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Game day is here

Posted by since1898 on August 9, 2013 – 11:45 am

gbgameday

BACK TO #since1898


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Friday before the Packers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 2, 2012 – 4:16 pm

I always love when the Cardinals play the Packers because their game notes – fitting a team that’s been around for so long and is steeped in tradition – carry the name “The Dope Sheet,” a phrase directly out of the 1920s. The Packs’ explanation:

Two years after he co-founded the Packers with Curly Lambeau, George Calhoun began writing a piece called The Dope Sheet, which served as the official press release and game program from 1921-24.

Need any Packers’ info? Check The Dope Sheet. This week it has a lot of information about quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is arguably the best in the NFL right now. I think he’d have my vote. If he had a healthy receiving corps this would be a monster task for the Cardinals Sunday. He doesn’t, and that does leave some room for a Cardinals’ team that needs a win. The bye comes after this week for coach Ken Whisenhunt’s crew, and while it would have been great to have it exactly at the halfway point in the schedule, if the Cards can steal one at Lambeau Field before getting some down time, that wouldn’t be too bad.

Here’s some more of my own Cardinals’ dope:

– Defensive coordinator Ray Horton spoke Friday, and a few questions in – and indirectly, since the question that spurred his answer was about clamping down in the red zone – he got to the heart of what he considered the matter.

“I’m surprised the first question wasn’t ‘What happened against San Francisco?’ Tackling,” Horton said. “They threw a number of balls that were short of the first-down marker and we missed tackles and they scored. That’s it. There’s nothing wrong schematically. We have to make the play in front of us. All (of Alex Smith’s) yardage was missed tackles. We had guys in position to make tackles and we didn’t.”

Certainly that’s something that can’t happen against the Packers, although Rodgers and Green Bay tend to throw the ball further down the field in the first place.

– Horton did say the Cards, as much as they could in an NFL world where practice contact is relatively limited, worked on tackling this week.

“An old sage, (Steelers DC) Dick LeBeau, said (tackling) is just want-to,” Horton said. “Guys on this level understand technique and what they are supposed to do. Sometimes it’s ‘I’m going to get this guy on the ground and nobody else.’ Losing four games is disappointing but I was disappointed how we performed tackling San Francisco 49ers.”

– Running back Beanie Wells is supposed to be able to start practicing next week, although because of the bye week, I’d guess he’d start slow. The Cardinals will be limited as it is, with practices scheduled only for Tuesday and Wednesday before getting a few days off. That doesn’t surprise me, given how beat up the roster is. This is a later bye than the Cards have had recently. A break will do some good.

– Daryn Colledge said Packers’ DC Dom Capers will be “out for blood,” which doesn’t sound good when it comes to holding up against the pass rush but could create some lanes for Larry Fitzgerald. Of late, teams have rushed only four or even three, knowing they can get pressure and yet have a bunch of guys for coverage. If the Packers blitz sometimes, you figure there will be more chances for Fitz. But they have to convert.

– It’s the flip side of only nine rushing attempts for seven yards, which is what the Cards ended up with against the 49ers (second fewest rushing yards in a game ever, behind the minus-1 the Cards had against the Giants in 1953), but quarterback John Skelton set personal highs in both attempts (52) and completions (32) last weekend. Obviously, in an ideal world, the Cards won’t have to pass as much.

– The Packers already have their inactive list practically done. Six guys are already listed as out, five of whom are starters – Jennings, Woodson, Kuhn, Perry and Shields. With Jennings already sidelined, the Pack also probably won’t have receiver Jordy Nelson, who didn’t practice all week with a bad hamstring (and with the Packers’ bye waiting too for extra rest.)

– That’s why the Cards need to make sure tight end Jermichael Finley doesn’t go off. Finley hasn’t been the same player since erupting on the Cardinals back in the playoff game of the ages. The Pack are trying to remind him he can be that guy.

– Comon, Money Mike. How about creating some deja vu?

– A gut prediction: Fitz gets 100 yards this week.

– With a road game in a tough place, it’s not difficult to imagine a good start would be a replication of what the Cards did in New England. They only got a field goal on their opening drive, but they ate up clock and took the crowd out of it early. That would be ideal at Lambeau.

So would finding a win. Somehow.


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An equation for sacks

Posted by Darren Urban on November 2, 2012 – 10:54 am

The math seems pretty simple.

The Cardinals and Packers are currently tied for the NFL lead with 26 sacks each, and each have a dynamic linebacker who is leading the way (Daryl Washington has eight for the Cardinals, Clay Matthews has nine for the Packers). On the flip side, while it’s known around these part the Cardinals have surrendered the most sacks while on offense (39), the Packers have allowed the second-most sacks (28).

“(The Cardinals) have a have a uniqueness to their pressure in that their interior three guys are all very good pass rushers, which you don’t always see in a 3-4,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and certainly it seems that Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett can create more havoc than most 3-4 ends. “This is a unique challenge because it’s a defense that kind of throws a different pressure package at you, so it’s been an intense week of preparation.”

Given all that, it would sure seem like the team that can best protect its quarterback Sunday would gain an advantage. It may not be easy. It also isn’t a surprise to note both teams have had trouble running the ball this season, another way opposing teams can amp up its pass rush — knowing a pass is coming. Of course, in this matchup, props must also belong to defenses that know how to get to a passer. The Cards and coordinator Ray Horton can bring pressure from a lot of different places, and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers can do the same.

“Dom is one of those guys who wants blood,” said Cardinals guard Daryn Colledge, a former Packer. “He’s got a couple of guys who can rush the passer and the way we are doing pass pro right now, I’d assume those guys want to rush the passer too.”


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As Fitz is declared top 10 (seventh, actually)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2012 – 3:24 pm

The NFL Network’s summer tour of the top 100 players — as chosen by a vote of players — wraps up tonight. Somewhere in the final 10, Larry Fitzgerald will have his named called.

(The show airs at 5 p.m. Arizona time. And I am sure we will have Fitz’s segment available on the site soon after. … And here it is.)

Last year, Fitz was No. 14. Where will he be in a couple of hours? Don’t know. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis remain. I will be interested where Fitz is in relation to Johnson. Something tells me that could get the fans riled up. I already know — since I watched it unfold on Twitter — that people aren’t thrilled Calais Campbell/Adrian Wilson/Darnell Dockett didn’t make the list. Only Patrick Peterson will join Fitz.

Is Campbell or one of the others one of the current 100 best players in the league? An argument can be made, sure. I don’t know how many players participated in the voting, but someone came up with this list. (I mean, is Eli Manning really only the 31st best player? Worse than James Harrison? Or Wes Welker? Um, no.) This is about talking about the NFL in the deadest time of the NFL calendar, however. Don’t ever forget that. Lists are popular to make because they generate such conversation. And we are certainly talking about it, right?

UPDATE: Fitz was seventh. Calvin Johnson was third, behind Rodgers and Brees. Said Fitz on Twitter, “Honored 2 b voted a top 10 player by my peers. Congrats 2 all others. I will continue striving 4 perfection. 6 spots 2 go. #FaithFocusFinish

UPDATE, THE SEQUEL: Fitz had an even longer — and poignant — response on Facebook:

“Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement.

“I’ve completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal.

“Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players.

“My sincere hope is that we can get back to the playoffs on a regular basis and become Super Bowl Champions.

“Our team was 2minutes away from that goal on February 4, 2009, and similarly, my 7th rank of NFL top players leaves room for improvement.

“I will strive as always to expand my role and contributions to team success, be as productive as possible,and win a Championship…..”


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Not all Madden choices created equal

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2011 – 10:50 am

This year, EA Sports has decided to make a contest out of who will be their cover photo for this year’s version of the Madden football video game. Given the past season, I guess I assumed Aaron Rodgers was a shoo-in for Madden ’12, but no, Rodgers is just one of 32 candidates — one from every team. It’s also set up in bracket form, so we aren’t just talking about the total number of votes.

There are many cover possibilities that make sense — Rodgers, Matt Ryan, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, Andre Johnson — and others that I look at and think, ‘A good player, but a cover?’ — guys like Peyton Hillis, Jake Long, Josh Freeman. There are repeat candidates, guys who have already been on the cover before, like Drew Brees, Michael Vick and, for the Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald.

But just when you find a couple of head-scratchers (The Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap, the Bills’ Steve Johnson, the Patriots’ Danny Woodhead, Tim Tebow?) you end up freezing on the option for Seattle. Apparently, they have no player worthy of the honor, at least none important enough to usurp “The 12th Man” — the name the Seahawks give to their crowd (which yes, can be very loud, but is generally a non-factor if the team is lousy — just like any other crowd).

The 12th Man faces the aforementioned Willis in the first round, so I’d guess Willis will be the one to advance there. But still, the Qwest crowd? Really? Not, oh, maybe Mike Williams? Marshawn Lynch?

Besides, how exactly does the Madden curse affect that group — I’d be afraid of a natural disaster on game day.


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Waiting on a DC

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2011 – 10:22 am

As I complete what was a four-day weekend for me (i.e., don’t expect anything else today), just wanted to touch base after an interesting playoff weekend for the NFL:

– I don’t think the second interview for a defensive coordinator position came off last week, but I could be wrong. Maybe something was done over the phone, or pushed back. I don’t know. Obviously, if there is interest in a playoff coach — like Pittsburgh’s Keith Butler — that has been put on hold with the Steelers winning again. I don’t know if it means the Cards will move on or if they will continue to wait, or even if coach Ken Whisenhunt knows unofficially if he can or cannot get a chance at Butler. I think back to the Cards’ Super Bowl run, when Todd Haley becoming the Chiefs’ head coach was the worst kept secret around even though technically Haley was still coaching and hadn’t even had an interview yet. (And no, I’m not saying that is happening with Butler or anyone else, before someone runs with “Darren Urban is reporting Whisenhunt is having secret talks with a DC candidate.”)

– Senior Bowl week starts in a week, when every coach in the world descends on Mobile, Alabama. That too can be a place where candidates are found/interviewed.

– As I mentioned on Twitter, the Seahawks’ playoff run ended up mirroring the Cards’ 2009 playoffs (shootout home win then decisive road loss) than the 2008 team (home win and then shocking the world on the road to earn a home game in the NFC Championship).

– Man, did Santonio Holmes’ TD catch Sunday bring back some haunting memories.

– I am shocked Anquan dropped that pass. Although how does a defense like the Ravens’ give up third-and-19?

– Watching Aaron Rodgers dice up the competition every week, I keep thinking he would have done the same thing last year in the playoffs had Kurt Warner not come up with one of the greatest playoff performances ever. There was irony in that thought when people were trying to put into perspective how great Rodgers was against Atlanta — and he was, but still not quite up with Warner’s game versus the Packers.


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At the half, impressive thus far

Posted by Darren Urban on January 10, 2010 – 4:05 pm

Some quick thoughts as the Cards have a 24-10 halftime lead and will get the opening kickoff of the second half of their Wild Card playoff game:

– The Packers’ defense doesn’t know how to stop the Cards. If Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t fumble, the Cards have at least another three points right now.

– Turnovers, as expected, have been huge. LB Karlos Dansby was the reason the Cards got those first two turnovers to build their lead.

– DE Calais Campbell isn’t playing much because of his bad thumb, but both Alan Branch and Gabe Watson have been solid. And Bertrand Berry came off his week of “rest” with two sacks thus far.

– I’m not going to overstate it, but Early Doucet has looked good as Anquan Boldin Jr.

– CB Michael Adams is going to be kicking himself. He should have sacked Aaron Rodgers on a 44-yard bomb to Jermichael Finley, but for some reason Adams leaped high in the air and Rodgers easily ducked out of the way. If Adams just drives through Rodgers’ back, the Packers don’t get their last field goal.


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To blitz or not to blitz

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2010 – 5:04 pm

The game meant nothing and the teams were playing the next week, so it wouldn’t have been a shock to see the Cardinals try and pressure Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers heavily — especially in the second half of a one-sided game — Sunday. But they didn’t.

Even Rodgers took notice. “You’ve got to realize once their first unit went out, they really didn’t blitz much, if at all,” Rodgers said. The Cards’ first unit went out after the first possession.

There was a reason, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. Sure, they might have reached Rodgers a couple of times. But it would have worked against Whisenhunt’s entire line of thinking for the game. It would have meant showing the Packers blitz packages the Cards would rather keep under wraps until this week. Besides, Whisenhunt noted, “some of the guys you are blitzing with maybe aren’t as good of blitzers as Adrian or Karlos,” and those guys were long sent to the sideline by then.

“When we are our best defensively is when we are running around and doing different things and running packages,” Whisenhunt added. “When we don’t do that, we haven’t been as successful.”


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Friday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2009 – 4:40 pm

Thanksgiving came and went and, as usual, the holiday seemed like a blur. There is a lot to like about this job but that’s one of the downsides – the traditional holidays this time of year flash then disappear in the grind of the season.

But it does give us a chance to hear the thoughts of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who has continued to slide his desire for a new contract out once in a while never in a snit but instead with a little humor. The message is never lost, though. This week, Dockett said his family wasn’t coming out for Thanksgiving in part because the team leaves Saturday morning for Tennessee and he was saving their trip for the following week for Minnesota weekend. He just doesn’t have the cash to afford to fly his family out from Maryland more than once in a while.

“We don’t have no Albert Haynesworth money,” Dockett deadpanned. “If I am able to get off minimum wages I would definitely take my family out to all the home games because I know they’d be happy about that.”

Yeah, I’d guess Darnell would be happy about it too. Haynesworth, the Redskins’ defensive tackle, got some $40-plus million in guarantees from Washington last offseason. Dockett is making $3.5 million this season and is scheduled to make $3.75 M in 2010 and $4 M in 2011. I can only hope his family can handle their time apart.

Nevertheless, there’s a game against the Titans up first:

– Dockett did give big props to Tennessee’s running game and talked about what a huge boost to the confidence it would be for the defense if they could slow the Titans on the ground. And to think, Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, currently the NFL’s leading rusher, could have been a teammate. The Cardinals absolutely loved him going into the 2008 draft. They loved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie too, and cornerback was perhaps a more crucial position at the time. I think there was hope Johnson may slide all the way to their second-round pick, or at least into the second round where the Cards could trade up (a la Alan Branch in 2007). But the Titans grabbed Johnson in the first round. It seemed a bit premature at the time. Uh, not so much. He’s clearly one of the best already.

– Speaking of running games, the Cardinals are 27th in the NFL. But over the past three weeks, this is how the NFL’s top rushing teams shake out: 1. Carolina (183 yards a game); 2. Tennessee (182.7); 3. Arizona 162.3.

– Say what you want about the guy, but Dockett is productive and playing well. He has a sack in three straight games and is making a strong Pro Bowl push.

– Perfect weather planned for Sunday: 64 degrees and only a slight chance of rain. Could the Cards have had any better weather this season? Heck, even in the postseason, it looks like it will be all domes.

– Kurt Warner is going to play, barring something crazy. Hopefully the Cards can protect him well enough to avoid a replay of his St. Louis hit, but Warner is going to get tagged a couple times. That’s just the game.

– Warner’s 89 straight passes without an interception was the longest active string in the league for starting quarterbacks before Thanksgiving. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers surpassed him Thursday and is at 125 attempts. Two other guys have longer active streaks than Warner but neither plays: Washington’s Todd Collins (222) and Kansas City’s Brodie Croyle (96).

– So that’s where the offense was …  in the first seven games, the most yards the Cards generated was 383. They have surpassed 400 each of the past three games, the first time since 1969 the team has had more than 400 yards in three straight games.

– Getting LB Monty Beisel back was crucial. It didn’t hurt that Beisel wanted to come back all along, but his knowledge of the defense will allow them to drop him in right away. He can play both inside and outside and most importantly, fill Will Davis’ spot on special teams. The Davis injury hurts. He was playing well and earning more and more time on defense. The ability to get him back before the playoffs, I think, is important.

– Watching Vince Young throw, that passing game doesn’t frighten me. He can complete some passes, but he can’t beat you that way. Now, if he starts to scramble, and you defense gets out of position and then he finds a way to throw it, that can beat you. It’ll start on the early downs for the Cards. They can’t let Young or Johnson rip off too many big runs (I don’t think you can realistically say “any big runs.” That’s unfair). And the Cards have to move the ball and score points. The Titans can’t score with the Cards.

– It’s week two of the Does-Adrian-Wilson-get-his-20th-career-sack watch. Not going to be easy with Young running around. Young has only been sacked once this season.

– The Cards need to win at least one of their next two games, both for confidence’s sake and to put the 49ers out of the picture.

That’s about it. We’re off to the Music City tomorrow. Hard to believe we’re about to hit December. As well as the Titans have played, the Cards again are giving off good vibes before this one. Having Warner healthy helps. So does an undefeated road record. Can it pay off into another win? The Titans are hot, but so are the Cardinals. It’s going to be fun to watch it unfold.


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