It’s late, it’s the fourth preseason game, and the reality is not much can be said until final cuts are made. So this aftermath will be short and sweet. There were some “stars” Thursday night — Elijhaa Penny ran the ball really well — but then you hear Bruce Arians talking about Stepfan Taylor being one of the core guys on special teams and you remember that many of these roster spots have already been determined, the process of seeing all these guys over offseason workouts and an entire training camp and three previous games.
(Still, if a guy like Penny isn’t picked up on waivers, I can’t see how he wouldn’t be on the practice squad.)
I tweeted late in the game that if I had a do-over on my guess at the 53, it’d be that Lamar Louis would make the team. He’s impressed, and more importantly, Arians keeps talking him up. We’ll see. Special teams is the key to these final couple of spots, Arians stressed, and Louis is playing well in that area.
— Special teams will be impacted with the short-term loss of linebacker Kareem Martin. Martin hurt his MCL and Arians said they are hoping he’s only out two or three weeks. You have to wonder, if fellow linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo hadn’t gotten hurt earlier (it was announced as a right knee; Arians said after it was a hamstring) and was still playing if Martin even would have been on the field. Bad luck all around.
— In terms of outside linebacker depth, if Martin is down, Arians said Alani Fua can play outside as well as inside. And if anyone was unsure if Fua was going to be on the team, there’s your answer.
— Earl Watford had never played left tackle in a game. Now he has. Could the Cardinals go with just three backup OL right now — center Evan Boehm, perhaps guard Cole Toner and Watford, who can play every position? Watford can play all five positions and will be the sixth offensive lineman.
— The Cardinals have run the ball very, very well all preseason. Bodes well.
— Robert Nkemdiche played well, in different spots, and was in on a sack late.
— Not a great night for the top cornerbacks. Justin Bethel sat out because of his foot. Brandon Williams didn’t have one of his better games, but it was better than Cariel Brooks, who was in position to be the fourth cornerback and did not play well at all.
— Nice pick-6 by ILB Gabe Martin late in the game, but I’m not sure it was enough to make the team. Would they keep Martin over veteran Chris Clemons?
— I don’t expect cuts to be announced before the weekend, even though Arians was talking about hard decisions being made Friday.
— Finally, a 59-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro, which would have been the second-longest in team history had it been in the regular season (Jay Feely booted the 61-yarder against Buffalo in 2012). Will Cat Man have chances like that in the regular season?
Tags: Alani Fua, Broncos, Cariel Brooks, Chandler Catanzaro, Cole Toner, Earl Watford, Elijhaa Penny, Evan Boehm, Gabe Martin, Justin Bethel, Kareem Martin, Lamar Louis, Robert Nkemdiche, Stepfan Taylor
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It’s an early edition of a “Before” post, but later today I will put up my guesstimate at the final 53-man roster — at least the one the Cardinals figure to have without knowing who is cut from other teams and who the Cards might try to claim on waivers or sign. Before then, there is a game to play.
It’s a different kind of game, since most starters won’t even be dressed. This game is about precious few rosters spots and the push to at least be asked on the practice squad (or trying to impress 31 other teams to pick someone up). Bruce Arians estimated the Cardinals have about 12 players fighting for about four spots. Impossible to know what we are talking about, but here are some of the positions/players that could be in that conversation:
Offensive line: Earl Watford as tackle/G Cole Toner/C Evan Boehm/T John Wetzel. Watford figures to make this team because he’s so versatile. And Toner has made a strong push to stay after seeming to be a long shot when camp opened. Boehm, as a fourth-round pick, will stick, but can he keep pushing to see if he gets playing time. Here’s the question: Can Watford show something at tackle so that, at least for now, he can back up there?
Secondary: CB Cariel Brooks/CB Harlan Miller/CB Ronald Zamort/S Matthias Farley. It was telling when Arians, asked about the cornerbacks beyond Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams at this point, only mentioned Brooks, who has put himself in a good place for the 53 especially given the Mike Jenkins injury. Can another cornerback step up? At safety, the Cards already have so many in play (Branch, Mathieu, Swearinger, Jefferson, Christian).
ILB: Chris Clemons/Lamar Louis/Donald Butler/Alani Fua/Gabe Martin. Technically, Clemons is listed as a safety but he’s basically been Deone Bucannon’s “moneybacker” backup. Do the Cards stick with the vet? Or is the youth of say, Martin make sense. Lamar Louis has been very good on special teams too. For these guys, special teams may be the place to watch.
There are others, but with everything done over the summer and camp and three preseason games, most decisions have already been made.
— The Broncos have already announced that their No. 1 pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch, will play the entire game Thursday. He’s their QB of the future. It’s something interesting even for Cardinals fans — and you wonder, had Lynch fallen to No. 29, if the Cards would have grabbed him.
— Arians isn’t sure cutting down the preseason will help the teams. Yes, injuries can happen, but he said doesn’t think two preseason games is enough to prep a team for the season.
“I think you have to build your roster, and the only way to build it is see these kids play,” Arians said. “The fourth preseason game is not for your starters. It’s for those guys who you build your roster on, build your practice squad on, the guys who need that week of work and that game. You’ll need them in November and December.”
— Arians isn’t worried about the leadership/knowledge lost in the secondary with the departures of Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson have worked to fill that void. “All those guys making all the checks,” Arians said. “And with that, they’re not leaning on somebody. They used to lean on Rashad, so they wouldn’t study as hard.”
— Mathieu and John “Smokey” Brown have been cleared to play, but honestly, I’ll be surprised if either does play. As for Justin Bethel, with a sore foot, does he give it a try? He may just rest too. Arians said Bethel will have to play with a sore foot all season, but Bethel had already said he had to play with soreness last year as well.
— Final cuts won’t be announced until the weekend (they are due at 1 p.m. Arizona time Saturday). Until then, let’s finish up the preseason.
Tags: Alani Fua, Broncos, Bruce Arians, Cariel Brooks, Chris Clemons, Cole Toner, Donald Butler, Earl Watford, Evan Boehm, Gabe Martin, Harlan Miller, John Brown, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Lamar Louis, Matthias Farley, Patrick Peterson, Paxton Lynch, Ronald Zamort, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals made no more trades. And they didn’t get a quarterback.
Those were the top two things on the possibilities list going into the draft, in part because of Paxton Lynch and his presence at the back half of the first round. If Lynch had been on the board for the Cardinals, it would have been intriguing — would a team tried to trade up for him with a sweet deal? Or might the Cardinals go ahead and take him as that long-awaited shot at a QB of the future? But it became moot when the Broncos traded up to 26 to get Lynch.
After that, the Cards didn’t have the capital to trade up into the second round and didn’t see a reason to move back. Meanwhile, if there were other quarterbacks around in whom the Cards had interest, they didn’t excite them enough to pull the trigger. And frankly, once you get to the fourth or fifth round, those QBs left are likely backups at best.
Instead, the Cards went heavy on defense, and heavy on the secondary. You can say what you want about needs and best player available, but often for teams those things dovetail as they set their draft board and it’s really not a surprise the Cards ended up with a potential starting center and depth in the secondary, in addition to an upgrade on special teams.
— All things considered, Robert Nkemdiche should be an excellent piece if he can go hard and stay away from any off-field issues. There’s a reason someone so physically gifted was there at No. 29. The reality is he would have gone soon after if the Cards hadn’t picked him, so the Cardinals didn’t stretch to take him. But they need something out of him this season, and he he needs to become that guy on the defensive line as that position evolves over the next couple of seasons.
— All three of the defensive backs taken are in the same mold: Brandon Williams, Marqui Christian and Harlan Miller have speed, can significantly help on special teams, and aren’t ready to drop in and play a major role on defense yet. The Cards have had success in this area with Justin Bethel, but in truth they still need Bethel to become a better cornerback and not just a Pro Bowl special teams guy.
— I like that Christian won the Cliff Harris award for the nation’s best defensive player in small college (Divisions II, III and NAIA) and I like that Adrian Wilson was impressed by him at a college all-star game. Wilson has a talent for scouting — Keim wouldn’t have given him this job if he didn’t believe that — and we will see if he has forecasted correctly.
— Would the Cardinals have liked Ryan Kelly at center? I’m sure. But I think the pick of Evan Boehm makes so much sense. He’s got the credentials, even as a fourth-rounder, and he’s got the mentality that not only fits Bruce Arians but Harold Goodwin. Lyle Sendlein started for many years as an undrafted rookie. It’s easy to picture Boehm doing the same.
— Does the youth at cornerback mean the Cardinals bring back Jerraud Powers? Arians said they don’t need to add any vets. If he did come back, do they keep five cornerbacks (Peterson, Bethel, Powers and the two draftees)? Last year they only had three cornerbacks on the roster because they kept five safeties.
— Among the positions I’d expect the Cards to hit in the undrafted rookie market: long snapper, quarterback, wide receiver. All three things weren’t hit in the draft. They will need another arm behind center and they certainly need a long snapper.
— That’s it. We’ll see how this draft class truly pans out around the 2019 season. In the meantime, rookie minicamp is next weekend.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brandon Williams, Broncos, draft, Evan Boehm, Harlan Miller, Jerraud Powers, Marqui Christian, Paxton Lynch, Robert Nkemdiche, Ryan Kelly
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Just two weeks ago, Steve Keim was emphasizing the need to improve the Cardinals’ pass rush. This is no state secret, or hard to analyze. After watching what the Broncos did to the Panthers in the Super Bowl — and what the Cardinals could not do to Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game — that plan of action couldn’t have been made any more crystal clear.
It changes the game to be able to pressure off the edge consistently. It makes a difference in the biggest games. After the 2007 season, the Patriots, with their 18-0 record and a passing game that scored more than 50 times by itself, stalled in the Super Bowl. The Giants’ defense wasn’t even that powerful overall, necessarily — but it had a front four that could get to the quarterback (and depth up front), that made life hellish for Tom Brady and brought down the undefeated season with a crash.
This has been a constant topic around the Cardinals in recent years. Even looking back at the 2011 draft, when the Cardinals picked future All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall choice, the team was eyeing Super Bowl 50 star Von Miller had he dropped that far (although it became clear in the days leading up to the draft he would not.) You can scheme all you want and blitz more than any other team — which the Cards have done the last couple of years — but blitzing is a risk that can burn a club. And the Cards didn’t always provide the pressure even when they did blitz. The pass rush doesn’t guarantee a title (ask the Panthers, who harassed Peyton Manning pretty well themselves) but it’s an uphill climb without it.
Tags: Broncos, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Super Bowl, Von Miller
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Peyton Manning insists he hasn’t decided whether he will retire after the Super Bowl despite whatever he whispered to Bill Belichick. The Broncos quarterback doesn’t have the same arm he once did — he admitted it hasn’t been the same since his neck injury a few years ago — and to this, everybody nods their heads already having seen it on the field.
But Act II of Manning’s career has been fantastic even with his uneven end. No matter what the issues, he’s helped lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl twice, and it was just a couple of years ago Manning was flinging 55 touchdown passes (and he had 39 last year when everyone wondered if he was going south then.) Now he readies himself to take down the team that just sent the Cardinals to their unwanted end.
And for a moment, you think back to that few days in March of 2012 when Manning was released from the Colts and actually had the Cardinals on his short list of teams for which he wanted to play. So much would have been different.
There were logistical problems with Manning coming to the Cardinals from jump, not the least of which being a tight salary cap that could have been adjusted to get him on the roster but likely would have made it tough to put people around him. The offensive line at the time was not as good as now (although I maintained at the time and still believe that Manning alone makes any offensive line better with how quickly he delivers the ball and how he knows where to go with it every time.)
Manning liked then-coach Ken Whisenhunt. He insisted after he picked the Broncos that the notion he didn’t want to be in the NFC because of his brother being in the conference was incorrect. He did have Larry Fitzgerald, who was coming off a 1,400-yard season and, as you can see below when the two met after a preseason game, liked him some Peyton Manning.
Manning visited the Cards’ Tempe facility (pictured above right) and then in the next week chose the Broncos and the Cards stuck with Kevin Kolb. Whether it was ever serious or not, the decision changed a lot of things in Arizona. Whisenhunt’s team got off to a 4-0 start behind Kolb that season but lost 11 of their last 12 and the Cards changed both GM and coach. New GM Steve Keim traded for Carson Palmer, re-energizing both Palmer and the franchise. Bruce Arians, who was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL and remains close to Manning, likely would never had gotten his one and only chance to be a head coach if Manning had picked the Cardinals.
It’s worked out well for Manning in Denver (and better if he can win Sunday.) It’s turned out pretty good for the Cardinals in the long run, although it’s fair to wonder what would have happened if Manning had made a different decision.
Tags: Broncos, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Peyton Manning
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Sean Weatherspoon as he noted the exact date when he had last played in an NFL game: Dec. 22, 2013. It took him a little longer to get back out there than he wanted – and the same goes for Chris Johnson – but there they were Thursday night. They didn’t play like superstars but they both played well, and that’s exactly what the Cardinals needed to see after aborted training camps for both.
Everyone can bag on preseason games if they want, but the two vets were exhibits 1 and 1A of why they are always a necessity for someone. Said Johnson, who hadn’t played in a game since last season and only had a handful of practices with the Cardinals with a bad hamstring, “I don’t think I needed to start the season not getting reps because I did it one time before and I just didn’t feel right the first game.”
Better yet, Bruce Arians said he expects both Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas to return to practice this week, so the feeling is that the Cardinals should have more tight ends available than just Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah. If Gresham does indeed return, it’ll turn out that those three vets signed on one-year deals – including Weatherspoon and Johnson – should be available for the opener against the Saints. And that’s what the Cardinals want to hear.
— Both Johnson and Weatherspoon said they need to work on their conditioning. “I’m just thankful to be part of the team and get a chance to go out there,” Weatherspoon said. “It’s good to make some hits, takes some hits.”
— Chandler Catanzaro missed two extra points but Arians didn’t even let the question come up. “No, I’m not concerned about Cat Man and the missed extra points,” Arians said in his opening remarks, saying the question didn’t even need to be asked. I’m sure Catanzaro knows it can’t happen again, but as Arians said, at least it was in a preseason game.
— There were two penalties called on rookie tackle D.J. Humphries on back to back drives, but both were iffy. The false start might not have even been that much of a move. And the holding given to him was apparently on No. 64, Cameron Bradfield, and the officials just messed up the number.
— I thought Earl Watford held up at right tackle, and I fully expect him to be the right tackle starter going into the regular season.
— Rookie wide receiver Jaxon Shipley had 11 targets and nine catches (for 58 yards) and continued to push the best he can. Still, I don’t see him as more than the practice squad right now. He’s not cracking the top five. Same goes for inside linebacker Gabe Martin, who was working hard on defense all night.
— On the flip side, the way Alani Fua was used, I’m guessing he’ll make the 53 at inside linebacker.
— Markus Golden played well at outside linebacker and if Golden isn’t starting early in the season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get to the starting lineup at some point this year.
— He only had three carries, but Stepfan Taylor’s powerful run for 12 yards up the middle made an impression. Maybe he can be the Cards’ short-yardage guy over Robert Hughes, which could open a roster spot if the Cards only want to keep four running backs.
— I thought Phillip Sims came around. I thought Logan Thomas played better. I still think we are talking about the likelihood of carrying two quarterbacks, meaning Sims or Thomas would have to be practice squad. But we’ll see if, after the Cards watch the tape, they are convinced to do otherwise.
— Arians was asked if he was happy the preseason was over.
“Extremely,” he said, as a grin crept over his face.
You can’t see it, but I have a similar grin. Let’s get to the regular season.
Tags: Alani Fua, Broncos, Chandler Catanzaro, Chris Johnson, D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Jaxon Shipley, Jermaine Gresham, Logan Thomas, Markus Golden, Phillip Sims, preseason, Sean Weatherspoon, Stepfan Taylor, Troy Niklas
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It’s the fourth preseason game, and there is a short list of the things of which I’ll really focus upon when the Cardinals play the Broncos. Some are about the roster, some are about the lineup.
One of those things is the right tackle start for Earl Watford. It means so much both on the field and with the construction of the 53-man roster, because of the uncertainty with Bobby Massie and the rough camp of rookie D.J. Humphries.
To be fair to Humphries, and Bruce Arians acknowledged it this week, the idea was that Humphries was for the future, not necessarily 2015.
“We were hoping we had a full year to develop him,” Arians said, which speaks directly to the maturity issues Arians has talked about with Humphries, in addition to him being a natural left tackle trying to play the right side.
“But,” Arians added, “there is going to come a time when he’ll have to go out there and he better be ready.”
When you look how the roster is breaking down, and the very real possibility Humphries could be the backup swing tackle on Sundays, you understand Arians speaks the blunt truth. At least Arians added he thinks Humphries, over the last week or so, seems to have come to an understanding of the work ethic needed here. It’s going to take some time on Humphries, but Arians and OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin will work on him. And like Jonathan Cooper, it may take a little while, but there is confidence Humphries will get there.
The other places where I’ll be watching closely as the 53-man roster moves closer to reality (and I will have a post with my guess on that later today.):
— The first game action for running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon after hamstring injuries.
— The last push by three undrafted guys: Inside linebackers Alani Fua and Gabe Martin and cornerback Cariel Brooks.
— And of course, the play of quarterbacks Phillip Sims and Logan Thomas.
— While there are some roster spots that are in the balance, it is the Johnson/Weatherspoon/Watford spotlight that truly affects this team when it comes to playing the Saints in a little over a week. I think the Cardinals have managed to get into a place where if they do not have Johnson or Weatherspoon, they are prepared. I wasn’t sure they’d be able to get to that place with Weatherspoon, but Kevin Minter has had a good enough preseason that they are in a much better place there.
— In case you didn’t see it, recently released linebacker Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Raiders. Happy to see him find a job, and it’s back home — Alexander went to Cal Berkeley.
It’s about time to get the preseason over with, isn’t it?
Tags: Alani Fua, Broncos, Bruce Arians, Cariel Brooks, Chris Johnson, D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Gabe Martin, Kevin Minter, Logan Thomas, Lorenzo Alexander, Phillip Sims, Sean Weatherspoon
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In his last meeting with the media Friday before playing the Broncos, Bruce Arians talked about weathering the storm early. If his team could do that, they’d have a chance to win Sunday. The funny thing is, I think the Cardinals did weather the storm, and until Drew Stanton went out with a concussion, I think they would’ve been in the game.
But Arians apparently didn’t see the tornado coming that turned out to be Peyton Manning’s day, which hit the same time as the hurricane of injuries blowing through. (Yes, I’m mixing my weather metaphors. Work with me.)
There was a reason the Broncos’ game wasn’t an end-all, be-all to the Cards. With a struggling Washington team visiting Arizona next week and then a trip to Oakland, the Cardinals had the opportunity to take on some lesser teams. But now, the equation has changed, hasn’t it? It was bad enough to have lost Darnell Dockett for the season, but to have Calais Campbell sidelined with an MCL sprain/tear/TBD for maybe a month? That is a painful, painful loss to absorb.
And that doesn’t even touch on the quarterback situation, which as of right now could include all three QBs available next weekend or could be just one, and the one is the inexperienced Logan Thomas – who looked appropriately overwhelmed Sunday in his NFL debut.
The Cards were saying all the right things after the game, but this is going to be another major suck-it-up type of the season. Having a QB would help, but as I write this on the flight home, it’s impossible to know where Palmer and Stanton might be Wednesday, much less for kickoff against the Redskins.
— Manning was fantastic. Again. He did throw two interceptions – and the duck Jerraud Powers picked off was a bad, bad pass – but to have a career-best in passing yards after a career like he has had, is just special. Peyton was Peyton. It doesn’t hurt to have all those crossing patterns that border on pick plays, but really, that wasn’t the story. Manning knew where he could exploit the Cardinals, and he commenced exploitation.
— Always impressed when a guy comes out and meets the media no problem after a bad game. Antonio Cromartie stood there and answered the questions. He played poorly and said so. But that’s also the reality of leaving those guys on an island, and Demaryious Thomas – despite a slow start – is one of the league’s better receivers. Painful to note – he would have given up an extra 77-yard TD pass to Thomas, except that was the play tight end Julius Thomas chopped blocked Campbell out of the game.
— Calais, how could you possibly let Peyton cost you a pick-6? “Don’t give me a full tackle for that,” Manning said. “Give me like a half. Barely grazed his leg.”
— I haven’t really looked closely at the Campbell hit. But I’m not sure how you legislate that short of suspending a guy. And I don’t know if that is the answer either.
— USA Today got Julius Thomas to talk about the Cards’ contention of it being a dirty play. “I guarantee you being dirty is not part of my game, and to intentionally hurt somebody is something I would never do,” Thomas said. Thomas said he had a miscommunication with tackle Ryan Clady on who was supposed to block Campbell on the play.
— The protection wasn’t quite as consistent as previous games, but I didn’t think the line played poorly. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are going to get to the quarterback. They are among the best in the league. There was more pressure after Logan Thomas came in, but that’s expected when the QB is inexperienced. The first sack, when Ware beat Jared Veldheer, it looked to me Thomas dropped a little too far back and never moved up into the pocket until it was too late.
— That was a pretty pass Thomas drilled in there to Andre Ellington for the 81-yard TD. You take whatever highlights you can if you are Thomas. Something to remember. Got to do better than 1-for-8, obviously.
— The craziness of the NFL’s passing rating though: Thomas, because of his long TD, had a passer rating of 108.9 despite going 1-for-8. Manning, 31-of-47 for 479 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs, had a passing rating of 110.2.
— Can’t kick field goals against the Broncos. Can miss wide-open TD passes like Stanton-to-Housler or Stanton-to-Smokey Brown. Can’t drop the ball, repeatedly, when a catch gives you a first down. And it was equal opportunity drops.
We’ll see how easily the Cards can put this in the rear view. And who, exactly, they have to use against the Redskins.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Broncos, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, DeMarcus Ware, Demaryious Thomas, Drew Stanton, Jared Veldheer, Jerraud Powers, Julius Thomas, Logan Thomas, Peyton Manning, Von Miller
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Peyton Manning has been playing quarterback in the NFL since 1998, but the Cardinals have only truly played against him once — at least, until the Cards visit Denver Sunday. Sure, Manning started against the Cardinals in Indianapolis in 2005 in the regular-season finale, but he played only three plays before Tony Dungy yanked him in a game mostly remembered (?) as Cardinal Rolando Cantu becoming the first Mexican non-kicker to play in a game and for Neil Rackers breaking the NFL record for field goals in a season (and the Cards still losing).
Manning’s full game came at University of Phoenix Stadium under the lights of “Sunday Night Football” as Peyton dismantled the reigning NFC champions in a 31-10 rout as Manning had 379 yards passing and four touchdown passes.
What happens this time? The Cardinals have a better defense than at that point. Whether that means they can slow Manning down, well, that’s something else entirely, isn’t it? Bruce Arians said he expects the Broncos to go no-huddle early, like the 49ers did, and attack quickly. “If we can weather that storm,” Arians said, “I like where we’re at.”
Also in the Cardinals’ back pocket: The run defense. Even Manning can have a tough time if his team can’t run. “If we get in a one-dimensional game,” Arians said, “I like our chances.”
If the Cardinals can get to 4-0, with a win in Denver …
— Drew Stanton starts again. It’s old hat by now, really, and given the improvement game over game, the hope is Stanton can make another step forward. It’s possible, because the Broncos are only OK against the pass. As long as the protection holds up. And Stanton doesn’t turn the ball over, which is what doomed the Cards the last time they played Peyton.
— The Cardinals have yet to throw an interception. “Man, why are you trying to jinx us?” Arians said, feigning disgust. “It’s like bringing up Cat Man.” Cat Man, or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, was a subject of a similar question earlier in the year when he hadn’t missed a field goal. Except Catanzaro still hasn’t missed (9 for 9). Maybe Stanton keeps it going too, although Arians correctly mentioned the Cardinals have “thrown some (interceptions) they’ve dropped. Luckily, we got those back.”
— Catanzaro could get a field goal try of 60 yards or more Sunday in the Mile High air, Arians said.
— Manning needs one touchdown pass to reach 500 in his career, and nine to tie Brett Favre for the most in NFL history. Arians was confused at first, thinking Manning needed nine to get to 500, when he was asked about possibly surrendering 500 this weekend.
“If he gets nine, I’m not getting on the plane,” Arians said. “I think he needs nine of them, doesn’t he?”
Arians was told it was just one. “ One? I thought it was nine. I’ll give him one.”
— Manning, not surprisingly, was downplaying the 500 angle. “If (running back) Montee (Ball) wants to run for five touchdowns and we don’t throw any and we win the game I can assure you I’m fine with that,” Manning said.
— I feel confident in saying Ball will not rush for five TDs. Not against this defense.
— Lot of talk about people on the Cardinals that “know” Manning. Arians and Tom Moore know his offense. Antonio Cromartie once had three interceptions in a game against Manning, in 2007. Jerraud Powers battled Manning every day in practice for a couple of years in Indy. I agree with Arians. It doesn’t really matter.
— That said, I like the idea that Todd Bowles has had two weeks to prepare a defense for this game.
— So much has been made about the stats of Larry Fitzgerald, who only has 10 catches for 107 yards in three games. Michael Floyd has a lot more yards (252) but he only has 11 catches himself to lead the team. And Smokey Brown nine. The receptions are spread out quite a bit thus far.
— Arians was asked about this being a big game Sunday, and he referenced having Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew on hand as a perk. “You want Joe Buck and Troy Aikman doing your games,” Arians said. “Nothing against David Diehl, he’s a hell of a kid, but you know?”
Diehl, the former player and new analyst, did the Cardinals’ game against San Francisco two weeks ago.
— The Cardinals-versus-Broncos, although a frequent preseason occurrence, is very rare in the regular season. The two teams have only met nine times ever, and the Cardinals have only won once – the most recent meeting in Arizona in 2010. (There was also a tie). The Cardinals are 0-4 in Denver, although they haven’t played there since 2002.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this turns out. As Arians said Friday, the season isn’t over with a loss. But a win certainly would help the cause.
Tags: Broncos, Bruce Arians, Chandler Catanzaro, Drew Stanton, Jerraud Powers, Peyton Manning, Todd Bowles
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The Seahawks have lost just three times this season in 18 games, including the postseason. The largest margin of those losses was the seven points that separated the Cardinals and Seahawks during the Cards’ 17-10 win in Seattle in December. The Cardinals did it with a stifling defense and a good enough running game — parts that don’t particularly run parallel to the Seahawks’ Super Bowl opponent, Denver. The Broncos have been able to run and their offense was much more productive than the Cardinals (much more productive than any other team, actually), with a defense that doesn’t compare to what the Cards have.
Nevertheless, how the Cardinals knocked off the Seahawks was a demonstration in basic football. On offense, the Cards played it safe– 43 run plays, 27 pass plays — and played keep-away — time of possession was more than 37 minutes for Arizona. When the Cards did run, they were fairly effective, with their running backs gaining 142 yards on 38 carries (a not-spectacular-but-good-enough 3.7 yards a try). They often ran into the heart of the Seattle defense, not allowing the Seahawks’ speed to help run down the ballcarrier for little gain and looking to wear on them as the game went along.
Carson Palmer was only sacked twice so the protection held up most of the day. The Broncos shouldn’t have an issue since Peyton Manning is the best ever at getting the ball out quickly and to the right place almost all of the time. Palmer tried a couple times to make quick choices, but there was a reason he had four interceptions that day. Those four picks, by the way, should have cost the Cardinals the game.
They didn’t. Why? Because the Cardinals’ defense was unreal and to me, that is the ultimate hinge of this Super Bowl — can the Broncos keep Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson in check long enough to allow Manning time to get done what he needs done. Lynch got off to a decent start against the Cards that day but his production quickly fizzled, highlighted by his inability to force his way into the end zone late in the first-half after a terrible Cardinals’ turnover. The Cards’ defense stoned Lynch then, the Seahawks missed the gimme field goal, and that was a turning point.
Lynch, as everyone knows, is a pain in the rear to bring down. The Broncos have to be able to swarm, even when it looks like the play might be over. Then there is Wilson, who had probably his worst day as a pro against the Cards: 11-for-27 for only 108 yards, a touchdown but also a pick, four sacks and only two rushing attempts (for 32 yards.) Wilson was inaccurate all day, and the Cards got pressure through a Seattle offensive line that isn’t very good.
Of course, for as well as the defense did, it took some luck for the Cardinals that day as well, for instance the third-and-3 scramble out of the pocket by Palmer that led to an improbable 17-yard pass play to tight end Jake Ballard on the game-winning drive. But that drive was mostly about the run before Palmer flung his touchdown toss to Michael Floyd. One thing about Peyton Manning — he’s never forced passes when he thinks the run can work. And if it means tiring the Seattle defense/keeping Wilson off the field, I could see Manning doing that.
What I don’t think the Broncos can overcome is turnovers. The Cardinals were lucky Palmer’s picks didn’t turn into disaster. Manning’s abilities aside, the Seahawks feed off of that. But if there is a way to slow Lynch, the Seahawks’ offense has been less than dynamic of late. That, even with a great defense available, would seem to call for a close game. And in a close game, anyone can win.
Tags: Broncos, Carson Palmer, Marshawn Lynch, Peyton Manning, Seahawks
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