So the Cardinals head to Seattle tomorrow, and we turn to locker room sage Larry Fitzgerald – man, if you would have asked me in 2006 if I’d ever write that descriptor for Fitz, I’d have thought you were crazy – to put these last four games, the playoffs realistically if not officially out of reach, into perspective.
“It’s never to the point where you can’t improve and get better,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s top to bottom, I don’t care about your position on the team. It teaches all of us how to deal with adversity. It’s a microcosm of life. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you have to continue to battle.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Seahawks have a chance to make the playoffs and the Cards have a chance to crimp that possibility. It’s cliché, but I do believe playing spoiler – especially to a division rival – is motivation and I do think it is real. The Cards would love to sweep the Seahawks, even if both teams are a lot different than the teams that met at UoP Sept. 9.
— I am very interested in seeing how John Skelton reacts to this start. Seattle is not an easy place to play. He struggled against the Seahawks’ defense in the opener this season before getting hurt. But as he noted Wednesday, he gets another opportunity, one that if not for the major problems of Ryan Lindley, he probably would not have gotten.
I don’t know if there is less pressure on Skelton or more. Obviously coach Ken Whisenhunt proved he’d go to Lindley. Then again, after seeing where Lindley is in his development, it’s tough to see the Cards turning to him again. Impossible not to watch that storyline play out.
— Safety Kerry Rhodes said this week, talking about how the defensive players can’t talk bad about the offense, that until the defense holds a team to zero points and zero yards, they have to tend to their own business. Zero yards? Hyperbole. Zero points? Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was asked if that was realistic.
“That’s probably every defensive player’s mantra,” Horton said. “Is it realistic? Sometimes it is. I think it is the mentality they have which I love, that they think that way.”
— I think the Cards should have defensive end Calais Campbell back this week, a good thing because Campbell always plays well against the Seahawks. Then again, I thought Campbell was going to play in New York, so I will wait and see on that one.
— A final capper on the Kerry Rhodes-Darnell Dockett dustup, where Rhodes said it wasn’t a big deal and Dockett said he was sorry but he was never going to quit. The reference was to the unsaid-yet-out-there reason that the Cards’ decision to try and let the Jets score at the end of last week’s game – statistically, the best way (however long of a shot it was) to try and win – was at the root of the problem. So Horton was asked his philosophy about letting a team score.
“The ultimate goal is to win the game, whether you give up the safety, whether you give up a touchdown,” Horton said. “My philosophy is whatever it takes to win the game. If it means doing that I’d do it to give ourselves a chance. I asked Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) to do it for time reasons.”
(We won’t go into the details yet again of the situation. I know some of you disagree with the strategy and agree with Dockett’s take. I covered it here.)
— OK, maybe one more point: Mike Jurecki of XTRA broke the news that Dockett was fined six figures by the team and could have his playing time limited in Seattle for what went down. Whisenhunt has made it plain whatever was happening with the situation was going to be handled internally and not commented upon. Clearly, the Cardinals did not agree with Dockett’s take. (Kent Somers is now also reporting the fine and said it was because of both the fight and not heeding the coach’s call.) We’ll see on Sunday about the playing time issue.
— UPDATE: Dockett tweeted out praise for the NFLPA so the assumption is, not surprisingly, Dockett is appealing the fine.
— That late personal foul call against nose tackle Dan Williams last week, the iffy one on Jets quarterback Greg McElroy on the sidelines? Williams was not fined for it. Still hurt though – it gave free yards on the Jets’ lone touchdown drive of the game in a 7-6 Jets win. Usually, if a player isn’t fined for a roughness call, it means the league disagreed that it should have been a penalty.
— With cornerback Brandon Browner out with a suspension, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman – himself facing a possible four-game suspension – will probably follow Fitz around Sunday. “I would anticipate that, if I were a betting man,” Fitzgerald said. The best on the best makes sense. It just would be nice to get Fitzgerald a handful of catches and maybe sniff 100 yards. It’s been too long. And frankly, the offense needs it.
The good news is that, after nasty forecasts earlier in the week, the rain is supposed to subside after Saturday morning in Seattle and hold off through Sunday. That’d be a plus. But the Cards have a hard game ahead to snap the losing streak. Let the fourth quarter of the season commence.
Tags: Brandon Browner, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, John Skelton, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Horton, Richard Sherman, Ryan Lindley, Seahawks
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Talking to Patrick Peterson earlier this week about special teams – specifically, blocking field goals – and his other specialty of punt returns came up. I was down on the Cardinals’ sideline when Peterson grabbed the Redskins’ punt on the final play of last weekend’s game, and while there was a slew of bodies, it looked like he might have a seam to create a miracle, and I told him that.
Peterson, sitting on a stool, chuckled. “If someone would have blocked the punter,” he said, “I was gone. I was gone.”
Sure enough, when I went to watch the play on DVR, it was Washington punter Sav Rocca – one of the ex-Aussie Rules Football players, like Ben Graham, a big man – who actually tackled Peterson to end the game. It was too hard to tell if Peterson would have been able to go all the way, but …
Ah, time to live in the now. The Cardinals are 1-1. They need to win this game in Seattle. The Seahawks are reeling after just two weeks, and frankly, just don’t have the talent. They have faced two pretty good defenses – the 49ers are still good on that side of the ball – but the Cards’ defense needs to make this a game where it comes out feeling better about itself.
People will talk about the noise up there, but the bottom line is this – if you are the better team, the crowd won’t make the Seahawks win. The Cards have their silent count and their experience. Kevin Kolb doesn’t seem worried about anything but the Seahawks’ defense. Good sign.
— The Seahawks are coming off a game in which they played Pittsburgh, which figures to help both teams. Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said his team can go through the film and glean quite a bit because the Cardinals are basically playing the same defense as the Steelers.
But defensive coordinator Ray Horton also thinks it will help his players see exactly what each position should be doing in certain situations, all while watching video of the upcoming opponent. Already, Horton said, his players “marveled” at how fast the Steelers played on defense. That’s what happens when everyone already knows what they are doing.
— Tight end Jeff King was fined $7,500 for his nasty-but-touchdown-saving facemask on Washington punt returner Brandon Banks. Safety Kerry Rhodes was not fined for his accidental hit on an official; Rhodes said his hand was actually slapped away by a Redskin and that’s how it ended up touching the official.
— It will be interesting to see how the injuries play out Sunday. The biggest question of course will be Beanie Wells and his hamstring. Someone asked me if he’d be limited in his carries if he plays. My thought is, if Beanie has to be limited to play, he probably shouldn’t play at all. If he doesn’t, I am curious to see what Alfonso Smith can bring to the table, and how Chester Taylor looks.
— Of course, LaRod Stephens-Howling could also carry the ball. He’s also a game-day decision, as is linebacker Daryl Washington. I’m feeling much more confident those guys are ready to give you something Sunday. Getting Washington, even if it is in spot duty, is important for this defense.
— A quick side note. A big-time Cardinals fan from back East who works as an animal cruelty investigator just lost a close friend who was a police officer. Nick mentioned how all police officers need to be appreciated – his friend Joe Szczerba was killed on a routine disturbing the peace call – and, as I was thinking, so too do firefighters. I know there was a lot of that a couple weeks ago for the 9/11 ceremonies – so many police and firefighters had their lives touched by the tragedy – but also on a daily basis simply because it is the job they have chosen. To all of them, thank you.
— Former Card Alan Branch is playing well as a starter in Seattle. Does this offensive line — which is doing better than most think — know enough of him to neutralize Branch? That will make for an interesting subplot.
— From the there-are-no-sure-things-in-the-draft department: The Seahawks took linebacker Aaron Curry with the fourth pick of the 2009 draft and many at the time believed he was the surest thing in that draft. Here we are, a couple of years later, and Curry has been demoted to second-string.
— The Seahawks have a 6-foot-4 cornerback named Brandon Browner. He was a four-year star in the Canadian Football League. Now they are asking him to do it in the NFL. It isn’t working – not yet, anyway. According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Steelers threw 10 passes Browner’s way last week – and completed every single one (for 194 yards). He also had a 39-yard pass interference call against him. And that’s the guy they keep saying is going to cover the 6-foot-3 Larry Fitzgerald? Fitz said all the right things this week about Browner, but I would guess he’s got to be jacked up over the possibility of such a matchup.
I always like the trip to Seattle. I like the city, like hanging out there. It’s always a better visit after a win, though.
Tags: Alan Branch, Alfonso Smith, Beanie Wells, Brandon Browner, Chester Taylor, Daryl Washington, Jeff King, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Seahawks
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