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Tillman and the NFC East, Friday before Washington

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2017 – 4:01 pm

Washington used to be a division trip. The first two seasons I covered the Cardinals, there were home-and-home with the NFC East, before realignment. The last time the Cards went there as an NFC East team was in fact Pat Tillman’s last game in the NFL. It was played in a freezing rain, and the Cardinals came up short, 20-17 on the scoreboard and therefore in their quest to finish .500 – a rare achievement in those days. That was the 2001 season, the last game of the year and only the last game of the year because, as the Cards’ first game of the year, it was bumped because of the cancellations due to the 9/11 tragedy. Tillman talked to us in the locker room after, clad in only a towel, lips blue and teeth chattering, angry at the result.

I also remember the trip to Washington in 2008, because it was the front-end of a week-long trip away, in which the Cards stayed in Virginia to bridge games against the Redskins then the Jets. That was a memorable week despite back-to-back losses. Anquan Boldin famously broke his jaw against the Jets. And before that, with a 2-1 record after a loss to the Redskins, I went to dinner with three co-workers and we talked about what it would be like if the Cardinals won a Super Bowl. None of us really believed it could happen, and then, a few months later, that’s exactly where the Cardinals were.

I’m not sure this trip to Washington is going to hold the same memories, although, like the one in the 2001 season, getting to .500 (or above, if the Cards win out) is a goal. When the season started this game looked important for both teams when it came to potential playoff positioning. Now, the Cards have to win to keep breathing, and Washington is already done.

— So Adrian Peterson is done for the year, something that has certainly been trending that direction for a bit. Kerwynn Williams has entrenched himself as the starter so the Cards have already handled the idea they won’t have AD. The question now is whether Peterson – who is under contract for next season, for $3.5 million – returns. Bruce Arians said Friday he can see Peterson on the roster. But there are other factors. David Johnson will be back. Not only do you have to find a way for Johnson and Peterson to co-exist, but Peterson would have to be OK with a reserve role. The Cards will also have to be OK paying a chunk of money to a reserve back.

The roster can go so many different directions this offseason. Peterson’s role is just another detail to sort out.

— No one is getting into the muck of the postseason, really, but know this in terms of the Cardinals and being officially eliminated from the playoffs – it can happen one of three ways:

— A Cardinals loss
— A Seattle win
— A win by both Atlanta and Carolina.

Just sayin’.

— Washington coach Jay Gruden praises the toughness of new safety and former Cardinal D.J. Swearinger this season, after Swearinger arrived as a free agent. Swearinger was even named a captain, and he used that to its fullest this week, calling out his team for going through the motions at practice. We’ll see how they respond. One thing is for sure, and that’s Swearinger is geared up to play the Cardinals.

He said the Cards made him an offer last year but pulled it just before free agency started (which more or less makes sense; I’m sure the idea was that they wanted Swearinger but if they didn’t get him at their price, they were going to go in a different direction.)

As for Sunday, “It’s definitely extra juice,” Swearinger told the Roanoke County-Times. “I’m going to be on the edge. I can’t wait to play.”

— Everyone will be watching rookie left tackle Will Holden Sunday. He may just be the key to the game. If he holds up, I think the Cards should be fine. Arians said newcomer Kahlif Barnes will be active, but I’m sure they’d rather not have it come down to him playing on only a couple days of practice.

— As I write this, the forecast for Sunday is 49 degrees and only a 10 percent chance of precipitation. Perfect football weather.

— A victory by the Cardinals would give Arians his 49th win as head coach, including playoffs. That would tie him with Ken Whisenhunt for most wins in franchise history with postseason included. Arians already has the most regular-season wins as a head coach, with 47.

On to D.C.


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Adrian Peterson writes about neck injury

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2017 – 1:21 pm

Adrian Peterson hasn’t spoken to the media since being hurt, but today he did post on Instagram about the injury, which indeed happened when he was dumped head-first into the ground against Jacksonville. Peterson gives no news about a timeline other than what Bruce Arians has been saying — he needs rest. But he does note “I could’ve easily broken my neck.”

Peterson will miss his second straight game Sunday. Kerwynn Williams will start in his place.


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Friday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2017 – 3:49 pm

Patrick Peterson is the Cardinals’ Man of the Year for a second time, but his time as a punt returner, well, “that stage of my career is over,” he said. Not necessarily because he thinks he can’t do it anymore, but it’s not like the Cardinals are going to put him back there that much. He’s too valuable as a cornerback.

Now, if you asked to go play offense? “That chapter is not over,” Peterson said with a grin. “I’m going to leave that open, and I have a couple of blank pages for coach.”

Peterson said he wishes he could play offense. “I’m an offensive guy at heart,” he said. He wouldn’t even mind quarterback, although that’s not going to happen.

Catching a pass or two would be interesting. The Cardinals will be down John Brown Sunday against the Titans, and J.J. Nelson is nursing a sore knee. Chad Williams should get a little more work.

“(Patrick) used to be in the book, when we didn’t have any speed,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He may be back in there soon.”

*Editor’s Note: Peterson isn’t playing offense this weekend. Or this year, I’m guessing.*

— The other Peterson isn’t playing Sunday, but that isn’t a surprise any longer. Adrian Peterson still hasn’t practiced since suffering the neck injury and his road to return is vague, to say the least. Arians has no answers and Peterson has not yet spoken to the media since getting hurt. More chances for Kerwynn Williams.

— On the good side, having left tackle Jared Veldheer is crucial, especially when weighed against the fact the Titans are without pass rusher Derrick Morgan.

— Quietly, money linebacker Deone Bucannon returned to full practice this week from his ankle injury. Arians already said Josh Bynes – who is playing very well – will get snaps. It’ll be interesting to see how playing time is parceled out to Bucannon, Bynes and Karlos Dansby.

— Don’t forget that the Aeneas Williams episode of “A Football Life” is tonight.

— Also, there is a toy drive Sunday at the stadium, if you would like to contribute. Monetary donations or new, unwrapped toys will be accepted at the gates.

— Marcus Mariota is not Russell Wilson, not even close. Maybe someday, but not today. Still, there are some similarities in terms of mobility in the pocket. The one thing Mariota has (surprisingly) not done well this season (that Wilson absolutely does) is throw on the run. The Cardinals don’t want Mariota escaping for long runs, but if they can get him to move and still try to throw, maybe that is something they can exploit.

— Former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis is spending this season as the color analyst for the Titans’ radio network. Mac was a great personality to cover back in the day, and that final locker room speech he made after the famous McCown-to-Poole touchdown – knowing he’d be fired as coach – is as emotional as they get.

— The Titans visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday and that will complete the league – Tennessee is the only team not yet to have played in the Cardinals’ “new” stadium, which is in its 12th season. The Cardinals would prefer to be lousy houseguests – Arians is 6-1 against the AFC South since coming to Arizona.

— Larry Fitzgerald needs 26 yards to pass Randy Moss. I’m gonna guess he has that in the first quarter. No, I’m not putting any money on it.

See you Sunday.

 


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Keim: Special teams “unacceptable”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 4, 2017 – 8:17 am

GM Steve Keim was, like Bruce Arians, satisfied with the effort from the Cardinals Sunday in a loss to the Rams, but noted that the execution “on all three sides of the ball” wasn’t good enough. Obviously, special teams was part of that, with the blocked field goal, the blocked extra point and a long punt return helping derail any Cardinals’ hopes.

Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 was asked directly about the status of special teams coordinator Amos Jones.

“I’m never going to go on record or publicly and bash any of our players individually or one of our coaches,” Keim said. “The bottom line though is, there’s no excuse. Our special teams, it’s been unacceptable, point blank. It’s something that needs to improve and I’ll just leave it at that.”

— Keim reiterated that quarterback Blaine Gabbert has a “skillset that intrigues you,” but that Gabbert needs to find more consistency. Watching Gabbert play now, and what he does, are all “critical moments” in the evaluation of the future. Improvement is still possible, Keim said.

— Then again, when it comes to the QB spot for the Cardinals in 2018, Keim said the team will “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to filling the position. He obviously cannot talk specific players, but the search will include potential free-agent signings as well as the draft (and that doesn’t even include assessing the Carson Palmer situation.)

— The first player Keim mentioned by name, unprompted, was running back Kerwynn Williams, who stats included 97 rushing yards and a couple of cracked ribs. Keim loves Williams’ toughness, and “every time he’s gotten an opportunity, he’s stepped up.”

— The Cardinals indeed have had a ton of injuries. But “I don’t think you can ever use injuries as an excuse,” Keim said, noting that he has spent much time over the years looking at the depth chart in his office envisioning what would happen if this guy or that guy got hurt and what the Cards would be in position to do.

“That’s on me,” Keim said. “I have to do a better job going forward.” Keim added “the longer you do this, it teaches you different lessons in terms of building a team and building depth.”

— “There’s a chance” Adrian Peterson (neck) will be able to return this week, Keim said. DL Corey Peters and WR John Brown could return this week too.

— Signing Peters to an extension was important, Keim said. “He’s a player to me who is under the radar.” A leader in the locker room and who plays a crucial role in the defense, the Cardinals consider him a core member.


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Adrian Peterson will not play versus Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2017 – 12:58 pm

I’ve covered the NFL for almost 20 seasons, and I can think of very, very few times when a Cardinal had not practice all week and then was still active on Sunday. Wide receiver Brittan Golden did it earlier this season (much to my surprise.) And Adrian Wilson did it the week of the Bills game in 2008, playing only six snaps but using one of the them to effectively end the Buffalo tenure of Bills quarterback Trent Edwards.

There will be no story like that today. Running back Adrian Peterson, who didn’t practice all week because of a neck issue, will be inactive for the Cardinals and won’t play. Again, not a shock, since he wasn’t out there, although he was officially questionable. It’ll make for an interesting running back rotation, since Kerwynn Williams is expected to start and is playing with bad ribs. How much Williams, how much D.J. Foster, how much Elijhaa Penny will be part of today’s storyline.

The full list of Cardinals’ inactives:

— QB Matt Barkley

— WR John Brown (toe)

— $LB Deone Bucannon (ankle)

— RB Adrian Peterson (neck)

— S Rudy Ford (knee)

— C Max Tuerk

— DL Corey Peters (ankle)


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Jim Hart, and Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2017 – 4:27 pm

When you’re talking about long-term quarterbacks, Jim Hart is a good example. Hart was basically the Cardinals’ starting quarterback from 1967 to 1981, work that is getting him inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday when the Cards play the Rams.

On either side of that halftime ceremony will be another guy who is trying to get himself in the discussion about being a long-term quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is back for round three – and from the sound of it, all the rest of the rounds this season. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the QB of the future, or what it might mean in terms of the thought process for Carson Palmer, but it’s a solid test drive.

It’s funny, since the Jaguars have arguably the best defense in the league, but it feels like the Rams present Gabbert’s biggest challenge. Given the questions about the running backs and Adrian Peterson’s health, maybe that’s why. The first time the Cards played the Rams in London, the run game was DOA, and that in no small part played into the 33-0 loss. A big reason why the Cardinals did just fine against that good Jacksonville defense was Peterson and the run game.

Perhaps Peterson can play with whatever problems his neck is giving him. Or Kerwynn Williams can deliver a herculean effort. As solidly as Gabbert has played, you don’t want everything offensively on his shoulders.

— If Peterson does play, he needs just 37 yards to surpass all-time great Jim Brown in career rushing yards. (Of course, Peterson, healthy, had just 21 yards rushing on 11 carries in the first Rams meeting.)

— I keep getting questions, but no, I do not think David Johnson is returning this season. He’s not even practicing yet, and he’s not talking like a guy who is expecting to play this season either.

— How far have the Rams come offensively? They scored on 21.8 percent of their possessions last season, according to profootballreference.com. This year, they are at 48.4 percent, second only to the Patriots.

— There will be a lot of work to do this offseason in terms of roster overhaul/building. Perhaps more than most years, depending on certain situations. But I think the Corey Peters extension was important. Of all their free-agents-to-be, there are only going to be a few I think that the Cards want to try and extend. Peters was one of them.

— Health matters. The Rams have started the same five offensive linemen in every game. The Cardinals, of course, have started six different offensive line combinations in 11 games. “Yeah,” Cardinals offensive coordinator/line coach Harold Goodwin said. “I’m jealous.”

— A focus of the defense Sunday will be Todd Gurley. I know. Duh. But defensive coordinator James Bettcher said the Cardinals focused on the London debacle, when the Rams ran for 197 yards on 40 attempts. The Cards went into that game having not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Gurley gained 106 on 22 attempts. Gurley remains the only player to gain 100 yards rushing against the Cards this year.

— Bring your binoculars to see all the players taking part in My Cause, My Cleats Sunday. Or you can check out this photo gallery.

— LB Chandler Jones was fined $18,231 for his roughing the passer penalty last week on Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. Kareem Martin and Frostee Rucker weren’t fined for their roughing the passer penalties. There was also no fine for Jags LB Myles Jack for his horsecollar tackle on Peterson.

— One big reason for the Cardinals’ current 5-6 record is the fact last week’s win against the Jaguars was the first time all season they were a positive in the turnover column for a game. In the seven games they have been even, their record is 4-3.

— It’s been a while since the Cardinals played the Rams at home with the Rams being the favorite. The Cards would like to mess with their playoff push. See you there.


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Splash plays, and Jaguars aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2017 – 8:16 pm

The Badger was active.

He made a huge interception at the most crucial of times – on a drive where it looked like the Jaguars had stolen momentum and were on their way for a game-winning field goal. But Tyrann Mathieu read the play perfectly and got the pick. That’s two this season, and while you’d hope for more, you can’t argue that the two could have come at better times.

The plays were there Sunday. Blaine Gabbert was pretty good again. You see what he can do when his legs are needed (although, as Bruce Arians pointed out, there are times when that can cause an issue too, because the fumble was a play that need not have happened.) Another touchdown pass to rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, and a run game too.

Defensively, Chandler Jones had two sacks and five tackles for loss and deserves consideration for all-pro. I don’t know if he’ll get any given the Cards’ record, but he has earned it thus far. The run game stops are what impressed me the most Sunday.

Next week will be interesting. The Rams come to town, playing so well, and the Cards are anxious to play them again after the London wax job. Jacksonville is a good team with a very good defense. That’s what this three-game homestand – good opponents – is about.

— Calais Campbell returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown, but otherwise was held in check. Gabbert spun away from a potential sack or two. But the Cards didn’t let their former star beat them, all the while welcoming him back. It was good to see the big guy.

“The Birdgang showed a lot of love to me and that felt pretty good,” Campbell said. “Definitely have me chills down my back. My old teammates on the Cardinals, talking to those guys and getting all the love before the game and during the game and even after. The coaching staff, I have a lot of friends in that building, so that was fun. I really wanted to get this win so it definitely hurts right now.”

— By the way, that’s two straight games in which Campbell has returned a fumble for a touchdown when playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. His final game here as a Cardinal was against New Orleans last season, when he scooped up a loose ball and rumbled 53 yards for a score. Campbell’s team has lost both games.

— A few weeks ago, I’m guessing not many thought Phil Dawson would be booting a 57-yard field goal to win a game. That would’ve been good from 62- or 63-yards, I’m thinking.

— D.J. Foster gets a spectacular 12-yard toe-catch to set up the field goal, and also had a very nice kickoff return. It was called back on a penalty, but you can see where he excels there. He’s got a chance to make an impact, especially with T.J. Logan still hurt. It’s a great story too, since he went to Scottsdale Saguaro High School and ASU.

“It’s pretty incredible, kind of a surreal moment to get out there on that field and represent Arizona,” Foster said.

— Mathieu talked this week about getting a chance to face friend Leonard Fournette on the field for their first time after the two came from the same neighborhood yet never played together. Mathieu did his job one specific time, tracking down Fournette on a screen pass and dropping Fournette for a loss of five.

“It’s a tough challenge, especially being 190 pounds and running a 4.5 and he’s 230 and runs a 4.4, so the advantage is on his side,” Mathieu said. “There was actually one play, he ran through the hole and then Budda (Baker) came flying in, so kudos to Budda. I was just waiting on (Fournette) and just trying to get in front of him but Budda made a great play. I might take him out to dinner after this.”

Mathieu smiled. It was a good day.

— There was a scuffle post-game between Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham and Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, with some swings. It looked heated, but it was calmed quickly and as soon as it was over, Gresham was shaking hands with other Jaguars personnel. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Gresham. Jackson simply said “it was a misunderstanding.” Cardinals guard Alex Boone was there too, looking like he was trying to help end things. Asked about the emotions after a win like the Cards had, Boone said “I mean, I think they’re kind of high.”

— It was a quiet, workmanlike performance from running back Adrian Peterson, but those 79 yards on 20 carries were so important. The Cardinals gained 108 yards on the ground, which is the only way they are going to have a chance to win games.

— Fitz and Campbell swapped jerseys. As did Fournette and Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Lots of mutual respect there.


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Calais returns, Friday before the Jaguars

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2017 – 3:22 pm

The tale of the two players facing their former teams Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium also is a tale of their teams.

Calais Campbell comes back to the Valley with the Jaguars, after his nine seasons with the Cardinals and beloved by the fans. He’s already got a career-best 11½ sacks, he leads the best defense in the NFL and they are in first place in their division. Blaine Gabbert is long removed from his time in Jacksonville and he’s the starting QB for the Cardinals now – despite beginning the season third-string – as the Cards have endured so many injuries and have moved in a lot of ways to evaluation mode with many players.

On paper, it’s an uphill battle Sunday for the Cards. There is no other way to look at it. The Jags might be without top CB Jalen Ramsey, but in the end, they are playing better than the Cardinals right now and have momentum and the carrot of trying to secure the division. The Cardinals are without their top … well … too many to have it not matter.

The Cardinals can’t let Leonard Fournette run all over them, and they have to protect Gabbert. Maybe Adrian Peterson can get loose – the Jaguars are only middle-of-the-pack in run defense, although they give up a paltry 14 points a game. The spotlight will be on Campbell and Gabbert in a lot of ways, and the Cardinals have to reverse each player’s narrative to get a win.

— Another spot to watch Sunday is what running back D.J. Foster can do on third downs. Foster gets his chance now that the Cards let Andre Ellington go. He had nine snaps (and two catches) a week ago and he’s probably a better pass catcher than straight runner at this point. Coach Bruce Arians said receiving is what Foster does best.

“He’s a little bit small to be a pass protector but he’s tough enough,” Arians said. “That’s all you can ask a guy at his size, fight your tail off and get your ass kicked with dignity.”

— We all know Chad Williams, the third-round pick, will get snaps this weekend with John Brown injured. It’s a crucial time for Williams, who frankly is being counted on in as a key component of next year’s receiving corps. Larry Fitzgerald had good things to say about Williams’ maturity and work ethic. Now we see it on the field.

— Carlton Agudosi, whom Fitz and Arians also praised, also could play Sunday with Brittan Golden dealing with a groin issue – although the last time Golden battled that groin injury, he didn’t practice Friday and still played Sunday.

— If you didn’t see Fitz’s comments about Campbell, please check them out.

— Unfortunately for Fitz, he was fined $24,309 for the crackback block he was flagged for Sunday in Houston. The Adrian Peterson rush gained no yards, regardless.

— There has been a lot of talk about Campbell’s ability to get to play defensive end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 scheme and how it was his natural spot. Campbell was in a 3-4 in the base defense here in Arizona and then played inside in the Cards’ four-down-linemen passing down packages. Campbell still moves inside for the Jags on obvious passing downs. Here was his take:

“All of it plays a role,” Campbell said. “I always thought it’d be nice to play on the outside in the 4-3 scheme. That’s where I played in college and pretty much most of my life, but at the end of the day, I’m a football player. Put me anywhere you want me to, and I’m going to give my best shot. But, it’s cool being able to play on the edge a little bit, and I still get the rock inside and go back to the three-technique on third down, which is fun. I think that’s been beneficial. It’s a combination of a few things. A lot of good players around me make my job a lot easier.”

— There is one other “revenge” scenario for Sunday. Cardinals right guard Earl Watford signed a free-agent deal with the Jaguars last offseason, got $1 million guaranteed and was still cut at the end of the preseason. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone: “Unfortunately, he was hurt for a long period of time. Then, we just had players that were playing, and he did a nice job. It was a tough decision.” Watford declined to talk about his time in Jacksonville, brief as it was.

— Through 11 weeks, Fitzgerald had more receiving yards – 546, of his 768 – out of the slot than anyone else in the NFL, according to ESPN.

— A note from our esteemed social media manager Brandon Naidus, who once worked for the Jaguars (and who would undoubtedly be disappointed if I did not drop this in): The Jaguars have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round during their history, and all three will be on hand Sunday. Blake Bortles (2014) is their current starter. Gabbert (2011) is the Cardinals starter. And Byron Leftwich (2003) is the Cardinals’ quarterback coach.

— It’s interesting to see the dichotomy between the fan bases on Gabbert this week. Cardinals’ fans are (rightfully) encouraged by Gabbert’s play last week and are anxious to see him play again. Jaguars’ fans also are excited to see Gabbert this week – mostly because they feel he will not succeed. Clearly there are still hard feelings there with Gabbert’s failures as the Jacksonville QB.

— Don’t forget there is a food drive Sunday, so bring your canned goods and/or a monetary donation. They will be accepted at all stadium entrances.

— Might the Cardinals be able to run the ball a little? Adrian Peterson has a combined 55 yards rushing the last two games. If Gabbert’s task isn’t hard enough in the first place, another sluggish running effort could cripple the Cardinals.

“It’s something those guys are taking personal up front, and I’m taking it personally as well,” Peterson said.

— See you Sunday, where you come for the reunions, and stay for how the season begins to play out for the Cardinals.


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Searching for more yards each run

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2017 – 1:32 pm

What Bruce Arians said about the run game Monday in terms of the fourth-and-1 that didn’t get the 1 is what got the headlines. But before that, Arians again brought up the overall struggles of the Cardinals running the football.

“When you look at the game, that tells the story,” Arians said. “When (the Texans) have 10 out of 16 third downs and six or less, and we have three or four, whatever it was, six or less, because they’re running the ball, and we’re not. You want to stay in manageable down and distances, whether penalties or whatever, we’ve got to play the game at better, manageable third downs.”

Adrian Peterson started the game with carries of six and then seven yards. But after that, the Cardinals could not grind out yards. He had 12 carries after that, for 16 yards. Up until his final carry — the infamous fourth-down try, where he lost a yard — his four carries before that had been 3, 4, 3 and 4 yards. (So perhaps there was some reason why Arians felt the Cards could get one.) Still, the Cards need more production.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell tweeted out this stat: The Cardinals are averaging only 3.01 yards a carry this season from their running backs, and only three teams since 2001 have averaged less than that (one of which was the 2005 Cardinals and their 2.98-yard average behind Marcel Shipp, J.J. Arrington and throwing to Fitz and Anquan Boldin every play.)

There is a lot that goes into this — David Johnson’s injury early and the loss for the majority of the season from run-blocking tackle D.J. Humphries, in particular. That Peterson averaged 5.2 and 4.3 yards a carry in his two big games — and had 63 total carries in those games — and the average is still low just highlights the issue.

It makes it tough to get manageable third downs. One thing that sticks out to me, however, was the comment by offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin a couple of weeks ago, saying from Peterson he only needs two yards and then two yards to get the offense to third-and-6. That would be something he could work with.


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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2017 – 4:25 pm

The focus going in to Sunday’s game was the quarterback. That made sense. The Cardinals were on their third one of the season and it is the most important position on the team. And for the most part, Blaine Gabbert acquitted himself pretty well. There were the two picks late, and you can’t have those, but the Cards were chasing 10 points by then.

No, it was the issues that have been around all season that doomed the Cards in Houston. A running game that has echoed the struggles of the pre-Adrian Peterson ground game. A defense that makes some plays but just can’t clamp down when the team desperately needs it. An offense that needs to find more consistency overall.

— Drew Stanton was healthy enough to be the backup Sunday. Could that mean he’s healthy enough to start next week – and does Bruce Arians drop him right back in? (I know the public-at-large’s answer.) Gabbert did look very comfortable, and he clearly has some chemistry with rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. That makes sense, because Seals-Jones and Gabbert have been working together on third team since the offseason. We’ll see. It’s fair to point out the Texans secondary has struggled quite a bit against the passers it has seen, and next week’s game against the Jaguars will feature one of the better secondaries the Cardinals have seen.

— Speaking of secondary, the Cardinals sure look like they have a star-in-the-making back there with rookie safety Budda Baker. He was everywhere Sunday. He was great on defense and continues to play so well on special teams – I repeat that he deserves (heavy) consideration for the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teams spot.

— Bruce Arians opened his press conference by taking the blame on the failed fourth down. I’ll admit I was on the move when the play happened, seeing it on the TV screen as I made my way down to the field. But I agree that the Cards had been stuffed all day inside. There wasn’t much to get, but the Texans made it obvious the wanted Gabbert to try and beat them. It was going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson on every run play, and the fourth-down try was only the one in the spotlight.

–Peterson ended up with 13 yards on 12 carries after his first two totes gained six and seven yards.

— I do think the absent D.J. Humphries makes a big difference when it comes to the run game.

— The Patrick Peterson vs. DeAndre Hopkins battle was exactly how it was expected to go. Peterson did give up the back-to-back big plays, finishing with Hopkins’ TD. But he broke up/defended a bunch of other tries, and nearly got a second interception late in the game with perfect technique. It’s funny that his first pick was on a pass that wasn’t even thrown to Hopkins or at Peterson. A deflection, and the right place, right time.

— Speaking of missed chances on turnovers, the Cards were there. There were a couple of other fumbles on the ground by the Texans that the Cards just couldn’t fall on, in addition to Peterson’s near-pick. Tyrann Mathieu also dropped a deep pass that could’ve been an interception, although the play was wiped out by an Arizona penalty. The Cards need all the turnovers they can get. At least they converted their two short-fields into TDs.

— Arians said he’d be going to different receivers this next week. That would seem to me that Chad Williams has a chance to be active, but other than that, I’m not sure where you turn. Maybe more Brittan Golden? I don’t see them bringing up Carlton Agudosi from the practice squad, but who knows.

— As much as Tom Savage had struggled this season, it hurts to give up a 97.1 passer rating to him, and 31 points to the Houston offense without the aid of turnovers.

— Fitz was asked about playing in 2018. He did not answer, one way or the other, and wouldn’t even say if he’s still thinking about it. So he leaves everyone in suspense – and makes sure the questions keep coming probably more often than not the rest of the season.


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