— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) July 14, 2014
— Kevin Millar (@KMillar15) July 14, 2014
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Larry Fitzgerald, MLB, MLB All Star Game, NFL
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It seems like once Andre Ellington started playing at the beginning of last season, the amount of touches he was getting/would get/could get on a game-by-game basis was a constant theme. That hasn’t changed. And it came up again when Bruce Arians said he’d like to get Ellington 25 to 30 touches a game.
In a vacuum, a bold statement. But there are reasons to analyze this, not the least of which is that it is May and things most certainly can change by the time the season starts. (Don’t forget that at some point last offseason, the Cardinals were going to a) have Drew Stanton as a starting QB, b) use Kevin Minter as a starting linebacker with Daryl Washington, c) employ Levi Brown all year at left tackle and d) have a pretty limited role for Ellington.)
— Arians made it clear that his guesstimation for Ellington touches would depend on the number of passes Ellington would catch. Ellington’s use as a receiver is a big deal for this team going forward (and should probably be factored in when it comes to where the team stands with their receiving corps.) The Cardinals love Ellington’s pass-catching ability, they love the idea of getting him the ball in space, and they were pleasantly surprised with how effective he could be not only running routes (which he had never really done) but also catching the ball in traffic.
I’d think Arians believes a significant amount of those Ellington touches come in the passing game. And let’s face it, game-to-game, it’s difficult to know exactly how many receptions a guy might make.
— These days, no one gets 25 touches a game, much less 30. There is no bigger workhorse running back than the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. He averaged 22 touches last season. Even in his 2,000-yard rushing season of 2012, Peterson didn’t even get to 25 touches a game (24.3). Last year, Philly’s LeSean McCoy topped the league with 22.9 touches a game. Chicago’s Matt Forte was at 22.7. And it felt like McCoy got the ball all the time.
People like to compare Ellington’s size to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles. Charles averaged 21.9 touches a game last season.
— Speaking of size, Ellington was officially listed at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds last year. He figures to put on some muscle, but I keep thinking back to what Arians said last year when people kept wondering why Ellington didn’t touch the ball more often. You don’t want too much of the offense to be on Ellington’s shoulders, the coach reasoned, because if he did get hurt, where does that leave you? (Ellington did fear he had torn knee ligaments during the Cards’ Thanksgiving practice last year, but it turned out to only be a sprain.)
“My goal is to get out there and not take those big hits, to get down when I’m supposed to or not get hit at all,” Ellington said. “But it’s football. You’re going to get tackled. … I just have to be in the best shape so I can be full speed on every play.”
Over Ellington’s last eight appearances last season, he averaged 13.6 touches a game. He had a season-high 17 touches in a game twice. He did not have more than 15 carries in a game. It will be interesting to see how his use morphs this season, and whether or not Ellington really does hover around a 25-touch-per-game average.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte
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Early last week, guard Daryn Colledge talked about how the offense had to play better, but that the defense was always going to keep the Cardinals in the game. Then came Sunday, what may have been the harshest way to demonstrate the point.
I’m not sure what the hardest thing to handle was for the Cardinals. The first stop that led to a punt giving the Cards the ball first in Minnesota territory, only to have the drive go nowhere? The following long drive into the red zone that ended with a fumble and no points? The gift interception at the end of the first half – why on God’s green earth were the Vikings throwing at that point anyway – only to have Jay Feely’s field goal miss? The pick-6 to start the second half that made it a two-score game?
“The plays that were there to be made were being made earlier in the year,” quarterback John Skelton said. “Now we are missing.”
It’s going to be hard not to re-play what could have been in the collective minds tonight.
— The Cardinals have now lost two games this season in which the opposing quarterback had fewer than 10 pass completions (the Rams’ game was the other.) That’s unheard of in today’s NFL. The Vikings ended up with a net of 43 passing yards.
— Those 43 net passing yards – and Christian Ponder’s 58 gross – were the fewest allowed in an NFL game this season, by the way. The Cards hadn’t allowed so few in a game since giving up 37 net passing yards to the Ravens in December of 2000 – a game the Cards also lost, 13-7, to the Trent Dilferific Super Bowl-bound bunch.
– The Cards had the ball for more than 10 minutes more than the Vikings, including holding the ball for more than 11 minutes of the 15-minute third quarter.
— LaRod Stephens-Howling had been off to the worst start of his career running the ball, but he was back on track Sunday. Yes, it was partly due to the Vikings’ defensive alignment, but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of his first 100-yard game. You figure next week’s game against the 49ers will be much more difficult, but considering where the Cards were when they lost both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, it’s a start.
— Guard Adam Snyder was limping around pretty good because of the quad contusion that sent him out of the game and brought Rich Ohrnberger in for relief. You know Snyder is going to badly want to play against his former teammates a week from tomorrow. We’ll see if he can recover in time.
— Adrian Peterson sure didn’t look like a guy who had ACL surgery less than a year ago. He looked like 2008 Adrian Peterson with his 153 yards on just 23 carries, ramping up to full speed seemingly as soon as he was handed the ball in the backfield.
— Larry Fitzgerald called the offense’s overall lack of production scoring “disheartening.” It seems like the Cards have had more issues this year getting Fitz freed up than ever before. The offense is missing that kind of playmaking.
— I know the TD came late, but Andre Roberts quietly had a productive day (7 catches, 103 yards).
— The one thing Kevin Kolb was doing really well when the Cards were winning – and what has gotten lost a bit when the Cards ended up on the wrong side of things a couple weeks ago and then again today with John Skelton – is the turnovers. They cost at least 10 points today, with the Vikings getting seven on the interception return and the Cards losing at least three on the red-zone fumble by Skelton. Many teams can’t afford turnovers, but for the Cards, that margin is even smaller. The Cards generated a pair of turnovers themselves, but couldn’t win the turnover battle.
That’s enough from 30,000 feet. The Cards will have an extra day to regroup for the 49ers. That game was always big. Now it’s probably something that will determine where they go the balance of the season.
UPDATE: The Cardinals aren’t going to work out quarterback Vince Young, despite rumors to the contrary.
Tags: Adam Snyder, Adrian Peterson, Andre Roberts, Daryn Colledge, John Skelton, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Rich Ohrnberger, Vikings
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Trips to Minnesota since I’ve been covering the Cardinals have frequently ended poorly. OK, not frequently. Always. My first trip there was for a 2000 preseason game, where four or five Cardinals suffered serious injuries on the one-time crappy turf, including the ACL tear for wide receiver Rob Moore. There were not very close losses in 2000 and 2006 (although the Cards were a Hail Mary away at the end to get an amazing comeback). There was the 2010 loss, which looked like it was in the bag with a two-touchdown lead with six minutes left (Favred!) and then last year, when the Cards simply melted down in the first quarter.
Year-to-year doesn’t matter – it’s a new team here, the Vikings are a new team, and for the most part, nothing carries over – but that’s at least the backdrop for the Cards this weekend. I don’t need to get into the schedule again (but if you forgot, it’s Niners, Packers, Falcons in the next three games) but this is important. The coaches know it. So do the players.
— This is an early game, kickoff 10 a.m. Arizona time. The Cards had one of those in New England, but that was after flying in on a Friday. The Cards don’t fly to Minnesota until tomorrow. They can’t afford to sleepwalk through the first quarter.
— I watched the video of Vikings defensive end Jared Allen meeting with the Minnesota media. Not surprisingly, he was asked multiple times about the Cards surrendering 22 sacks the past three games and the opportunity he had. Not surprisingly, he dodged bulletin-board material. Who knows? Maybe he actually made a good point:
“I’ve been in this league for so long, I’ve played teams where they’ve given up … I always go back to the Texans, who had given up, like, 50 sacks and we came in there like Week 10 or Week 11 (when he was with the Chiefs),” Allen said. “All we saw were bootlegs. Teams also know that. So you can’t sit there and say, ‘We’re going to lick our chops and get after the quarterback,’ because you’re going to get burned in the run.”
The Allen pass rush – he’s only got four sacks this season, below expectations — will be under the microscope Sunday, whether it is against D’Anthony Batiste or Bobby Massie.
— Linebacker Daryl Washington repeated the same message over and over: We have to stop 12 and 28. That’s Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson, in case you weren’t sure. Obvious, yes. But last year, quarterback Donovan McNabb was god-awful against the Cards (another reason why it confounds me a Cardinals fan would suggest signing McNabb) and yet the Vikings rolled. Peterson was awesome (three first-quarter TDs) and Harvin is a Swiss knife of a playmaker.
— Speaking of Peterson, it is still amazing he has returned from ACL surgery so quickly (he blew out his knee Christmas Eve 2011). He already has 499 yards rushing. “He’s not quite as bombastic in what he used to do,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said, “but he still has our full respect.”
“He just never ever doubted,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “The only time he showed any doubt was when we were flying back from the game when he was injured in Washington. But after that it was full speed ahead from a mental standpoint and he’s never regressed.”
— The Cards are allowing just 16.2 points a game, fourth in the NFL behind the Bears, 49ers and Seahawks. Whatever the rest of the stats say, that works for Horton. “That’s the only stat that should be measured,” Horton said.
— It hurts to be missing safety Kerry Rhodes, down with the bad back. That means the Cards will have gone through a game without Rhodes, Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett so far. It’d be nice to have all the key pieces in place, and Rhodes is having a pretty good year. Horton more or less shrugged it off. “Hopefully we’re not built like a house of cards where one guy gets hurt it is doom and gloom,” he said. “I don’t think we are built that way.”
— In case you missed it, my visit this summer to Minnesota turned into this story about how Larry Fitzgerald loves his home state. (But don’t worry, he loves being in Arizona too.)
— Minnesota native Michael Floyd isn’t getting the kind of work he was hoping – 7 catches, 84 yards – but he’s hanging in there. “The ball doesn’t come that way often, so when it does, you have to make the play,” he said. Floyd made the spectacular catch against the Bills after failing to come down with one a couple of weeks previous. Both Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Mike Miller say Floyd is doing fine in his steps forward.
“If we were doing better offensively (overall), he’d probably be more involved, have more statistics,” Whisenhunt said.
John Skelton, you’re up.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bobby Massie, D'Anthony Batiste, Daryl Washington, Jared Allen, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Percy Harvin, Ray Horton, Rob Moore, Vikings
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I had tweeted yesterday that tackle Chris Williams, released by the Bears this week, was on the Cardinals’ radar. Today they brought him in for a visit. He also visited the Eagles and so there’s no way to know if his signing is a slam dunk, or even if the Cards want him after seeing him live and in person. One report out of Chicago suggests he could be OK in the right environment. Clearly, with the Williams interest and the bringing back of Pat McQuistan, the Cards are considering options with struggling tackles D’Anthony Batiste and/or Bobby Massie.
— Darnell Dockett was back to practicing fully Thursday, the first time he has done so since hurting his hamstring against the
Dolphins Eagles a few weeks ago. Linebacker O’Brien Schofield, who has been limited almost all season with his sore knee, was back at full for the first time Thursday as well.
— Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Jared Allen sat out Thursday nursing ankle and groin issues, respectively, but both are expected to play against the Cardinals and reports are that some of the practice caution has to do with the fact the Vikings play the Buccaneers a week from today, so a short week is coming up.
— Running back William Powell gets some love from profootballfocus.com.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chris Williams, Darnell Dockett, Jared Allen, O'Brien Schofield, William Powell
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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.
Tags: 49ers, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Danny Woodhead, DeMarcus Ware, Drew Brees, Julius Peppers, Larry Fitzgerald, Madden, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Parick Willis, Rams, Seahawks, Steve Johnson, Tim Tebow
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Steve Breaston isn’t going to brag. He doesn’t look all that comfortable when it’s suggested his presence “helps” Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz is a great player, Breaston knows, and that doesn’t go away whether Breaston is out of the lineup or not.
“That’s how everyone else sees it … I don’t know,” Breaston said. “I don’t know if I help him or not. I just do my part execute what the coaches give me. I hope I help everybody.”
Then again, it does make a difference with Breaston in there. “I don’t think teams were worried about some of those young players we had on the field,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said of the rookie wideouts playing when Breaston and Early Doucet were injured. Breaston does draw more attention. He does have the speed to stretch the field and open up holes for Fitz – and others – underneath.
Here’s another of my theories on Breaston and such a line of questioning (and Steve has never said this to me). Judging by his reaction, I think he’d like to start getting a little more respect for his game. He’s long been the overachiever, the guy who came out of nowhere to be so much more than a punt returner. He’s a very good receiver, a major playmaker, and I keep thinking there’s got to be a part of him who thinks, “You’re darn right I help Fitz because I will kill teams if they don’t pay attention to me.”
But hey, maybe I am over-analyzing.
— So the Cards head to Minnesota tomorrow with opportunity. Normally this trip to play the Vikings would seem to be an uphill climb, especially with the way the Cards have juggled QBs. But there is little question the Vikings are in a worse place as a team, after jettisoning Randy Moss and injury issues and stories all week about how coach Brad Childress is in trouble. If the Cards can handle Adrian Peterson – at least not let him run wild – and not turn it over, there is no reason to think the Cards can’t steal one. Here’s hoping they give themselves that chance.
— Peterson gets lost in the shuffle since everyone wants to talk about Brett Favre and, of late, Moss, but the Cards are paying attention. “He’s not a forgotten man with us,” Whisenhunt said. Peterson does lead the NFL with 776 yards rushing in seven games. “You never forget about a guy like that,” linebacker Joey Porter said. “Their offense still starts around him.”
— Tim Hightower has had his fumbling problems. So too has Peterson, although Peterson said this week the obvious: “Last year, yeah, I led the league in fumbles. It wasn’t because ‘Hey this guy is soft.’ It’s the way I play the game. I’m sure a coach would take me if I lead the league in fumbles five straight years.”
Peterson has none this year. And ESPN’s Chris Mortensen pointed out this great stat about Walter Payton (and not to compare Hightower, or even Peterson, with Payton): In Payton’s 14 seasons, he had at least five fumbles in all but one season. Payton had seasons of nine, 11, 13 and 16 fumbles. Astonishing.
— OK, so it’s in large part an indictment of the struggling offense at this point. But do you realize the Cardinals have more return touchdowns (KOR by The Hyphen, interception by DRC, four fumbles by Levi Brown, Kerry Rhodes (twice) and Gerald Hayes to total six) as they do rushing (five) or passing (five)? Those six return TDs, by the way, lead the NFL.
— When it was suggested the Cards might not have bothered to watch the Vikings games with Moss, since he is gone now, Whisenhunt said the Cards watched every game this season of the Vikings. Moss’ absence will definitely change how the Cards deal with them.
— I tried to ask about right tackle Brandon Keith’s play. It was actually praised this week by one-time offensive lineman Ben Muth on Football Outsiders. But Whisenhunt was having none of it. At least not yet.
“I’m not going to comment about that until after this game,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s a trap, because as soon as you ask me that and I say something … going into this environment … I’ll withhold comment.”
Fair enough. Noise has bothered Keith this season. The Cards need both he and Levi Brown to hold up on the outside.
— Cards quarterback Derek Anderson likes his humor. Talking about Favre this week, Anderson quipped, “Brett Favre is as old as my dad.” Anderson never necessarily idolized Favre, but liked the way he played because “he always played like a kid.” That’s what Anderson wants to be able to do. As for Favre’s crazy streak of consecutive games played, Anderson shook his head.
“It’s a testament to the lines he played behind because, whatever he’s done, 2,000 games he’s played straight, guys get beat up and a lot of times can’t even play 16 games,” Anderson said. (The streak, by the way, will be 293 once Favre takes a snap against the Cards).
— Don’t forget, with the rest of the country changing clocks in the wee hours of Sunday morning, the Vikings’ kickoff will be at 11 a.m. Arizona time and not 10 a.m. For me, it’s on to Minnesota. Guess we will hear that blasted horn soon enough.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Brandon Keith, Brett Favre, Derek Anderson, DRC, Early Doucet, Gerald Hayes, Kerry Rhodes, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Randy Moss, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Vikings
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Most of the coaches are off, and most of the players are scarce for a long weekend, so not a whole lot going on.
But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to talk about.
— Perhaps the most stunning news of the day when it comes to this team. According to Darren Rovell, Bodog has released odds on where jettisoned quarterback JaMarcus Russell will land now that the Raiders dumped him. Bodog’s most likely landing spot, at 3-to-1 odds? The Cardinals. To which I say, what?!?!? If the Cardinals aren’t going to chase Marc Bulger, who makes so much more sense considering the circumstances, why the heck would they take a flyer on the overweight, massively underachieving, unmotivated-because-of-all-his-money Russell?
Bodog has Russell being a 10-to-1 shot to go to the CFL. Right now, I think I’d swap the Cards and the CFL’s odds (although the Cards’ odds should be a much longer shot, really. Some NFL team will give Russell a chance. But not the Cards).
–If you haven’t seen it, I’d like to think the story I posted yesterday about coming back from ACL tears is pretty interesting. The stories of tight end Stephen Spach and new draftee O’Brien Schofield are chronicled. When you listen to head athletic trainer Tom Reed, it’s easy to understand why the Cards were willing to take a chance on Schofield and his upside. One of the most telling parts was Schofield’s outlook on 2010: “They would like for me to play this year but they don’t need me to play this year,” he said. “That is what I am considering.” You hear that (and, looking at the Cards’ linebacker situation, see the truth in it) and it’s not hard to envision Schofield taking that “redshirt” year on PUP/IR when it’s all said and done. We’ll see though.
— Bill Williamson, who covers the AFC West for ESPN.com, posted the first round of the 2007 draft just for comparison’s sake after Russell was cut. For the Cards, that was the infamous Levi Brown-before-Adrian Peterson draft, and probably will remain that way. But, just for a second, take a look at the first round without AP in mind. The Cards ended up with Brown, who has been relatively solid and with whom the coaches are happy (Yes, many will argue, but those are the internal facts). Considering many of the picks in the first round, especially the top 10, the Cards actually are one of the teams that came out OK.
Gaines Adams? LaRon Landry? Jamaal Anderson? Ted Ginn? Adam Carriker?
Yes, there are superstars. Peterson. Patrick Willis. Darrelle Revis. But the Cards are in better shape than most. Especially the Raiders.
— The Cardinals are apparently going to be signing undrafted South Dakota State linebacker Chris Johnson, according to Johnson in this Iowa newspaper story.
Tags: Adam Carriker, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Gaines Adams, Jamaal Anderson, JaMarcus Russell, LaRon Landry, Levi Brown, Marc Bulger, O'Brien Schofield, quarterbacks, Stephen Spach, Ted Ginn
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Just as I sat at my kitchen table a week ago considering the rubble of the last-second loss in Tennessee changing where the Cardinals stood, a week later, a trademark victory for the season once again shifts the landscape.
The Cards’ 30-17 win – one for which the cliché “not as close as the final score indicates” was created – was so important on so many levels. The sting of the Titans’ loss is gone. The fear of other things, like Kurt Warner’s post-concussion deal or how Jeremy Bridges would hold up, that’s gone too.
Just to put this out there: I always thought the Cards would be ready for that Monday night game in San Francisco. If there is a word to describe how the Cards collectively feel about that loss to open the season, it was &*%$@$!, you know, if that was a word. “We owe those guys a little something for what they did to us earlier this year,” safety Adrian Wilson said. Uh, yeah.
But before we move on to the Niners, here are some thoughts on Sunday night:
— Warner said he pretty much knew Friday he was going to be able to play. And boy, did he play. He looked great, picking up where he left off. The only concern was the significant limp he had afterward because he took a shot on that hip. It’ll be very interesting to see how he feels this week, although the Cards don’t practice until Thursday because of the Monday night game, so he has an extra day to heal.
— Scary to see Tim Hightower fumble early. That could have been disaster. But the Cards hung in there, and Hightower almost looked like he was trying to make up for it on that late 32-yard run – the play on which Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson broke his leg – by trying to barrel into the end zone.
— I was at the Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Miami when Willis McGahee blew out his knee and when I watched the play with E.J. Henderson, that was the first thing I thought of.
— Nice to see the Cards bomb away for Larry Fitzgerald. It didn’t work out as often as Fitz would have liked, but it’s obviously something with which the Cards should stick.
— Wilson tried to downplay what the Cards did to Adrian Peterson – “Don’t mistake it. He’s the best back in football, so let’s not get too full of ourselves,” he said – but that was a great showing to control him, especially after what Chris Johnson did to them the week before. The game was close much of Sunday night, so it wasn’t like the Vikings had pass every play. At least at first.
— Brandon Keith got into his first game and actually played for a snap at guard when Deuce Lutui got hurt. Probably not enough of a sample to judge Keith as an o-lineman yet.
— The Cards averaged 4.5 yards a carry again on the ground. The evolution of the ground game may turn out to be the underlying story of the season.
— Special teams continue to be huge. Breaston’s 64-yard punt return was the highlight this time. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer should be (and is) like a proud papa.
— When Fitz fought through six Vikings to turn an eight-yard gain into a 15-yard gain early in the second quarter, that was impressive. By the way, didn’t I say the Minnesota boy was going to play a big role? Eight catches, 143 yards. It’s his 23rd 100-yard game, a few behind Anquan Boldin (who had 98 yards at the half but couldn’t get one more catch to crack 100).
— I absolutely love Antrel Rolle as wildcat quarterback. Rolle was trying to throw deep to Breaston on his one play, but smartly pulled it down and then used his amazing scat-quicks to avoid defenders and gain nine yards on a rush.
— Alan Branch had another nice game. He’s become a force on the line, which, as a unit, has been impressive.
— Four left – at SF, at Detroit, home against the Rams, home against the Packers. 12-4 anyone? It’s possible, after the Cardinals’ greybeard outclassed the Vikings’ greybeard.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Adrian Wilson, Alan Branch, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Brandon Keith, Chris Johnson, E.J. Henderson, Jeremy Bridges, Kevin Spencer, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Vikings
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It’s Friday again, and the Cardinals are all about looking forward. Looking back – given the angles of this weekend’s game against the Vikings – doesn’t give a whole lot of warm and fuzzies.
Take last year’s visit from the Vikings, when Adrian Peterson was All Day – 165 yards rushing – and the normally pedestrian Tarvaris Jackson threw for four touchdown passes. The Vikings came to University of Phoenix Stadium the week after the Cards clinched the NFC West title and walked away with a 35-14 win that wasn’t even that close. It was 21-0 before the first quarter was even over. “I don’t remember that game,” safety Adrian Wilson said. “I would rather not talk about that game. The game was over in the first quarter. We didn’t have a chance after the first 10 minutes.”
Then there was the last time the Cards saw Brett Favre. It was better remembered for the game Anquan Boldin nearly lost his face, but in that Jets’ rout Favre threw a career-high six touchdown passes. “I think that was just a bad day all around as far as communication in the secondary and our play all around,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said.
Then there was last week, a heartbreaking loss in Tennessee capped by that 99-yard drive at the end. “You can’t go back and re-live that game,” Wilson said. “We don’t want to continue to hear about it.”
— The big storyline is the Kurt Warner will-he-or-won’t-he guessing game. Fans, friends, even co-workers want to know what I think. I think I don’t know. Wouldn’t put money on it either way and have a hard time even hazarding a guess. I think the expectation is that Warner will start, but that was the expectation last week at this time. The fact Matt Leinart got much more practice time shows the Cards want to hedge their bets this time around, and Leinart will be in a lot better position if he has to play.
I’ve heard the arguments about sitting and keeping Warner fresh and healthy for the 49ers, and I have heard the arguments about getting him in there for a win. To me, this is much more clear cut: If Warner is healthy, he plays. If not, he sits. It’s a concussion, and if Warner doesn’t think he’s ready to play, I wouldn’t want him out there. Don’t lose sight of the fact Warner has now taken his role in the whole concussion discussion within the league very seriously. That may push him to playing it safe. He sees himself as a role model for other players with this issue.
— Minnesota, by the way, has an NFL-best 40 sacks. What a way for Jeremy Bridges to make his debut as a starting left tackle in the NFL.
— These are two of the best defenses on third down in the league. The Vikings are tops, allowing just 32.8 percent conversions. The Cards are third – behind Miami – at 33.1.
— It was disappointing to see Beanie Wells mishandle the pitch last week for a fumble. It was a fixable problem, but one that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. “He just went too steep,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He didn’t go flat enough. The play design was good and it was going to be a big play. But he went downhill too much which shortened the angle of the pitch.”
— Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice is having a Pro Bowl-quality season, with 56 catches, 964 yards and four touchdowns. Maybe Larry Fitzgerald is to blame. Fitz invited Rice to be part of that “receivers camp” Fitz held in Minnesota this summer. “You know how when you see a friend do something and you are just genuinely happy to see him do it?” Fitzgerald said. “That’s kind of how I feel.”
— Speaking of Fitz, he’s tight with Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, and when I asked him about the difficulty of going up against a friend in a violent sport like football, he just smiled. “(Cornerback) Antoine Winfield and I are close friends, we talk all the time. I want to beat him more than some guy I don’t know because I know what kind of player he is.”
Fitz then broke out his Blackberry to show the back-and-forth texts he and Winfield shared this week.
Fitz: “How u feeling? U want to give it a go this weekend? I need 2 know where I’m at playing against the best in the biz”
Winfield: “What’s up homeboy? I’m going 2 b good 2 go this week. Looking forward to the challenge. Tell my man Beanie watch running the ball to my side. C u out there Sunday.”
“I’ll give it my best, he’ll give it his best and after the game, the numbers don’t lie,” Fitzgerald said. “Bragging rights. And at the club, he’s buying the drinks.”
— The key to this game is getting a lead or staying within a touchdown. If the Cards get zapped early – like against the Vikings last season – it’s going to be tough sledding. But if they hang tight, whether Warner or Leinart is playing, the crowd (which I am sure will have more than a few purple jerseys, unfortunately) will rally to the Cards’ favor.
Somehow, I see Minnesota boy Fitzgerald having a big impact. Hopefully it’s for a couple of touchdowns so he can finally get that regular-season win against his hometown team for which he’s been looking.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells, Brett Favre, DRC, Jeremy Bridges, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Vikings
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