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Peyton’s place in the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on February 4, 2014 – 11:57 am

The chances of Peyton Manning repeating his historic 2013 season are slim anyway. No one has ever thrown 55 touchdown passes in a season for a reason. But after watching the Broncos’ offense struggle in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks, you wonder what kind of season Manning can compile when a fourth of his games will be against the intense defenses of the NFC West.

It was a notion I pondered briefly on Twitter yesterday. One game is not nearly enough of a sample size, of course. But — depending on whatever turnover all the teams involved have — the physical nature of all the defenses in the division seems unlike most of the ones the Broncos play. It certainly seemed that way Sunday. Manning got his completions (34 for 49) but only had 280 yards and one touchdown. In fact the 280-1-2 INT line looked a lot like what a QB might put up in an NFC West game. Something Carson Palmer might do. But Palmer had a much better defense at his disposal.

The NFC West defenses were ranked first (Seattle), fifth (SF), sixth (Arizona) and 15th (St. Louis). Of the 13 teams the Broncos faced in the regular season, eight were ranked 20th or lower, and only two — the Giants and the Texans — were officially top 10 defenses, although both teams struggled all season.

(And before anyone gets it twisted, I am a Peyton believer. He didn’t play well Sunday but that doesn’t take away from him being one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time — which is always going to be a subjective title anyway. No one else has done what he has done in a season like 2013, regardless of the defenses faced. And before anyone in the NFC West can get too high and mighty, remember that the Rams were the only team in the division who didn’t try to sign Manning in 2011.)

We’ll see if the gaudy stats make a comeback. Interestingly enough, the Broncos did see the NFC West this season, kind of. The four-game preseason slate was against all four NFC West teams. But that’s preseason, and with all due respect to Denny Green, it was pretty meaningless, even that third game against the Rams.

In Manning’s long career, the Cardinals have only faced him — truly, without him sitting in a meaningless game — once. That was in a Sunday night game in 2009, when Manning tore them up and the Colts bombed the Cards. Manning is still pretty dang good. But the Cards’ defense is much, much better than that 2009 version. The Broncos do get to host the Cardinals next year (the 49ers also go to Denver; the Broncos visit St. Louis and Seattle.) Already, a subplot emerges for the 2014 season.

ManningCardsUSE


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Without Fitz, does Sherman/Crabtree dustup happen?

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2014 – 10:31 am

If you pay attention to the NFL at all, you know how Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went off on 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree both on national TV and again in the post-game press conference. This was after Sherman taunted Crabtree right after making the play that led to the NFC Championship-clinching interception on a pass to Crabtree. Seems that the Cardinals — or at least Larry Fitzgerald — have a role in all of this. As you can see in the video below from NFL Network, the genesis of the bad blood between Sherman and Crabtree came when the two were part of the celebrities in town to play at Fitz’s annual charity softball game, which includes a dinner where they all get together. Sherman and Crabtree apparently had words then.

So, if I am understanding correctly, that means without Fitz, this whole thing — which, for now, has totally overshadowed the Seahawks making the Super Bowl — might not have happened? Fitz, bringing people together.

Actually, it’s interesting, because Fitzgerald is the absolute last guy that is going to engage in that stuff. Earlier this year, in fact, Sherman was kind of complaining that Fitz wouldn’t trade barbs and it made it hard to not like him. There is a reason Fitz can get these guys to attend his charity events and why Fitz keeps getting voted to the Pro Bowl. (Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of trash-talking myself. If you are good, it seems to me your play does the talking. If you are not good, why, exactly, would you be talking?)

Meanwhile, these are all components of the Cardinals’ universe. It’s not like Crabtree doesn’t have history with the Cardinals too, and going up against the Cards’ own star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who also (kind of) weighed in when all of this Sherman/Crabtree/best cornerback stuff started happening.

Ahh, the NFC West. It’s quite the universe within which to live these days.


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The NFC left to the West

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2014 – 2:01 pm

If the NFC West was the best division in the NFL this season, it’s only fitting that the NFC Championship comes down to the 49ers visiting the Seahawks. The Cardinals, of course, know both intimately. It hasn’t been a great matchup for the 49ers in Seattle — yes, the Niners beat the Seahawks in the last meeting, but the last two times the 49ers have gone to Seattle, the Seahawks have won 29-3 and 42-13. Pretty dominant and one-sided.

I’d be shocked if the 49ers don’t make it much closer. The Seahawks deservedly will be favored though, and it will be difficult to pull off a road win. Then again, the 49ers are playing very well, better than the team that went into Seattle much earlier this season. I’d also guess that regardless of the AFC team, the winner of 49ers-Seahawks will be favored in the Super Bowl in the cold of New York. Both teams have been the best in the NFC all season. And, with the Broncos possibly sprinkled in, they have reason to lay claim to being the best two teams in the NFL.

You can be sure there are a lot of Cardinals seeing the results of these playoff games and wishing they would have had a chance to be in the mix, especially with the way they played against both teams in the last two weeks of the regular season. With that, I have to include a tweet — a re-tweet, actually — from the Cardinals’ official Twitter account from earlier today. No, I was not the author.


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Niners (and a season) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2013 – 8:56 pm

This is what happens, even after a 10-6 season and a finale that goes down to the final play of the game and an exciting trading of four scores in the last 3:30 of the fourth quarter. All of it seems so inconsequential, because immediately, your thoughts go to the future.

There will be lots and lots of time to speculate, break down and report on what is going to happen with the Cardinals this offseason. Certainly I won’t cover it all tonight or even tomorrow on the final day for the players. There are a lot of free agents-to-be, a lot of decisions that have to be made, and most guys are going to say they’d love to be back. Because of course they will, as long as the money is right, and I do not blame them. The shelf life is relatively short in this league. You don’t pass up a big contract elsewhere because you like the vibe your feeling in the current locker room. I mean, you can (and sometimes, you might), but you take the guaranteed money where you can get it. That’s the business.

So where does that put the Cardinals now, on Sunday night, after a finale that started terribly and ended almost magically and once again underscored just how far this team has come.

“This is a totally different ballclub (from 2012), not just looking at the wins and losses but with the mindset of the guys in the locker room,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “That starts with coach Arians. You can tell it’s a different feel with this team.”

– In a lot of ways, Sunday encapsulated the season. There was a slow start but ultimately, the Cards rallied. The defense played well against the run and gave up a crucial pass or two. Offensively the Cardinals threw an interception but did enough to keep the team in the game. If nothing else, the Cardinals showed the last two weeks they have nothing to fear from the Seahawks or 49ers. Remember that Arians’ training camp quote about how he didn’t see a dominate team in the division? Well, from the perspective of his team, he was right.

– Yeah, that Saints game went exactly how it looked like it was going to go. And the NaVorro Bowman pick against the Falcons was really the death knell.

– If you are looking for the Cardinals’ full list of 2014 opponents, click right here.

- -And as I mentioned in that post, the Cards will pick 20th in the draft.

– It’s been mentioned before but the Cardinals have got to find a way to stem the turnover tide against the Niners. In the last 10 games – nine losses – the Cards have turned the ball over 30 times and forced just seven.

– Linebacker Karlos Dansby, on his Pro Bowl snub: “(I’ve) got to do more. There’s always room for improvement.”

– Dan Williams played very well at nose tackle Sunday. But that ACL tear for Alameda Ta’amu hurts. The Williams/Ta’amu combo was a big reason the Cardinals finished with the best rush defense in the NFL. Ta’amu, if he does have an ACL tear, is gonna be down for a while.

– Speaking of that run defense, Frank Gore (14 yards on 13 carries) was absolutely stoned. The Niners got cutesy early with some impressive misdirection, running wide receivers Anquan Boldin (11-yard run) and Quinton Patton (26 yards) on the first drive on end arounds. That’s 37 of the 83 rushing yards the Cards gave up (and QB Colin Kaepernick had 24 himself.)

– Fitz finishes with a flourish, 113 yards on six catches. Couldn’t get the 160 he needed for 1,000, but a nice ending.

– Do the Cardinals draft a quarterback? Possibly. As I said before, Steve Keim won’t take a guy he doesn’t love. But I fully expect Carson Palmer to go into the offseason work as starter, and I expect if he plays next season to be more efficient (with fewer picks.)

– Defensive end Calais Campbell with his ninth sack. Here’s hoping, as an alternate, he ends up in that Pro Bowl. Because he really had a Pro Bowl season.

OK, that’s enough for now. More tomorrow as the Cardinals wrap up with exit physicals, and much more over the offseason. No one ask me what I do now that the season is over. There will be plenty to write about.

Fitz9ersBLOGUSE


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Join the conversation – #SFvsAZ

Posted by since1898 on December 29, 2013 – 1:00 pm

SFvsAZImage

BACK TO #since1898


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Abraham active for Niners; Ryan Williams sits

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2013 – 12:56 pm

The final inactive list of the season contains no surprises. Linebacker John Abraham is active despite groin issues, as is safety Rashad Johnson. Running back Ryan Williams completes a season where he was healthy and inactive for every game — the only Card to not dress at least once. What the Cardinals do with Williams this offseason is one of the more intriguing storylines, even if it might not mean a lot the way the team has been built/run.

The Cardinals full inactive list:

– QB Ryan Lindley

– RB Ryan Williams

– LB Dontay Moch

– S Curtis Taylor

– T Nate Potter (G Earl Watford active with Daryn Colledge starting but battling sore back)

– TE Kory Sperry

– DE Ronald Talley


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Download the #SFvsAZ Facebook cover

Posted by since1898 on December 28, 2013 – 10:27 am

SF2BlogBACK TO #since1898

 


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Friday before the Niners (and Bucs-Saints)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2013 – 4:01 pm

A decade ago this weekend (on Dec. 28 to be exact), the Cardinals knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs with a dramatic Hail Mary touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Nate Poole that thrust the Packers into an improbable postseason berth. Ten years later, McCown is a backup Bear, hoping his own team can get into the playoffs. Larry Fitzgerald, the guy the Cards drafted because they went from the No. 1 to No. 3 overall pick that day, is the face of the franchise. And the Cardinals are hoping Mike Glennon can be their Josh McCown.

Like the Packers that day, who still needed to beat the Broncos to have a Vikings loss mean anything, the Cardinals must knock off the 49ers to have a shot at the playoffs. But if they do, they must count on the Buccaneers – playing the role of the 2003 Cardinals – to knock off, in New Orleans, the heavily favored Saints – playing the role of the 2003 Vikings. It’s unlikely, yes. But so too were the Cards, McCown and Poole.

“Anybody can beat anybody in the National Football League,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s a tough place to play but they play them every year in that division.”

Then again, Arians has stressed to his team all week they should only be paying attention to the 49ers and not the scoreboard. It’s simple, really. If the Cards blow the game against San Francisco (and it will be anything but easy), the Saints-Bucs game means nothing anyway.

“If we don’t win, that would really be a crying shame,” Arians said.

– One last note on the missed chance the Falcons had to knock off the 49ers. Arians cracked he was asleep when the final interception happened to cost Atlanta at least a chance to tie. He watched it later on video. “I like the fact Smitty was playing for the win,” Arians said of Falcons coach Mike Smith and the pass play at the end.

– The Cardinals had their last practice of the season Friday. Maybe. “I’ve been in a bunch of these, where the last one counts,” Arians said. “You don’t know what is going to happen Sunday. This team has a chance to make history and that’s all we have talked about all week.”

– The local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association handed out its two annual awards Friday. Center Lyle Sendlein was given the Steve Schoenfeld “Good Guy” award for being always accessible and insightful with the media regardless of the situation. Linebacker Karlos Dansby received the Lloyd Herberg MVP award. Both awards are named after former Arizona Republic Cardinals writers whose lives were tragically cut short.

– A reminder: Cards are wearing red-on-red Sunday.

– The roof will be open for the game.

– In the weekly video about officiating that the league sends out, VP of officiating Dean Blandino explained the confusing first-and-20 situation in Seattle after an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Cardinals. A flag was thrown on defensive end Frostee Rucker. The penalty was for verbal abuse of an official. A normal unsportsmanlike penalty would be marked off and then the first-and-10 chains set – normally making it first-and-10 at the Arizona 10-yard line. When the penalty is against an official, however, the chains are set and then the penalty is marked off.  So the Cards had a first-and-20 at their 10.

– In their last nine meetings against the 49ers, the Cardinals have a whopping 28 turnovers and have never won the turnover battle. That’s why they have lost eight of them (and the one win, the Cards had three turnovers, the Niners zero.) The Cards must take better care of the ball.

– The Cardinals did not play great that day in San Francisco back in October, but were left with the feeling of a missed opportunity. That’s been an underlying theme this week.

– Here’s hoping the Cards have found out how to quell tight end Vernon Davis, who beat them up pretty well the first time around (8-180-2). “

– I am interested to see what it is like in University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday. This game has been sold out for a while. The Cards have a chance to win 11 for the first time in Arizona, playoffs or no playoffs. This is a rivalry. “If we could only win two games the whole season, I would pick both to be the 49ers,” Fitz said this week, and this is a chance to get one.

Until Sunday …


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Peterson vs. Crabtree an interesting storyline

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2013 – 9:46 am

Patrick Peterson didn’t see Michael Crabtree the first time the Cardinals and 49ers played. Crabtree was rehabbing a torn Achilles he hurt during the offseason. But Peterson is very aware of Crabtree, whom Peterson once called one of the the top wide receivers he had faced. Crabtree has returned to the field, playing in the last four games and slowly working his way back into the San Francisco offense — and he’ll be sitting there, waiting for Peterson Sunday.

Crabtree has 16 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown in those four games, and Peterson has been watching. “I still feel (he’s one of the best I’ve played),” Peterson said. “He has big-play ability receiver that adds a new dynamic to the San Francisco offense. He’s comfortable with (QB Colin) Kaepernick and Kaepernick is comfortable with him. Monday night he made a bunch of big catches and put up a lot of good yards.

“It seems like he is slowly getting back into game shape, slowly getting back into the groove of things. He looks to me about 85 percent now and coming back off that type of injury of course you are going to come back a little sluggish, a little slow trying to make sure you get the feel back. I’m quite sure the competitor he is, he’ll be back in the groove soon.”

The “85 percent” comment, which Peterson delivered a version of during a conference call this week with San Francisco reporters, is what has caught the attention of many. (Bruce Arians said something similar, by the way.) Crabtree had his way with Peterson last season — Peterson did cover him the vast majority of the time in two meetings — with 13 receptions for 244 yards and four touchdowns. If Peterson has had cornerback kryptonite as he has established himself as a top cover man, Crabtree has been it. How that matchup comes down Sunday will be intriguing, both on a micro-level between the two and a macro-level of how it will impact the outcome.

Peterson emphasized again he thinks Crabtree is an excellent player. Whether the 49ers try and get the ball more to Crabtree — who had five catches for 102 yards against Atlanta Monday – to “prove” to Peterson Crabtree is indeed 100 percent remains to be seen. There is no question both Peterson and Crabtree have enormous confidence in their own abilities. That’s what will make this so fun.

PPCrabUSE


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University of Phoenix Stadium sellout streak reaches 83 games

Posted by since1898 on December 26, 2013 – 2:59 pm

83GAMES


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