and said, “I think you want to see this.”

And on the screen, the World Trade Center, both towers, were already billowing smoke.

I ended up going over to the Cardinals’ complex earlier than I normally would’ve, because you just wanted to be around people at that point. By then, the Pentagon had been hit and you start thinking that the hotel you are going to be staying at in just a couple of days is only a couple train stops down from the Pentagon and what the hell is happening in the world? I sat staring at the TV screen in the media relations office, and at one point, Pat Tillman sat down beside me just shaking his head, and I couldn’t help but try and get a comment about the Cardinals-Redskins game that was to be played.

“The importance of football ranks zero,” Tillman said, and of course he was right. That day, so much was left unknown, but it was quickly determined that the games that weekend would be postponed and frankly, with a 2-year-old at home, flying toward all that chaos wasn’t something I really wanted to do — not that it mattered, after all air travel was grounded for the time being.

The Cardinals didn’t play a regular-season game until Denver visited the following weekend. I remember going to New York to play the Giants in December for a Saturday game, and heading out on Friday night with cohorts Kent Somers, Scott Bordow and Pedro Gomez. By the time dinner was over, it was 11:30, and we drove over to Ground Zero. For December, the weather was surprisingly mild, and I remember coming around the corner and being much closer than you’d expect to the crash site. Workers even at that hour continued to plug away at the wreckage, pieces of the bottom of the building still pointing haphazardly in the air around so much debris, the floodlights giving the whole area an eerie glow. Just outside the gates were the leftovers of all the makeshift staging areas from the disaster, hundreds of “Have you seen me?” posters still hanging from those who had hoped against hoped they hadn’t lost someone in the towers.

A few weeks later the Cardinals played their makeup game in Washington, and I ended up at the same hotel and I took the train to the Pentagon stop, seeing the damage and thinking how — the previous year — it had been so easy to walk near the Pentagon to see it up close and how that was never happening again.

Now, the Cardinals find themselves going to New York this week again, a couple of days after the anniversary. In 2005, the Cards played in New York on 9/11, which was memorable. I haven’t had a trip to New York — including one with my family — without visiting the area, and this time will be no different. Today, there are always a flood of memories that come rushing back from a day, and a time, that will always resonate.

TillmanSept11blog


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Abraham provides another headline for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2014 – 4:52 pm

At this point, you certainly can’t say it’s been dull around the Cardinals. Between key injuries and comebacks and starting jobs and receiver targets — and a one-point, come-from-behind win — this team has kept in the public eye. Wednesday it’s the news that linebacker John Abraham is considering retirement, as he takes leave of the team and takes another piece from the defense. He has five days to decide if he wants to stay or go, although you wonder if it’s gotten to this point, how Abraham hasn’t already given it serious thought. Funny thing, when he came back from his rehab and got to training camp, he insisted he never once thought about not playing. Football was his life, he said. Now, it may not be.

Whether Abraham would have notched a bunch of sacks eventually may never been known. He did get off to a slow start last year before eventually breaking into double digits. But in the end, I think the Cardinals find a way around this, just as they did with Darnell Dockett, and I think the defense can still play at a high level. But yes, Todd Bowles will have earned even more respect if he continues to weave his playcalling magic.

– There will be more tomorrow on Larry Fitzgerald when he speaks to the media on his normal Thursday, but this was noteworthy from Bruce Arians today: He acknowledged that Fitz’s knee issues limited him as the Cardinals headed into the first game and the reason Fitzgerald wasn’t on the field for three different passing situation third downs was because Fitzgerald hadn’t been able to practice those plays. “I learned my lesson last year not to ask (Larry) to do things in a game that you’re not practicing,” Arians said. “It’s not fair to the quarterback either.”

Abebloguse


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Larry Fitzgerald: Winning “my only concern”

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2014 – 10:17 pm

I’m guessing that if Larry Fitzgerald’s one-catch game had come a couple of games down the road, his is-he-being-targeted storyline wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But Bruce Arians talked about it today, and that came after Fitz’s dad, Larry Fitzgerald Sr. — who was at the game Monday — dropped a tweet that caught national attention:

The tweet got enough attention that Fitz Jr. decided to tweet a response Tuesday night:

Fitz had a big smile after the win. He has a good understanding where this team and this offense is right now. “In terms of numbers and stuff, goals I would set for myself back in the day, they were realistic where I was playing,” Fitzgerald told me last week. “Now you have to adjust that based on what you are asked to do.” He’ll be asked about this Thursday, the day he normally meets with the media, and he’ll echo what he said in his tweet. That’s Fitz. I’m sure he’d like more chances, but he’s looking for the victories too, and besides, he’s not the guy who is going to raise a fuss. He never has been.


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