Pro Football Focus decided to hand out awards for position coaches for the first time this season, and the Cardinals had a winner — wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, who shepherded Larry Fitzgerald through his transition to inside receiver and Smokey Brown’s transition to the NFL and Michael Floyd’s evolution to consistent downfield threat.
What PFF had to say about Drake:
Drake may have had a superior set of talent to work with, but he squeezed the best out of every one of his players. All six receivers seeing playing time graded positively this season, and all but one improved over the previous year. And it wasn’t just their receiving prowess that shined—they did a more than competent job blocking for the run, finishing the year as our second-highest graded unit in that regard.
Drake wasn’t the only one mentioned in the article. Harold Goodwin, fresh off his first head coaching interview, was named first runner-up as the top offensive coordinator, behind only Mike Shula of the Carolina Panthers.
Tags: Darryl Drake, Harold Goodwin, Pro Football Focus
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So Saturday, Bruce Arians was blunt when saying why the Cardinals threw the ball with a little more than two minutes left and the Packers having no timeouts on second-and-8: “I play to win.” In the couple of days since, Arians admitted a run had been called but there was a pass option for quarterback Carson Palmer, and when Palmer saw 10 men in the box and Larry Fitzgerald one-on-one with cornerback Sam Shields, Palmer decided to take the shot.
We know the result: An incompletion, and even with a run on third down, the Packers were left with 35 or 40 more seconds on the clock then they might have had. That was then, and this is now. Arians was asked if the results might influence how the play might be called if a similar situation comes up again — say, Sunday night in Carolina.
“No,” Arians said. (He always starts out blunt, right?) “We had the running play called and it was a bad running play. We had 10 guys, we’ve got Larry Fitzgerald one-on-one, that’s as good as a running play.”
In terms of play calling, Arians said the same about the decision to blitz Aaron Rodgers on the Hail Mary instead of keeping a bunch of guys deep. “I don’t know if anybody else can make that throw, but we had them dead to rights and we didn’t defend the back end.”
The second-down playcall caught the attention of many national types (Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were certainly disagreeing while calling the game for NBC) but anyone watching this team knows that’s how Arians operates. And even if he does start with a running play, Arians also puts full trust in his quarterback, which is why Palmer gets the option to throw and why Arians backs his play.
It’s not always conventional. It has worked (Saints, 49ers) and it hasn’t worked (Ravens). But it’s not going to change, not in the NFC Championship, and not in what is possible beyond that.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Packers
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Before the Cardinals head off to Carolina, there first will be a pumped up “Big Red Rage” radio show — officially, “The Biggest Red Rage” — coming Thursday night at Majerle’s at Chandler Fashion Center and presented by San Tan Ford. Not only will it be double in size, from one hour to two (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
BRR will have normal hosts Calais Campbell, Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley, but it will also feature guests like team president Michael Bidwill, cornerback Patrick Peterson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, among others. Admission and parking are free. For those who can’t make it, you can listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM or watching streaming video on azcardinals.com/videos-photos/live-video.html.
San Tan Ford is also giving away a two-year lease on a brand new Mustang. Sign ups for the car begin on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and go through 5:30 p.m. A finalist will be selected every hour and the winner will be announced at the end of the “Biggest Red Rage.”
Tags: Big Red Rage
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Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald penned an article for The Player’s Tribune Tuesday, talking about his love for Arizona, the fans and his career as a Cardinal.
It’s a relationship that, at times, wasn’t always a lock to work out, given where the team was and Fitz’s salary was at certain times in his career. But if there ever was uncertainty that this marriage wouldn’t last forever, that was taken care of last February when Fitzgerald got a new contract that cut his overall pay but raised his guarantees, paying him $22 million for 2015 and 2016. After that, we’ll see. A new deal? Retirement? The latter seems nuts after a season in which Fitz had 109 catches, but you never say never. Calvin Johnson is talking about retirement himself. If Fitz does keep playing, I can’t see him doing it anywhere but Arizona.
His article, tracing his feelings of coming to the desert back in 2004, the emotional ride (and loss) in the Super Bowl season of 2008 and his feelings about this current team, is heartfelt. An excerpt:
Not many people realize that Phoenix is now the sixth-largest city in the United States. As this place grows (and grows, and grows), I think it’s important for there to be something that unites everybody, from the recent transplants to the native Arizonans who have lived here their entire lives.
I want the Cardinals to be that thing.
I want the Cardinals to be a team that you’re proud to root for and can’t wait to watch play. I want the entire state to always be itching for gameday to arrive.
There’s still work to be done — but we’re getting there. In fact, I think there’s only one, large, final box left for us to check off:
Win a Super Bowl.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald
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We take a break from our regularly scheduled football programming to show this cool video of Carson Palmer and his kids. Yes, it’s a commercial. But it’s a cool commercial showing Palmer as a father — which, considering he’s not all that fond of opening that window into his personal life all that often, is impressive to see.
We all see the guy as quarterback, and people have their opinions of him good and bad, depending on the game. Here is another side. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.
UPDATE: Palmer talked about doing the piece. “It was something I put off for a long time,” Palmer said. “I’m very private, as you guys (in the media) know and talk about a lot. We been so well received in the state, and the fans have been so great and gracious and welcoming, and you realize after a while people want more. People always want more, fans want more, they want to see a different side of you. This was an opportunity with Dove Men Care to do something totally outside the box.
“It was something I pushed off and not wanted any part of for a long time. It was a lot of fun. My wife said she cried the first time she saw it. She is excited to have that to look back on in 2025 when this part of our life is so distant. It’s a great memory for us.”
Tags: Carson Palmer
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There are going to be close games in the playoffs, Cardinals GM Steve Keim acknowledged. He also said during his appearance Monday during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I didn’t think we played particularly well” Saturday night against the Packers. (Which you could kind of see as Keim walked off the sideline following Fitz’s touchdown. Among the sea of celebration, Keim wasn’t smiling. He didn’t look mad, but he looked like someone who knows the Cards have to play better to reach the Super Bowl.)
Keim’s greatest praise came for the University of Phoenix Stadium crowd, saying the atmosphere was great that that “it gives me chills” to think about the white towels waving.” The Cardinals won’t get that in the NFC Championship, since the game will be in Carolina. Maybe that’s why Keim noted the improvements that have to be made.
— Keim noted that, aside from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, “I don’t think a ton of guys played great.” But the Cardinals were resilient, Keim added, which has been a hallmark of the team all season.
— On the 75-yard Fitzgerald catch in overtime, “what was the better play, Larry or Carson?” (As great as Fitz was on the run, Palmer made that thing happen.)
— Keim said he does not believe Palmer’s injured finger was a factor in Palmer’s game — which featured a few near-interceptions, aside from the two he threw. In the first half, Palmer had too much pressure in his face, Keim said. In the second half, Palmer just missed on some throws.
— The offensive line “played hard,” he said, but made mistakes, especially with second-level blocks. The run game has to produce more.
— On defense, pressure was sporadic (Keim wouldn’t touch the notion the Packers weren’t called enough for holding) and there were some mixups in the secondary and in gap discipline. Keim said he hadn’t yet talked to coaches about the last Packers drive, particularly the fourth-and-20 the Packers converted on a 60-yard pass when Jeff Janis got behind cornerback Justin Bethel. That can’t happen, Keim said, and he also said he thought a safety should have been over the top. “That’s Football 101, to be in the right place at the right time.”
— Finally, asked about Bruce Arians’ decision to throw the ball on second-and-8 with some 2:25 left in the game and the Cardinals up four points, Keim pointed out that the Cards threw up five with 1:44 left on second-and-8 in the season opener against the Saints. Running back David Johnson took that pass and scooted for a 55-yard touchdown.
“You know our style, you know our aggressiveness,” Keim said. “We play to win.” But was he nervous on that play? “Not at all. I trust our coach and I trust our players.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Keim
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Where to begin.
Let’s start here: I can’t recall a crazier ending for the Cardinals. Ever. That playoff win against the Packers back in the 2009 season was back-and-forth too, wild swings of emotion, but that was simply offensive football played at an incredibly high level. I’m not sure exactly what Saturday night was.
There was one guy playing at a high level. It was Larry Fitzgerald, and that’s the best place to start. I think Fitz had already made a strong Hall of Fame case. But what he did Saturday, basically jump-starting a moribund Cardinals offense by himself, and then making that play in overtime to race 75 yards and set up the (well, his) game-winning touchdown. I know there isn’t much more to be said about Fitz that hasn’t already been said, but Saturday night? That’s how legends are made. They are made with epic playoff performances like Fitz had in the 2008 Super Bowl run, and they are made with 176 yards on eight catches in a dramatic overtime win against the Packers to put your team in the NFC Championship.
— Next, Carson Palmer. It wasn’t Palmer’s best game. During the game there were plenty in the Twitterverse that blamed Palmer’s issues with his Bengals background. There is no question Palmer was off at times and that end zone interception was, in a word, terrible. You can’t do that in that situation.
But Palmer bounced back as Bruce Arians always says he does. He was under more pressure than the Cardinals can afford to let him be under – the Packers had the better pass rush this time around. And the way Palmer miraculously spun out of what should have been a sack and somehow found Fitz on the 75-yard play was as critical and clutch as Fitzgerald’s effort on the other end.
— Palmer gets his first playoff win. It wasn’t perfect, but who cares? Not Palmer, that’s for sure.
— The first person in the end zone after Fitz’s TD to congratulate Fitz was former teammate-turned-scout Adrian Wilson. A great moment.
— Speaking of Wilson, he stood next to Justin Bethel tucked in Bethel’s locker after the game, quietly talking to the cornerback for a long time. I would guess it was words of encouragement after some tough moments for Bethel, not the least of which being Jeff Janis getting behind him to convert that fourth-and-20 play at the end of the game.
— The game was so nuts that the touchdown pass to Michael Floyd that was intended for Fitz, deflected high into the air and toward the back of the end zone, over the head of another Packer and Jaron Brown, is a footnote.
— Floyd, about that play: “I think God was on our side on that one.”
— Here’s a new one: Patrick Peterson was sitting on the floor in the locker room having athletic trainer Michael Blankenship remove tape off his ankle, when a reporter wandered over to ask him a question. Soon, Peterson was surrounded by media – so he sat on the floor, outstretched legs in front of him, propped up by his arms, doing his entire media session.
— Linebacker Kevin Minter, on watching Fitz tonight: “That’s that guy I watched growing up.”
— The Cardinals blitzed Aaron Rodgers on the Hail Mary. They did it from his right so he couldn’t roll into his power. And he still escaped and flung a great pass so his guy would have a chance. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap to the other guy. I’m guessing the Packers – after the hurt wears off – will do that with Fitz. And you have to do it to Rodgers.
— Sure, the Cardinals could have run the ball on second down, right before the two-minute warning and their final field goal. They could’ve burned up another 35 or 40 seconds. But Arians went for the kill. “I play to win,” Arians said. No risk it, no biscuit. I’m sure there are those who have issues with the call, but folks, if you are following/rooting for this team, this is what you signed up for.
— I could write more, but it’s time to go home. Got to get some sleep so that I’m up in time for Seattle-Carolina. It’s on to the NFC Championship.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Wilson, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Packers, Patrick Peterson, playoffs
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The Cardinals are able to have seven healthy inactive players today for the game against the Packers, which includes a couple of guys who have not been inactive of late: DT Red Bryant and RB Kerwynn Williams. The latter is important because it signals a comfort in the health of Andre Ellington in the backfield (although David Johnson is expected to remain the workhorse.) No Williams means the Cardinals will use someone different on kickoff returns (J.J. Nelson? Brittan Golden? David Johnson again?)
Bryant’s name is somewhat of a surprise with the injury to Cory Redding — especially since Xavier Williams is still inactive. With rookie linebacker Gabe Martin active, maybe the Cards wanted someone to fill in on special teams since Kareem Martin will have to play more defensive snaps (and Jason Babin, who is active, doesn’t do that.)
The full list:
— QB Matt Barkley
— CB Corey White
— RB Kerwynn Williams
— LB Shaq Riddick
— DT Red Bryant
— T D.J. Humphries
— NT Xavier Williams
Tags: Gabe Martin, inactives, Kerwynn Williams, Packers, Red Bryant
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Once upon a time, before the Cardinals ran their home playoff record all-time to 4-0 with a thrilling 51-45 overtime win over the Packers, before Kurt Warner had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four), before Karlos Dansby’s fumble return brought Mike McCarthy to his knees, there was a baby on the way.
No, not my kid. (My boys were watching at University of Phoenix Stadium that day, in fact.) But I have a good friend who has covered the Packers for a long time. And he had a daughter due to be born about a week after that Packers-Cardinals tilt. A Green Bay win, and there was going to be some serious juggling to do in his life.
Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams unknowingly had my buddy’s back though, and Money Mike’s strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers, leading to Dansby’s return touchdown allowed no complications with job and family.
A few weeks later, I sent my friend a surprise gift. It was a picture – the one you see below – signed by Adams, addressed to baby Madison:
Madison – I’m glad I could make sure your Dad was there for you. Michael Adams
This is one of the first things I think of when I think of Cardinals-Packers in the playoffs – in addition to Warner, and Money Mike and Dansby and Early Doucet’s helmet flying off and Fitz’s diving touchdown and Rodgers being thisclose to hitting a wide-open Greg Jennings in overtime for what would have been a game-winning TD and made my friend’s life that much harder.
This game Saturday night, will it be as memorable? If it puts the Cardinals in the NFC Championship, I’m going to say yes.
— I think the Cardinals can survive the loss of Alex Okafor. Not sure yet how they make it happen – I will be curious to see if they use DT Josh Mauro on the edge in run-down situations – but I think they’ll be OK. They managed fine in run defense in the games Okafor missed (Steelers, Ravens, Browns) and against the pass, they should be good with Dwight Freeney and Markus Golden.
— Saw this nugget from another Packer writer friend of mine, Wes Hodkiewicz: The Packers are 10-0 this year when hitting the QB at least five times. On the flip side, you have the Cardinals offensive line, which has allowed only 27 sacks this season – tied for fourth-fewest in the NFL.
“Knock on wood,” offensive coordinator/line coach Harold Goodwin said, chiding the reporter for bringing it up. “You can’t do that to me.
“We’ve done a decent job all year of protection. I don’t know where we’re ranked or finished, as far as how many. I really don’t pay attention to that. We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got 11 guys on the same page, which is the biggest thing when it comes down to protection, and win the one-on-one battles up front.”
Goodwin said the Cards lost two such battles early in the last Packers meeting. They know – as they have known all season – protecting Carson Palmer is crucial.
— That said, Palmer has been so fantastic this season with his footwork and moving in the pocket. He’s not Rodgers or Russell Wilson, but he’s better than Palmer 2013 or 2014 in that regard.
— Goodwin on getting Larry Fitzgerald to block so well: “It comes with a lot of choice words, is what you say to him to get him to block. ‘If you want the ball, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, you’ve got to block some.’ ”
Goody smiled as he said it. There is little question Fitz has become arguably the best blocking wide receiver in the game. Oh, and he had 109 catches too.
— Hall of Fame cornerback Roger Wehrli will man the Big Red Siren Saturday pre-game.
— GM Steve Keim and team president Michael Bidwill will speak at a pre-game pep rally on the Great Lawn at 4:15 p.m. Saturday. And don’t forget Flo Rida is singing at halftime.
— This feels like a David Johnson game to me.
— Bruce Arians said the 13-3 season has been “fun.” But (and there is always a but) “it doesn’t mean crap if we don’t win it.”
— Which leads me to this: There has been a lot of talk about pressure this week, and undoubtedly, the Cardinals understand that after a 13-3 season, winning at least one playoff game is expected. But as the talk veers into the favorite and the underdog and that pressure I mentioned, it’s better to be the better team. Just in my history covering this team, I’ve seen losing streaks and the Monday Night Meltdown and fumbles in field-goal range and horrific blowout losses. I’ve seen “the worst playoff team in NFL history” – yes, that was a hell of a ride – and injuries overwhelm a playoff team in New Orleans and trying to win a postseason game with a third-string quarterback.
This is the first time the Cardinals were considered better, the first time they’ve earned “better.” And it’s the position where you want to be, pressure or not.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Harold Goodwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Michael Bidwill, Packers, playoffs, Roger Wehrli, Steve Keim
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It certainly hasn’t been quiet in the Cardinals’ division, even with the regular season over. The Cardinals and Seahawks are among the final eight teams in the playoffs. The Rams moved to Los Angeles. And now the 49ers, wanting to make sure no one forgot about them, went out and hired Chip Kelly as their new coach.
It’s an interesting pick. Whether Kelly was their first choice or — as some reports have said — they turned to Kelly after they couldn’t get Hue Jackson (who went to the Browns), it’s a drastic change from Jim Tomsula, that’s for sure. The immediate reaction? That assumed divorce between rehabbing QB Colin Kaepernick and the team might not happen — Kaepernick would seem to be the perfect type of QB for Kelly’s system, to the point many wondered this season if Kap was cut would the then-Eagles coach Kelly snap him up — and also how the relationship will work between Kelly and GM Trent Baalke. But we’ll see how quickly Kelly can get that team changed up after a very rough 2015.
The Cardinals have done fine against Kelly’s Eagles, winning two of three, including the division-clinching rout in Philly this season.
I’ll say this, the NFC West certainly isn’t boring.
Tags: 49ers, Chip Kelly, Colin Kaepernick, NFC West, Rams, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »