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Tillman and the NFC East, Friday before Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just sayin’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to D.C.


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Does Veldheer injury make Palmer decision?

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2017 – 10:08 am

After Bruce Arians did his Monday press conference he did his weekly interview on the “Bickley and Marotta” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, and mentioned that he was still hopeful Carson Palmer would be able to play again this season. Palmer himself has said he’s working toward that, although it’s been left vague what exactly is the plan. Palmer would have to be healthy first, and he’s not even practicing yet. Slow healing could make all the discussion a moot point.

But you have to wonder, now that Jared Veldheer is done for the season and fellow starter Earl Watford will miss some time, whether that alone could force the Cardinals’ hand. Having a banged-up offensive line isn’t ideal for any quarterback, but it would seem less so for a quarterback who isn’t known for his mobility. It’s one thing to get Palmer healthy, it’s another thing to put him on a line with, for instance, rookie Will Holden at left tackle.

Again, this might all be moot. GM Steve Keim just said Monday that, aside from about-to-play long snapper Aaron Brewer, there is no one else trending healthy enough to come off IR. But when you start factoring in circumstances, maybe that’s for the best anyway.


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A defensive night, and Titans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 10, 2017 – 7:41 pm

Chandler Jones got his 14th sack of the season. He almost had his 15th – it went later in the play to Haason Reddick – and he probably already should have toppled Simone Rice’s franchise record of 16½.

“How many sacks do I think I should have? I don’t want to talk about it,” Jones said. “How many times I have slipped off the quarterback. Fourth quarter I slipped off the quarterback. I think I get too excited. My eyes get big and he just ducks off of me. I think I have to work on that.”

A more effective Jones is a frightening concept. But there was a chance to talk about near-sacks and records falling – like Larry Fitzgerald’s toppling of Randy Moss in receiving yards – and other good things, because the Cards pulled out a win. The playoffs aren’t going to happen, but suddenly, you play reeling Washington next week and the reeling Giants the week after and is there a way for the Cardinals to go to Seattle with a chance at a nine-win season?

— Speaking of Fitz, no one asked him directly if he’ll play in 2018. He was asked, however, if he plans on catching Terrell Owens, who is some 600-plus yards ahead of Fitz now for second place in all-time NFL receiving yards after Fitz passed Moss Sunday. Fitz, ever coy, wasn’t biting.

“That would require me to play another year I think,” Fitzgerald said. “I hope to catch him this year.”

— Marcus Mariota had a 39.6 passer rating today – the worst of his career.

— The Titans did have 12 sacks their previous two games but the Cards allowed eight Sunday and that just doesn’t work. Maybe Jared Veldheer wasn’t in the best place dealing with a bad elbow. I thought there was a couple of times Blaine Gabbert could’ve helped things. But the Cards did seem to go with quicker passes in the second half to avoid too much pressure.

— Oh, Fitz should’ve had a touchdown catch. He was wide-open in the fourth quarter. Gabbert simply missed him.

— Patrick Peterson had a 29-yard pass play go to Eric Decker in which Peterson basically stopped right as Decker was catching the ball, helping allow Decker to get loose for more yards. Peterson was clearly upset at the time, looking back at the official because he felt Decker pushed off. (Even aside from this play, it wasn’t one of Peterson’s best games.)

“The field judge can’t see that because he’s playing through me,” Peterson said. “We have to ask someone else to the field, so we can have an even playing field for the receiver and the DB. I said, ‘Why didn’t you call it?’ He said, ‘I didn’t see it.’ I’m tired of hearing the same response. Why are you on the field if you didn’t see it? I’m not criticizing the ref at all. I’m just saying that if he didn’t see it, we have to have somebody else out there watching both sides.”

— Bruce Arians didn’t have the best special teams challenge last week when he tried to get a fumble called on the opening kickoff. But he came out ahead on what I think it’s the toughest challenge there is – the spot of the ball, on the Titans’ fake punt. Surprisingly (and yes, I know many thought it was a bad spot, but it was still a spot) it was overturned, and the Cards got a short field, leading to a field goal. Titans coach Mike Mularkey was not happy afterward it was overturned, but Arians said the official right in front of him blew the play dead, and that’s what he thought should happen.

— The go-ahead field goal drive began when wide receiver Chad Williams came on the jet sweep (or end around, as I like to call it) and raced 33 yards. It was a good way to get the rookie involved.

“We needed a spark,” Arians said. “I had another play called. I said, ‘What the hell, it’s time for one.’ It’s either going to be a five-yard loss or a big gain, and we needed a spark.”

— Tramon Williams will be an intriguing free agent going into the offseason. He has been solid since stepping into the starting lineup, and Pro Football Focus graded him with his best game of the year Sunday – allowing only three catches for 23 yards on eight targets, with a pass breakup and an interception. He is also 34. He might be a one-and-done CB like Antonio Cromartie or Marcus Cooper.

— Same goes for linebacker Josh Bynes, who also had a pick and who is also playing very well and is also going to be a free agent. He’s younger, and I don’t see how the Cardinals wouldn’t want Bynes back – unless he decides he can make a lot of cash on the open market.


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A tale of two fourth downs

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2017 – 3:26 pm

Bruce Arians came out Sunday after his team beat the Jaguars and, during his opening comments, was blunt.

“Yes, I thought about going for it on fourth down,” Arians said. “It was real hard not to.”

It brought a smile to many listening. The week before, the Cardinals had tried to convert a fourth-and-1 with 6:33 left when losing to the Texans by three. Adrian Peterson was stuffed for a loss, the Texans ran for a touchdown on the next play, and that was that. It led to Arians taking the blame after the game for the call, and then reversing field the next day.

(There is a fascinating article about going for it on fourth down from the New York Times back in 2014. While critical situations have to be taken into account — like the ones Arians faced — that article says a team should always go for it on fourth-and-1 starting at a team’s own 9-yard line.)

A week later, a lesson apparently had been learned.

Against the Jaguars, there was 1:21 left in a tie game, and the ball was at the 50. Not converting there would have led to a very short field to get in field-goal range for the Jags, which would have been a disaster. Peterson ran the ball much better against Jacksonville, and the blocking was much better. But Arians wasn’t drawn in, and the Cardinals still won in regulation.

“Blaine (Gabbert) tried to talk me into it, and I just kept looking to see if it was going to be six inches or a yard,” Arians said the day after. “We knew we’d get the ball back, and I’m really pissed off because we didn’t line up properly on that one play; it cost us one of our timeouts, or we’d have two timeouts. But, we knew we were going to get the ball back if they threw it (on the possession after the punt), and they did.”

A couple of sideline passes later, Phil Dawson kicked a 57-yard field goal, and the fourth-down choice this time around paid off.


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Calais returns, Friday before the Jaguars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Searching for more yards each run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Keim: Looking at receivers, and Gabbert praise

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2017 – 8:13 am

Bruce Arians said after the game Sunday he would be looking at different receivers potentially going forward. GM Steve Keim echoed that sentiment Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

“We’ve been looking at wide receivers in a lot of different scenarios,” Keim said, noting that the current group — outside of Larry Fitzgerald — haven’t made the plays they had made in the past. That includes consideration of signing guys off the street, Keim said, as well as potentially poaching one from another team’s practice squad.

Who is catching the ball is one of the storylines going forward, as is who is throwing it. Keim praised Blaine Gabbert’s play —  calling him decisive, saying he got the ball out quick and was accurate “for the most part” — as one of three players who really jumped out to him on a positive note. (The other two, of course, were Budda Baker and Ricky Seals-Jones.) He said Gabbert wasn’t helped by a lack of run game or the drops. (A quick aside: Pro Football Focus said the Cardinals only dropped two passes but it’s clear Arians and Keim thought it was more. Keim said six in his interview. I’d have to go back and watch, but at first glance I didn’t not think Sunday was as bad as the Seahawks game.)

Keim gave no hints on who might start at quarterback this coming week. He did say Drew Stanton’s knee was healing quicker than expected. He also said the quarterback decision would be made by Arians, but “we’ll talk it through and it’ll be a team decision.” (In my opinion, it sounded like Keim would lean to giving Gabbert another start. We will see.)

— The inability to run the football is getting under Keim’s skin. “Some of it is getting our tail whipped at the point of attack, some of it is fundamentals,” he said. Keim was disappointed in the blocking from the tight ends, and it the ability to block at the second level.

— Baker is “fun to watch. He plays at a different speed.” Keim loves both his explosive movement, his physical play and how much ground he can cover. He is “fantastic” in pass coverage, Keim added.

— Asked about the fourth down call, Keim said “I have a lot of faith in Coach.” Noted that Arians did drop passes, miss tackles or get dominated on the line of scrimmage, all of which were issues Sunday.

— Keim was asked about, with a 4-6 record, he was now going to focus on the future in terms of roster building and also perhaps how the Cardinals determine playing time. Keim said he’s looking at every scenario as always, scanning practice squads for other players, scouting college players, combining a look at the future as well as now. In terms of playing time, he used the Seals-Jones example of giving a guy a shot who also in term makes things better short-term. “If other guys aren’t getting it done, give other guys an opportunity,” Keim said.


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Texans aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Fitz remembers all, Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2017 – 3:48 pm

The last time the Cardinals played in Houston in a game that counted, Larry Fitzgerald was only 22 years old, in the days when the Cards never talked about the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember. Fitz was asked this week about a 12-yard touchdown pass he caught in the game – a loss to a Texans team so bad they ended up with the No. 1 overall draft pick – and it took him no time to recall that it was the great John Navarre who threw him the pass.

“I have a photographic memory,” Fitzgerald said. “Slant route in garbage time. Fantasy owners were happy.”

Fitz proceeded to say he remembers almost every catch he’s ever made, and that’s quite a few. I mean, that’s 1,185 in his career and counting – a number that came into even sharper focus Friday morning with Fitz’s contract extension through 2018. As I said before, it’s good he’s under contract but for me, it doesn’t guarantee Fitz playing next season. Good sign, yes. But until I hear it from his mouth – I am guessing it will be a topic postgame Sunday – I can’t go all in.

This season, though, Fitzgerald is here and playing very well. If you can have a quiet 10-113 as a receiver, Fitz did last week against the Seahawks. With Blaine Gabbert starting Sunday, I’m guessing the new QB will lean on Fitz targets again, both because, duh, he’s a Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but also because of the troubles the pass catchers not named Fitz had with drops/near-catches against Seattle.

— It made a lot of sense all week that Gabbert would get the nod to play Sunday. He’s healthy. Drew Stanton is not. Bruce Arians wanted to keep Stanton in the lineup, and I do agree with B.A. that Stanton played pretty well against Seattle. Gabbert is playing because of injury but I also understand the idea of getting a chance to see what Gabbert can do, in this offense, in a game that counts.

— Fitz was asked if Gabbert’s success in the preseason gives him confidence in the new QB. It led to a long pause. “I’ve been in it a long time,” Fitzgerald finally said. “Preseason is preseason. I’ve seen him have success in regular-season games.”

— Interesting (to me, at least) that the Cards become the first team to start three QBs this season, given that it comes against the Texans. The long-ago loss in Houston, in which Navarre found Fitz? It was the only time the Cardinals have played three quarterbacks in a game. Kurt Warner started, completed all 10 of his passes (Fitz isn’t the only one who remembers all this stuff off the top of his head) before exiting with a knee injury. Josh McCown was the backup and came in, but he was horribly ill that day and he couldn’t continue. So the Cards turned to Navarre.

— Arians was asked about those receivers this week after the struggles they had collectively. “Practice is fine,” he said. “When those lights turn on … it’s going to be a big week for them.”

— The Cardinals have only played the Texans three times in the regular season. The loss in 2005, and the Cardinals getting home wins in 2009 and 2013.

— Stanton hurt his right knee when he was hit low by Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was flagged on the play (and it kept alive the TD drive that ended with the Stanton TD screen pass to Jermaine Gresham). Richardson was fined $18,231 for his play, and was not happy about it. Also fined $18,231 was Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was flagged for the hit to Russell Wilson’s jaw. Dansby is appealing, and the Seahawks are still dealing with the fallout for not properly checking Wilson for a concussion.

— Corey Peters has been solid in the middle of the defensive line this season. Not having him in the lineup is notable. The Texans are going to want to run to protect struggling QB Tom Savage. We will see who plugs the middle of the line.

— The Texans are putting former all-pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, their version of Fitz, into their Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday. Current star receiver DeAndre Hopkins was asked to name his favorite Johnson play. It turned out he named a reception over Patrick Peterson in Arizona in 2013.

Late in the game, Johnson was blanketed by Peterson, who actually got his hand on the ball and looked like he might get an amazing end zone interception. Instead, the ball bounced and Johnson somehow tipped it to himself and kept his feet in. (Here, look for yourself, around the 52-second mark.)

“I don’t know how he caught it,” Hopkins said.

— Fitz on Johnson: “He exudes class. He’s one of the best to ever do it. This is just a precursor to greater things down the road. He’s a Hall of Fame talent. I’m happy as a fan of his to witness and see it go up.”

— One final Fitz note. It was mentioned in his “A Football Life” episode that he buys suits for all the coaches. Fitzgerald said he’s been doing that “forever.”

“Our success on the field, it says our numbers, but those guys spend hours … (assistant head coach) Tom Moore is here at 4 o’clock in the morning every morning figuring out new innovate ways to be able to feature guys like myself and Adrian (Peterson),” Fitz said. “A lot of hard work was put into those schemes and you want to do right by those guys.”

“They all get custom stuff, make sure they look good. Some of them look better than others.”

See you in Houston.


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A Stanton win and Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2017 – 7:42 pm

It was hard to imagine Sunday happening with Bruce Arians as playcaller. Not so much that the Cardinals ran it so many times compared to passing it, but that they did it with only one running back. The Cards are, after all, on a short week, facing the physical Seahawks Thursday night.

But Adrian Peterson got the rock Sunday. A lot. The most he’s had in his career, a crazy notion given the fact he is both 32 and needed Thursday against those Seahawks. The Cardinals needed a win. As offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said last week, feeding Peterson is like throwing wood into the old stove, getting it hotter as the night goes on. Peterson really is a marvel, and he was crucial Sunday.

Now comes the Seahawks, who lost themselves at home. The Cards would pull even in the standings by beating Seattle. This is the formula, like the Cards had been saying (and interestingly, even with Palmer, is often the formula against the Seahawks anyway.) Run a lot, lean on the defense. Ask Drew Stanton to do some things but not a lot of things.

— Even with all the running, one guy who wasn’t about to declare the Cardinals now a running team was Larry Fitzgerald, who quietly had a solid game (five catches, 70 yards, a couple of key first downs).

“To say we have a whole new identity, I don’t know about that,” Fitzgerald said.

— The 37 Peterson carries set a franchise record. I hate to do this, but he broke the record of — wait for it – Edgerrin James, who had 36 in the Monday Night Meltdown game against the Bears. Edge was slightly less productive, gaining just 55 yards that game.

On the all-time lists, Fitzgerald surpassed Tim Brown for sixth place in NFL history for receiving yards. Peterson, who went past the 12,000-rushing yard mark, passed Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris and is now 14th all-time.

— Budda Baker was great in punt coverage, making an impact especially in the first half.

— It was a chippy day across the NFL – google Mike Evans and A.J. Green – so it kind of fit into things when it got heated late in the Cards’ game. Safety Antoine Bethea hit 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard as Beathard slid and the 49ers deemed it late. They had something to say. When it was over, Haason Reddick and Frostee Rucker were ejected, as was 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. We’ll see what the punishments and/or fines might be later this week. The sliding thing has been in the forefront ever since last week’s Kiko Alonso hit on Joe Flacco.

— Congrats to Karlos Dansby for getting his 20th career interception, as he became the fifth player in NFL history with 20 picks and at least 40 sacks. Dansby also had a sack in the game, so it will be a memorable one for him. So will the fact the ball bounced off the helmet of an offensive lineman, but they can’t all be gorgeous.

Dansby said Adrian Wilson had been giving him grief the other day in the team cafeteria about getting the pick. “Stop floating in the zone,” Dansby said Wilson told him. “It’ll come right to you.”

— It came late, but Chandler Jones got sack No. 9 in his eighth game, one of five sacks in the game. It was necessary to pressure Beathard all game given his beat-up offensive line, and for the most part, the Cards did.

— It was a nice day for the offensive line. Peterson ran for 159, and Pro Football Focus said the line allowed just two hurries, and Stanton wasn’t sacked.

— Finally, a few words about Stanton. He was solid Sunday. I understand there will still be those calling for Blaine Gabbert. I don’t expect that to change. But I don’t expect Stanton to go anywhere anytime soon. He took the blame for his interception in the end zone, although Arians interestingly took the blame for the same play. Stanton made a nice play to scramble around and find Jaron Brown on the first TD. He made a nice run on a planned play on third-and-1 to get a big first down.

He did enough to get a win. Yes, the Seahawks’ defense is another animal altogether, but Stanton did his job. The Cardinals are back at practice tomorrow. It’s just a walkthrough, but the week has already started. Not much time to enjoy a win.


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