Now that the Cardinals’ season is over, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can begin interviewing with various teams for their head coaching spots. And it sounds like that will make this a busy week.
Multiple reports have Bowles interviewing with the Jets on Wednesday, the Falcons Thursday, the 49ers on Friday and the Bears on Saturday. There are still rumblings that the Bills and Raiders could still ask to interview too. Either way, Bowles would seem to be a good chance to be promoted before too long, but after he signed his extension (which gave him a hefty raise) Bowles can afford to be choosy — which he was always going to be anyway. That’s just who Bowles is.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed both ways,” coach Bruce Arians joked Monday, on one hand hoping his friend and former player gets a head coaching gig and on the other hoping he stays in place.
We still don’t know who would be Arians’ choice to succeed Bowles as defensive coordinator (on staff, could it be Mike Caldwell? James Bettcher? Someone else?) but Arians has said a plan is in place. Now we wait for Bowles to go through the interview process.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Falcons, James Bettcher, Jets, Mike Caldwell, Todd Bowles
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It was a weird day Sunday.
It was weird because of what was swirling around the 49ers as Jim Harbaugh coached what everyone knew was going to be his last game as a 49ers boss but pretended nothing was going on yet (including the very awkward hug between Harbaugh and 49ers owner Jed York on the field pre-game). It was weird because Ryan Lindley threw three interceptions, but it was hard not to feel the Cardinals may indeed be able to tread water at quarterback if Drew Stanton can’t come back this week. It was weird because the game for a while felt like it would mean a heck of a lot, with the Seahawks trailing and the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers – and then the Seahawks pulled away and the Packers pulled away and the outcome meant just nothing.
Maybe that’s why the Cardinals falling short didn’t feel like that so much, that Lindley’s last interception was simply moot. It didn’t cost the Cardinals anything.
I’m not going to sit here and say Lindley was the second coming of Rodgers, or even Carson Palmer Sunday. The first half, he was pretty good, with 260 yards and his two touchdowns and yes, a very bad interception, but he had the Cardinals ahead. By all accounts – including his own and by my own eyes – it’s the best he’s played in the NFL. I thought he looked better than he had even in the practices I have seen. The second half, he and the offense dropped off, but the Cards stuck with the run more too. You can’t turn the ball over. That’s obvious. But there’s a way to make this work, at least against a 7-8-1 Carolina team.
The Cardinals’ playoff game will kick off at 2:35 p.m. Arizona time Saturday and will be televised on ESPN.
Speaking of turnovers, the Cardinals suddenly aren’t getting any. The Cardinals forced two turnovers against St. Louis on that Thursday night win – although one came on the last play of the game – and haven’t forced one since. Those turnovers were a big reason the Cards were winning earlier in the season. They have to create something in Carolina.
— Arians said there was no new news on Stanton. We’ll see if he can go. My gut says the Cards will have to go with Lindley.
— Cam Newton doesn’t quite run as much as he used to (and he’s still dealing those back issues after his car accident.) But the way that both Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have sliced up the Cardinals running the football the past two games, the Cards have to be concerned.
— Safety Tyrann Mathieu, on the trouble stopping the run: “We have to play with more of an attitude. We have to play with that chip on our shoulder. We come into the game at 11-4 and in the playoffs and we’re not necessarily playing with a chip on our shoulder. Hopefully we can gain that edge again.”
— Tight end Darren Fells is still raw. But it looks like the Cardinals might have found something there. With him and Troy Niklas, it’s a nice young tight end foundation going forward.
— In case you missed it, click here to see the Cardinals’ opponents for 2015. The schedule comes out in April.
— I don’t think Bruce Arians will forget about Kerwynn Williams again. Williams wasn’t great but he’s a guy who needs to have carries for the Cardinals.
— The Cardinals did have a pretty good day the last time they played a postseason game in Carolina.
— That was the Michael Floyd the Cardinals have to have.
— This was the first season in franchise history four different quarterbacks have thrown a touchdown pass in one season. Not that you’d be striving for such a thing, but …
— Random quote, this one from Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, said during the NFL Network’s pregame show Sunday morning: “I would not pass up the opportunity to play for Bruce Arians. Bruce finds ways to win games without his best players. … The fact that he’s found a way to win 11 games after going 10-6 and missing the playoffs. You win 11 games this year and you’re missing probably four or five of your best players on your team. How do you do that? That means there is great coaching going on.”
— Short week. The players get their day off Monday, and all the practice days are moved up one with the Saturday game. The Stanton watch is on. Otherwise, more Lindley.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Cam Newton, Darren Fells, Drew Stanton, Kerwynn Williams, Marshall Faulk, Michael Floyd, Panthers, Ryan Lindley, Tyrann Mathieu
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Starting inside linebacker Larry Foote, who had played all but two defensive snaps this season, is going to miss a few more today. Foote is inactive with a knee injury — and probably a need to rest him for the playoffs. The Cardinals also will be without guard Jonathan Cooper, who is dealing with the wrist injury. The full inactive list for the Cardinals:
— QB Drew Stanton (knee)
— WR Brittan Golden
— S Chris Clemons
— LB Larry Foote (knee)
— G Jonathan Cooper (wrist)
— G Anthony Steen
— DE Kareem Martin
It’s unknown if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will be inactive as rumors swirl about his job status. (I kid. I kid.) But the 49ers will be without cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox, as well as linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Tags: 49ers, inactives, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Foote
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The Cardinals won in St. Louis Thursday, and can spend Sunday watching the rest of the NFC playoff picture unfold. Already, they caught a break. The Green Bay Packers went to Buffalo and lost, 21-13, to fall to 10-4 and a game behind the Cards. Ultimately, what does that mean? It means that regardless of the result of the Seahawks-49ers game going on right now, because of all the tiebreakers the Cardinals have spent the year building, if the Cardinals can beat the Seahawks a week from tonight on “Sunday Night Football,” the Cardinals will clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
It would be an incredible feat given the injuries the Cards have absorbed.
(UPDATE: The Seahawks did beat the 49ers. As expected.)
A loss against Seattle would not necessarily eliminate the Cards from the No. 1 seed, but the math is much more simple if they win (and a loss versus the Seahawks would mean the Cards would need a lot of help as well as a season finale win in San Francisco.)
A No. 1 seed would mean a ton, from a first-round bye (time to heal Drew Stanton) to home-field advantage for as long as the Cardinals remained in the playoffs — including, of course, the Super Bowl if they got that far.
— ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning Stanton is expected to be out four weeks with his knee injury. The Cardinals have declined to get into specifics of Stanton’s issue other than it is his right knee that’s injured. The Cards do expect him back at some point.
Tags: 49ers, Drew Stanton, Packers, playoffs, Seahawks
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On the season, Jaron Brown has one reception for six yards, and given the weapons ahead of him — Fitzgerald, Floyd, Ellington, Smokey Brown, even John Carlson — that’s not a surprise. But Jaron is, through no fault of his own, the tangible proof for coach Bruce Arians that the Cardinals’ offense isn’t playing well enough.
Talking about his frustration and inability for the Cards to score more touchdowns — it’s nice Chandler Catanzaro is 14-for-14 on field goals, but still — Arians said the first thing he thinks of is two targets of Jaron Brown.
“That’s 100 yards and two touchdowns in just two plays we’re leaving on the field,” Arians said. “We’ve got to start hitting those plays, and it’s not just him.”
It wasn’t quite 100 yards Brown would have had, but it was certainly two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter against the 49ers, Brown was wide open behind the defender on a 45-yard bomb, and quarterback Drew Stanton simply led Brown too far (as you can see below). Against Washington last weekend, Carson Palmer again had Brown open deep on what would have been a 35-yard score in the fourth quarter. The pass was pretty much on target — although a little longer throw might have done the trick — as defensive back E.J. Biggers barely knocked it away. In both cases, touchdowns would have crushed the opponent. In both cases, the games remained close. Certainly, Brown wouldn’t mind an extra 2-80-2 on the stat line.
“We haven’t even begun to scratch how good we can be,” Arians said. “Again, Carson being off a month, the timing … there are a lot of excuses you can make. None are accepted.”
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Jaron Brown, offense, Redskins
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Tony Jefferson had himself a game Sunday. The safety lead the Cardinals with 10 tackles, he had the huge second-down sack of Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ last true chance to score and, of course, he absorbed the headbutt that changed the game.
Former Cardinal Anquan Boldin, who has been known to let his emotions get away from him on the field, got angry at Jefferson after catching a pass for a first down on the Cardinals’ 6-yard line with the Cards nursing a 20-14 lead. Boldin headbutted Jefferson, and the 15 yards eventually derailed the drive into a field goal attempt that was blocked by Cardinals’ defensive end Tommy Kelly. The 49ers never did score again.
“People give him (Boldin) so much respect out on the field, and I respect him as a player, but anybody who is going to jaw at me, I’m going to jaw back,” Jefferson said. “I’m all about the action. I’ll jaw. But I won’t retaliate like he did.”
But the play was more than that for the Cardinals. Boldin ranted after the game Jefferson had been delivering cheap blows and he was simply fed up. After the game, however, the Cardinals were talking about finally standing up to bully in the 49ers that had knocked them around in recent years.
“I think they are kind of used to us backing down once the game gets started,” Jefferson said. “But we were in their face. We were going after it. We let them know, this is a different team.”
It seems like a different team. It’s definitely an undefeated team, and one that has earned that distinction.
– It was a big deal winning Sunday, not the least of which was with Drew Stanton behind center. Bruce Arians kept saying Stanton could get the job done, but he (rightfully) said Stanton had to show everyone else. He has. Stanton managed the game in New York. He won the game against the 49ers. B.A. clearly didn’t pull back the reins.
Stanton had a great press conference. He was happy, as he should be, and knows how to be funny. Someone asked him why he clicks with Arians. Stanton said he wasn’t sure. “To be honest with you, in Indianapolis, I didn’t even know if he liked me,” Stanton said.
I don’t think Drew needs to worry about that anymore.
– -That said, please don’t ask about a quarterback controversy. There isn’t one. When Palmer is ready, he’ll be back in there.
— As good as John “Smokey” Brown –and that’s what the Cards call him, Smoke or Smokey – was on his TD catches, the pass interference he drew on the game-clinching field goal drive was just as big a play. Without that, the Cardinals are punting with more than three minutes left.
“Once I got past five yards, (I knew) if he got hands on me, it was an automatic pass interference,” Brown said. “Drew made a great throw and (cornerback Chris Cook) did what I wanted him to do.”
— Brown said the gameplan all week was to feature him, thinking the 49ers would focus on Fitz and Floyd. Brown was asked, was that because the 49ers don’t really know who you are? Brown smiled. “No one knows me.”
— Stanton became the first Cardinals’ QB to not throw an interception and not be sacked since 2010. So once again, Stanton has a link back to 2010.
— You can’t go sackless, especially with as many deep throws as the Cardinals tried, without very good pass protection. Yes, the Niners are without guys like Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman, but this upgraded line is doing very well (including that parting of the Red Sea to spring Andre Ellington for that last 20-yard gain.)
— The Palmer/Stanton quarterbacked-Cards have yet to throw an interception this season.
— Amazing. On Tommy Kelly’s blocked field goal for the Cards, the Cardinals only had nine men on the field.
— It was with a lot less in-game attention as the Cardinals rallied, but Larry Fitzgerald didn’t get his first catch Sunday until the fourth quarter again. Then it looked like he’d be the key factor in the game-clinching drive – and then he fumbled the ball at the San Francisco 5. It was shades of last year’s lost fumble in San Francisco that short-circuited a possible go-ahead drive. This time, the Cardinals weathered the turnover. I’m not sure Fitz talked to anyone after – I know I didn’t get a chance to see him – but I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief the turnover turned out not to matter.
— Michael Floyd, two long (39 and 45 yards) catches among his 5-for-114 day. That’s two 100-yard games in three weeks.
— Is there a better defensive coordinator in the league at making halftime adjustments than Todd Bowles?
— I’m not sure how the defense went from being unsure how to handle Colin Kaepernick to shutting him down. This defense just keeps making it work. Losing Antonio Cromartie with a knee injury could have been a blow, but Bowles was already going to use Justin Bethel in this game. That’s foresight. I thought Patrick Peterson played pretty well too. The Cards started getting to Kaepernick with pressure, but the coverage was a big part of that.
So the Cards head into the bye. A short week of practice, needed time off and a 3-0 record. Can’t complain.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Cromartie, Drew Stanton, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Todd Bowles, Tommy Kelly, Tony Jefferson
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Carson Palmer will not be the backup quarterback today. Not surprisingly, he is inactive for a second straight game. Defensive end Frostee Rucker, coming back from a calf injury, is active so that will help on the defensive line. Actually, there are no surprises on the inactive list today really, taking away some of the 90-minute-before-drama that has been there the last first two games. Tight end Rob Housler (hip) will sit today, so Darren Fells gets into his first NFL game. DT Alameda Ta’amu is sitting but since the Cards are trying to hard to generate a pass rush, I’d guess an extra body is favored there over another run stuffer.
The full inactive list:
— Palmer (shoulder)
— P Dave Zastudil (groin)
–LB Victor Butler
— LB Glenn Carson
— LB Alex Okafor (thigh)
— Housler (hip)
TE Vernon Davis (ankle) is inactive for the 49ers, as is starting tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) and No. 2 tight end Vance McDonald (knee). Given the Cards’ issues with tight ends, avoiding both is a big deal.
Tags: 49ers, Alameda Ta'amu, Carson Palmer, Frostee Rucker, inactives, Vernon Davis
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What a week.
What a month, really, or six weeks, whatever the timeframe upon which you want to make the prism to look through. The Cardinals have encountered turbulence for sure, and it just doesn’t seem like that seat belt light is ever gonna go off so they can walk about the cabin. That bye week after this 49ers game looks so inviting, and maybe the football gods do know what’s what when that schedule comes out.
Bruce Arians thought back Friday to his 2010 season with the Steelers, when QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended to start the season and Byron Leftwich broke his leg in preseason and third-stringer Dennis Dixon got hurt and Charlie Batch still got Pittsburgh off to a 3-1 start. The Steelers made the Super Bowl that year (although they lost to Green Bay.) The Cardinals can take that to heart.
The bumps aren’t over yet, either. “It’s only Week 3,” Arians said. “Something’s coming.”
There just happens to be a pretty important football game Sunday.
— Drew Stanton gets the start (and no, I don’t think Carson Palmer will be healthy enough to be his backup.) It’s a big deal for Stanton. The Giants are, well, the Giants. The 49ers are a different beast, which Arians’ tone hinted toward Friday when he was asked if Stanton should be better this week. Stanton can’t turn the ball over, like he was able to do in New York.
— The fact tight end Vernon Davis, if he plays, will be gimpy at best is huge news for the Cardinals. Davis has done very well against this team. It’s a plus in the Cards’ corner if he’s not 100 percent.
— It’ll be interesting to see how the Cardinals cover the 49ers, and how much Patrick Peterson is on Michael Crabtree. Crabtree has had the upper hand thus far in the matchup, but I just have a gut feeling Peterson is going to have a good game.
— Peterson was not fined for his contact with an official in New York. Giants linebacker Jameel McClain was fined $8,268 for his hit on Stanton after the whistle had been blown for a Cardinals’ delay of game penalty.
— Many have complained about punter Drew Butler on his two blocked punts, even though Arians has reiterated they were on blockers Deone Bucannon and Robert Hughes. Now that Butler is back again with Dave Zastudil hurting, Arians said today Butler has a “real quick two-step release.” Again, noted it was the protection failures that went into the punt blocks.
— Logan Thomas did his best Colin Kaepernick impression this week for the scout team. “He’s not Kap, but he’s close with athletic ability and arm strength,” Arians said. The Cards hope so. Containing Kaepernick will go a long way in determining if the Cards can win.
— With Andre Ellington set to see cousin Bruce Ellington – a Niners receiver – Sunday, here’s a link to Kyle Odegard’s story on the two, from around the combine.
— Newcomer Jalen Parmele “probably” will slide into Jonathan Dwyer’s role as the short-yardage and goal-line back, Arians said. Stepfan Taylor isn’t that guy. Parmele is bigger than Taylor, but with Ellington’s talent, you have to wonder how much more Taylor will ever do here, or if he just will stay in the packages that they use him in now.
— Ellington is probable. The foot has definitely gotten better. And they will need him to play well. You figure the passing game will likely have a ceiling with the backup QB in the game.
— The Cardinals have been spectacular in a pair of rallies, outscoring opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter. The 49ers have gotten out to fast starts and fizzled down the stretch, and last week’s second half cost them a win. The Cards need to start a little faster, or at least slow San Francisco. Last year’s game at University of Phoenix Stadium was a game in which the Cards had to rally, before losing late.
— Here’s hoping the Cardinals’ fans show up in force and, as Arians has said, kept their tickets. The Cards will need that home-field advantage Sunday and it’d be a shame if too many tickets were in the hands of Niner fans.
— If you are going to the stadium, don’t forget the Cardinals will be wearing black.
On to the game.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Bruce Ellington, Carson Palmer, Colin Kaepernick, Drew Stanton, Jalen Parmele, Logan Thomas, Patrick Peterson, Stepfan Taylor, Vernon Davis
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Bruce Arians made it simple Friday, announcing that Drew Stanton will start at quarterback for the Cardinals Sunday. Carson Palmer still is not throwing passes, and even if he for some reason were ready to play Sunday at this point, he would be active as the backup quarterback with Logan Thomas inactive. Regardless, Stanton will start.
“We’ll put that to bed right now,” Arians said.
It’s not a surprise. Palmer’s right shoulder is getting better, Arians said, but if he can’t even throw — never mind if he has any power behind it — he can’t do the job. Arians said Stanton should be better than last week, but also acknowledged the 49ers have one of the best defenses. This isn’t an ideal situation for the Cardinals, but it is where they are at the moment.
— Arians said doctors told John Abraham after he failed another concussion test Thursday that he needed to sit out at least a year, which led to the IR move. It certainly looks like Abraham’s career is over, and that’s probably a good thing.
— Newcomer Jalen Parmele, not Stepfan Taylor, will take over Jonathan Dwyer’s short-yardage/goal-line back responsibilities.
— Dave Zastudil (groin) is indeed out, so Drew Butler will be punter Sunday. LB Alex Okafor (thigh) won’t play again either.
— Defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) did do some things in practice and Arians said he could play Sunday. Rucker will be a game-day decision.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Jalen Parmele, John Abraham
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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.)
Tags: 49ers, black uniforms
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