The Cardinals scored a touchdown with three seconds left, and Bruce Arians did exactly what he had to do, down one point: He went for two.
“No. No. No way,” Arians said to the suggestion he’d even consider kicking there. “That’s against all rules of preseason football.”
Amen to that. Added bonus: When the pass fell incomplete — and Blaine Gabbert had Jeremy Ross wide open, so the play call was great — the final score was 24-23 … the exact score of the infamous Monday Night Meltdown loss to the Bears, the night Denny asked us all, rhetorically, what the third game of the preseason meant.
What did the third game of this Cardinals’ preseason mean? You’d like to see the first-team defense defend the run a lot better, especially since the top two Bears running backs didn’t play. Arians said the tackling was poor, and it’s clear the injuries at inside linebacker make a difference. You’d like to see the pass protection for Carson Palmer be a little better, but Arians said Palmer held the ball too long a couple of times.
No one is going to proclaim the Cards world-beaters in what they saw, but it was a typical second preseason game — again, even though it was the Cards’ third, that Hall of Fame game didn’t mean much with the starters. Next week, in Atlanta, against the defending NFC champs when the starters figure to play a whole half against the Falcons’ starters, that will be something to dissect. That’s where the Denny philosophy should kick in.
— The Cardinals need Karlos Dansby and Deone Bucannon back for the regular season. If that wasn’t apparent, it’s becoming moreso. Haason Reddick missed a little time because his arm was cramping, but the ILBs haven’t been stout. Arians said the run game defense issues were in part because of that position. “I’ll be concerned if we’re playing with the group we had tonight,” Arians said.
— That was such a Tyrann Mathieu-from-2015 interception. A welcome sight. It’s good he didn’t lose that fumble at the end of the run.
— I’m sure I’ll hear about this comment, but I thought Justin Bethel was solid and Brandon Williams obviously showed up. It sure looks like these ate the corners the Cards will roll with — Peterson, Bethel and the two Williamses — and it seems like that can work.
— Drew Stanton was not as on target as the week before. But he moved the Cards into field goal range. I’ll be honest, the way Phil Dawson had been kicking in practice, I thought he’d hit that one.
— The Cards are off Sunday, and have one week left of camp. The regular season gets closer.
Tags: Bears, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Williams, Carson Palmer, Deone Bucannon, Drew Stanton, Jeremy Ross, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Phil Dawson, Tyrann Mathieu
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It’s not a surprise, given that he didn’t practice this week with a leg injury, but inside linebacker Karlos Dansby won’t play tonight against the Bears. The ILBs as a group are down — we already knew Philip Wheeler (foot) and Josh Bynes (hamstring) wouldn’t go, which is why the team signed Ryan Langford Friday and why he’ll play some snaps even though he hasn’t practiced. (The Cards played D-linemen David Moala and Peli Anau in the Hall of Fame game with no practice as well, thanks to injuries.)
The full not-expected-to-play list of the Cardinals:
— WR Brittan Golden (groin)
— $LB Deone Bucannon (PUP – ankle)
— RB T.J.Logan (wrist)
— S Rudy Ford (hamstring)
— ILB Josh Bynes (hamstring)
— ILB Karlos Dansby (leg)
— ILB Philip Wheeler (foot)
— WR Aaron Dobson (hamsting)
— DT Ed Stinson (hamstring)
— OLB Jarvis Jones (back)
Tags: Bears, inactives, Karlos Dansby, Ryan Langford
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The Bears, the Cardinals and really, who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bullspit? Bullspit!
I know it’s only Week 2 for the Bears — and frankly, for the Cardinals, who aren’t marching their main guys out for a half until next week’s Week 4/Week 3 game in Atlanta — so again, this is more of a ramp-up game. Bruce Arians isn’t calling plays until next week (that falls on QB coach Byron Leftwich again.) There will be around 20 plays for the starters, although as usual it could be less if each unit is effective. The biggest story in the game will probably be Chicago QBs Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky, so we can see how Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and company can mess with the immediate Bears future.
(In ’06, that Bears preseason game was Matt Leinart’s second appearance in the NFL, after playing on only a couple of days of practice — he signed late — in New England the week before. Leinart vs Warner. Those were the days.)
— It’ll be the first game for left tackle D.J. Humphries. Arians said Humphries did fine in his first practice Wednesday. I thought he had a slow start to Thursday’s work. As with the whole offensive line, he needs to ramp up — although again, with so much camp, there is plenty of time to get ready.
— Speaking of getting ready, the same goes for linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has been bothered by a leg issue. Deone Bucannon is ostensibly still on target to return to practice likely after the preseason games are over. Maybe a couple of days before. That inside linebacker crew could be a juggling situation for the first game. Haason Reddick is clearly still learning, and Scooby Wright, while solid on special teams, has shortcomings on defense. Both are players to watch against the Bears.
— DT Robert Nkemdiche has played well in the preseason but this week, the coaching clearly got harder. Nkemdiche is doing the right things as far as effort and intensity. But the technique must improve, because that is what will beat the better players in the regular season. Everyone has the talent.
— Others I’ll be watching in particular this week: Both punters; Kerwynn Williams on another punt return or two; the down-depth-chart receivers like Carlton Agudosi and Chris Hubert in particular since Brittan Golden (groin) likely won’t play; Justin Bethel and Tramon Williams (I haven’t forgotten about CB No. 2); and more Budda Baker.
— It’d be nice to see a little David Johnson but not too much.
— I’ll be curious to see how much John Brown plays. Smoke did much more in practice this week. But he certainly is not 100 percent, and the trainers keep a close eye on that quad injury. Still, Brown made some plays Thursday, and after one touchdown Larry Fitzgerald made sure everyone knew it was Smoke and then made sure to give Brown the side-five.
— Fitz, by the way, seemed like he was having a great time Thursday. For a guy who is usually tops on the list of wishing training camp wasn’t so long, it didn’t seem to be impacting him. That’s probably good, because after the game, there’s still one week left.
Tags: Bears, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Byron Leftwich, Carlton Agudosi, Chris Hubert, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Mike Glennon, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche, Scooby Wright, Tramon Williams, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tight end Jermaine Gresham, a free agent, had been looking around. He talked to the Bears, he talked to the Jets. But multiple reports have Gresham choosing to stick with the Cardinals, at least for another season. More interestingly, Adam Schefter reported that Gresham passed up a four-year deal with $12 million in guaranteed money to return the the Cards for less.
Gresham’s return would seem to solidify the tight end position if the Cardinals decide not to draft one. Already back after signing their tender offers were Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah, while Gerald Christian is coming off a knee injury and former second-round pick Troy Niklas heads into his third season. Gresham did have a career-low of 18 catches last season, although a career-best 12.4 yards per reception. The Cardinals liked the job he did blocking as well.
Schefter is also reporting that the Cardinals are getting a visit from Panthers free-agent guard Amini Silatolu. Silatolu played in only nine games, starting three, in 2015. He is coming off an ACL tear in his left knee suffered in November, and would be depth potential on an offensive line that is likely to lose Ted Larsen in free agency.
Tags: Amini Silatolu, Bears, free agency, Jermaine Gresham, Jets, Panthers
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The Cardinals lead the NFL in interceptions after three weeks. They have seven (Mathieu 2, Peterson, Powers, Rashad Johnson, Bethel, Jefferson). They have yet to recover a fumble. On the other side, Carson Palmer has thrown two interceptions, and the Cards have lost two fumbles. Their plus-3 in the turnover ratio is fine, but not overwhelming.
What is overwhelming is how the Cardinals have dealt with both sides of the equation.
Of the four turnovers, the Cardinals have allowed a mere six points — the two field goals at the end of the first half in Chicago, despite the Bears getting the ball in the red zone twice after a Palmer pick and a J.J. Nelson muffed punt. Yet the Cards have turned their seven takeaways into 41 points. It doesn’t hurt that three of the interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, but the Cards have scored every single time they have stolen the ball. The ultimate underscore of this three-game stretch came against the 49ers. Palmer threw an interception — a bad one — near the end of the half. Yet Tyrann Mathieu picked the ball back moments later, setting up a field goal (on what was headed to be a touchdown drive if the Cardinals hadn’t run out of time.)
It’s a ratio that isn’t going to be sustained all season (you wouldn’t think.) But it’s a crucial way to give you leads in games, and yet another thing to point at with a 3-0 record.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Carson Palmer, J.J. Nelson, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals ran for 120 yards against the Saints, 115 against the Bears and 139 Sunday against the 49ers. It is the first time the Cardinals have rushed for at least 115 yards in each of the first three games of the season since 1988. The 374 rushing yards are the most for the franchise in the first three games of the season since the Cards had 416 in 2002. (That 2002 start was aided by Thomas Jones’ 173 yards in the first regular-season game ever at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, a Cardinals’ win, the second week of the season. The Cardinals had 249 yards rushing in that game alone.)
The Cardinals have done it with nearly equal contributions from Andre Ellington — who looked great against the Saints before he got hurt — and David Johnson and Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson had 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the 49ers, and showed plenty of burst just a couple of days after his 30th birthday. Better yet, after Bruce Arians said that generally Earl Watford was a better run blocker than Bobby Massie at right tackle, the Cards had their best rushing game against San Francisco with Massie in there. And this team hasn’t even gotten to see what guard Mike Iupati — arguably their best run blocker — has to offer yet.
“It’s just a start,” veteran center Lyle Sendlein said. “You can’t just show up and expect you’ll get that kind of yardage every week.
“Obviously it had a level of importance in the offseason that they had been working on, and when I got here (in training camp) it was pretty apparent we were going to commit to getting yardage in the run game.”
Under Arians, the Cardinals are 14-1 when rushing for at least 100 yards. That can be misleading; Arians always says being committed to balance only counts in the first three quarters and then the game itself dictates how the fourth quarter will be called. Against the 49ers, for instance, the Cardinals went into the fourth quarter with a 40-7 lead and 10 of 13 Arizona offensive plays were runs as they drove for one more touchdown. (The final “drive” was three Drew Stanton kneeldowns, which count as “runs” but also screw up the stats with minus-one yard on each kneel.)
Like everything else, Sendlein emphasized it’s only a start. But it’s a start. The Cardinals, since 1995, have ranked higher than 21st in the NFL just once — 15th in that 2002 season — and haven’t been higher than 23rd since 2004. Seven times they have been ranked 30th or lower. This year, the Cards are currently 11th in the NFL.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Bears, Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Lyle Sendlein, Saints
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The gains will be lost over time, because penalty yards have no way of appearing on either the Cardinals’ passing offense or John “Smokey” Brown’s personal statistics. But there is little arguing that the two pass interference calls Brown drew against the Bears Sunday were crucial. One went for 42 yards, one for 38. The first ball was in a perfect spot, until cornerback Kyle Fuller simply karate-chopped Brown’s arms down before the ball got there. The other was a little underthrown, and Brown smartly stopped and came back into cornerback Alan Ball, who was then forced to hit Brown just before the ball arrived.
More importantly, the first set up a six-yard inside screen touchdown to wide receiver Jaron Brown, while the second set up Larry Fitzgerald’s first of three touchdowns.
Technically, Smokey Brown had only five catches for 45 yards in the game, but those penalties were worth 80 yards and put the Cards into the red zone twice from long range. He said wide receivers coach Darryl Drake has pounded that into the receivers heads all through training camp, about working back to the ball if it is underthrown to try and draw a penalty.
“That’s the mindset that coach Drake and coach Bruce Arians, they tell me, draw attention back into them,” Brown said. “I’ve been doing a great job of that.”
He’s not wrong. Brown also drew a 17-yard pass interference in the end zone in the game against the Saints (a call that was a little more suspect), setting up a 1-yard Andre Ellington touchdown run. So in two games, Brown has already accounted for 97 yards down the field on three plays for which he will never have credit.
“Hey, I’m about winning,” Brown said. “I’m not much about stats. As long as we’re winning, I’m fine.”
Tags: Bears, John Brown, Saints
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Larry Fitzgerald was walking on the sideline having just come off the field after scoring his third touchdown Sunday when he looked my way – I was down there, about 30 feet away – and yelled at me. I looked at him, and he yelled at me, “Working on my legacy.”
It was a reference to his comment he made to me a couple of weeks ago, when I talked to him right before the season for (yes, shameless plug – so click here!) a story about him and his legacy. Since then, Fitz has played two games, leads the Cardinals in catches (14) and yards (199) and now touchdowns (3, all coming against the Bears, and one more than he had all of last season.) The trust is there between he and Carson Palmer. It took a while to make it click, and there were some injuries that got in the way, but this is the kind of production he was having last season in that happy place he and Palmer found post-shoulder/pre-ACL problems.
— David Johnson is still a work in progress, but he looked excellent again Sunday, and not just because of the 108-yard kickoff return. His 13-yard touchdown run was nice as well, so patient before hitting the right hole. It’s hard not to see Johnson getting much more work sooner rather than later, although Chris Johnson was fine (20 carries, 72 yards.) David Johnson, with 42 yards on five carries, just looks like a star waiting to happen.
— Smokey Brown didn’t have gaudy numbers – five catches for 45 yards – but he had two other plays that generated 80 yards in pass interference penalties. Both were near catches. Palmer slightly underthrew one, when Brown had Kyle Fuller beat. But Brown has gotten better at coming back through the defender even if the play won’t be there, forcing the defender to interfere because he’s not looking back at the ball.
— The kings of efficiency: The Cardinals have made seven trips to the red zone this season. They have scored touchdowns on all seven.
— The Cardinals did not allow a sack against the Bears Sunday, after not allowing one against the Saints in the season opener. Since sacks were made an official stat in 1982, it marks only the fourth time the Cardinals have gone at least two games without a sack. The last time was the final two games of the 2007 season.
— Bruce Arians took the blame on the Palmer interception right before the half. It was an amazing play by linebacker Jared Allen, who leaped in the air on the quick wide receiver screen to bat the ball up and then pick it off.
“I got a little greedy,” Arians said. “We wanted to put a nail in that one. I jinxed him. I told him the screen is going to be wide open. Do not let them tip it.”
Allen tipped it. Arians said he called the same play for wide receiver Eric Moulds “32 years ago” and the same thing happened. “It was a flashback, ‘Oh (expletive).”
— An exhausted Frostee Rucker talked about the defense finding itself after a couple of leaky moments early. One couldn’t be avoided, the veteran defensive end said – the zone-read runs of quarterback Jay Cutler, before Cutler got hurt.
“If Jay Cutler is going to keep the ball, you can’t account for a guy like that,” Rucker said. “You don’t think the opposing team would risk getting their guy hurt. If those are going to be the plays to beat us, they’re going to get that.”
— The Cardinals again averaged more than four yards a carry. The running game wasn’t great, but it was enough.
— There were no sacks on Palmer, but he was hit more than the Cards would want, including the flag-inducing low hit by Pernell McPhee that always gives everyone pause. But Palmer is going to have to absorb some of that. That’s Arians’ offense, and that’s playing quarterback.
Signing off from 30,000 feet.
Tags: Bears, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Frostee Rucker, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Pernell McPhee
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Both game-day decisions for the Cardinals at safety, Tony Jefferson (hamstring) and Deone Bucannon (groin) are active today for the Cardinals. Kerwynn Williams is also active at running back — although that’s not a surprise, since it would make no sense to promote him to the 53-man roster and then sit him. The inactive list ends up pretty run of the mill:
— QB Matt Barkley
— RB Andre Ellington (knee)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— G Mike Iupati (knee)
— WR Brittan Golden
— T D.J. Humphries
— DT Xavier Williams
For the Bears, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf/hamstring) is sitting out. Linebacker Pernell McPhee, one of Chicago’s best pass rushers, is going to give it a go despite a bad wrist.
Tags: Bears, Deone Bucannon, inactives, Kerwynn Williams, Tony Jefferson
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Two franchises remain from the original NFL that was created in 1920: The Cardinals and the Bears. The Cardinals, by the way, were named for the color of their original jerseys and not the bird. As long as we were talking history, I thought I’d throw that out. All that, of course, was long before now, long before the Cards moved to Arizona and long before any of the players in Sunday’s game were born. Long before their parents were born.
This is about 2015, of course, and the Cardinals’ first road trip of the season.
“We’re not going to shop on Michigan Avenue,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We’re going to play the Bears.”
— On paper, the Cardinals should win this game. Those odds should get better if the Bears are without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and linebacker Pernell McPhee, who both could miss the game. Yes, the Cardinals are without Andre Ellington, but they are actually fairly well equipped to weather that issue.
— Could they weather the absence of safeties Tony Jefferson and Deone Bucannon? Both those guys are game-day decisions with a bad hamstring and groin, respectively. I think they’ll give it a go, but we’ll see how they feel. The way the Cards’ defense works these days, those top four safeties are crucial.
— Then again, if Bucannon can’t go, maybe that means more work for Sean Weatherspoon, since Bucannon plays so much linebacker. No Jefferson, and that could mean more Justin Bethel or more Chris Clemons.
— That picture to the right is from a Bears-Cardinals game in November of 1959. It’s Soldier Field – you can tell by the columns – but the Cardinals were actually the home team in the photo (which is courtesy of the Chicago History Museum; J. Johnson, Jr., photographer.)
— Cornerback or not for Bethel, he will still play special teams, which he did for 26 snaps in the first game – even if he wasn’t happy enough with his key downed punt late in last week’s game.
“The special teams stuff is something I know I still need to do and make plays on,” Bethel said. “I wish I would’ve made a tackle or two. I hate when I go a game and don’t have a tackle, it makes me feel like I had a bad game.”
— The short pass/screen game didn’t go all that well for the Cards’ defense last week. Now they run into a running back in Matt Forte who is the centerpiece of the Bears’ offense. For defensive coordinator James Bettcher, he was confident in the correctable mistakes the Cards made – one cover was on linebacker Alex Okafor, a miss the linebacker insists won’t happen again –and that should start this week.
“Teams are going to get plays,” Bettcher said. “We understand that. When they do, it’s tackle (them) and go on to the next down.”
Said cornerback Patrick Peterson, “We have to get all 11 hats to whoever has the ball.”
— Bettcher did rave about Okafor’s first game, and not because of his two sacks. “I thought there were a couple snaps where he was so violent setting the edge (against the run),” Bettcher said. “You can see that. That’s the first thing that stood out watching the film.”
— Best quote of the week, at least from the Bears locker room: Cornerback Alan Ball, after watching the Cardinals-Saints game, said in total earnestness that Carson Palmer “is at his best moving.”
Palmer’s playing at a high level. That’s not a debate. But I don’t know if I’d say he’s at his best on the move. Palmer made sure he heard correctly when I brought it up. “Frightening,” he said. Even Carson understands a clean pocket is the way for him to go.
— The Bears have moved to a 3-4 defensive alignment this season. It’s going to be weird to see veteran Jared Allen as an outside linebacker.
— Arians decided to weigh in on the proposed Larry Fitzgerald-Darren Fells one-on-one basketball showdown. “I’ve never seen either one of them play, but I could probably take them both,” Arians said with a smile.
“But I ain’t playing for no checks.”
— The last time the Cards were in Chicago for a regular-season game: It was the 2009 season. Kurt Warner threw for five touchdown passes, including a pair to Fitzgerald (Nine catches for 123 yards that day). The Cards dominated.
We’ll see how it plays out Sunday.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bears, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darren Fells, Deone Bucannon, James Bettcher, Justin Bethel, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Sean Weatherspoon, Tony Jefferson
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