As I was driving to work this morning, it occurred to me that there can’t be too many times when a team undergoes the kind of score swing from one week to the next that the Cardinals had these past two weeks. After losing in Seattle, 58-0, they beat the Lions, 38-10. That’s a swing margin of 86 points. So, with a hat tip to media relations stats guru Mike Helm, Elias was able to confirm that it was the biggest swing from week to week since 1968.
That year, the Lions opened the season with a 59-13 loss in Dallas and then followed up with a 42-0 home win over the Bears — a swing of 88 points. From blown out to blowout. The first part of that isn’t ideal, but better than back-to-back losses. (It actually happens more than I thought. The Giants blew out the Saints, 52-27, last week and then lost, 34-0, to the Falcons this week. Not in the same points ballpark, but the same concept.)
– Speaking of media relations mavens, VP Mark Dalton noted the last time safety Rashad Johnson scored a touchdown before Sunday was when he returned an interception for a 54-yard score while playing for Alabama Nov. 8, 2008 in a win at LSU. You know who also had a pick-6 in that game? LSU freshman Patrick Peterson. Too bad Peterson could complete the circle of life when he stumbled at the end of his interception return Sunday.
– Punter Dave Zastudil has 38 punts downed inside the 20-yard line with two games to go. He is on pace to eclipse the NFL record of 42, held by three players, including the Cards’ Ben Graham in 2009. Zastudil has been fantastic this season. Of course, he isn’t even leading the league, since Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt already has 41 downed inside the 20. It’s a race to the finish!
– The 25.5 sacks of defensive end Calais Campbell in his career already puts him in the top 10 in franchise history. I don’t know if he’s ever going to reach the top — Freddie Joe Nunn’s 66 is a long way away, especially for a 3-4 end — but if he stays consistent there is no reason to think Campbell doesn’t at least double his total over the next three seasons.
– The Cards flip-flopped their Saturday roster move, releasing defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin — they must expect Dan Williams and/or Ronald Talley back this week — and re-signing guard/center Mike Gibson.
Tags: Ben Graham, Calais Campbell, Dave Zastudil, Dustin Colquitt, Mark Dalton, Mike Gibson, Mike Helm, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Ricky Lumpkin
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Adrian Wilson was one of the players from the very first Cardinals’ draft class I covered from draft day on (I began chronicling the Cards right before training camp the year before). I’ve known him his whole NFL career. It made me smile Sunday when, as he began to cry during his press conference – not waterworks, mind you, but clearly tearing up – and said “Believe it or not, I’m a very emotional person.”
Maybe those who see him from afar only on the field might think that, might think he’s one of those stereotypical players who crush opponents for a living without feeling. Anyone who has been around him at all knows he’s the ultimate emotional guy. It’s always on his sleeve. Sometimes he may not want to talk about whatever publicly (and even then, the message is sent) but you never once are doubting what kind of mood he is in.
Those tears Sunday represented relief and sadness at once. His lost playing time has been hard on him, and that caught up to him after notching his sack Sunday that made him the sixth member of the 25-25 club (Wilson has 27 interceptions and 25½ sacks). His NFL mortality crawls closer, and he knows what that means. But it was also about the weight lifted off the shoulders of a team burdened by a nine-game losing streak. The game in Seattle was a bomb dropped on a team and a defense that was already reeling. The Cards recovered nicely Sunday.
And it wasn’t a surprise to see A-Dub a little overwhelmed because of it.
– Calais Campbell was a monster against the Lions, and believe it or not, he said he’s still not 100 percent. It just shows how much he means to this defense when he is playing well, and how well he fits into this scheme. After everything that has happened the last couple of weeks, it was noticeable that, when asked about Campbell’s dominance, coach Ken Whisenhunt also said Darnell Dockett played well too.
– Patrick Peterson got his shot at Calvin Johnson and did very well. Johnson got his numbers but Peterson’s one interception was a bigger play than anything Johnson did and of course, Peterson got the win.
– Yes, the Cardinals “hurt” their draft status with a win. But please, spare me the “they can’t even lose right” comments. They are in this to win games. It’s one of the reasons I have no desire to get into draft talk until the season is over. Let’s see where everything settles, and then we can discuss what players might be available, etc.
– It’s not why the Pick-6s happened, but noteworthy that both players who returned interceptions for touchdowns Sunday – cornerback Greg Toler and safety Rashad Johnson (below) – are going to be unrestricted free agents after the season. The Cardinals have to make a decision on whether they want to bring either back.
– Easily the hardest I’ve seen Beanie Wells run this season, and that’s not a knock on effort but a note on health. He had a couple runs where he just moved the pile. His per-carry average wasn’t great (3.9) but he scored three touchdowns and again, gained yards in short-yardage situations.
– Punter Dave Zastudil, who has been a workhorse because of the offensive struggles this season, has been fantastic this year. He set a team record Sunday with six punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
– Ryan Lindley really didn’t play that much different than he had previous. He had 104 yards passing, and after an early bad interception, he didn’t turn the ball over. The reshuffled offensive line kept him upright (one sack). He didn’t do anything to make you think he’s the QB of the future, but he didn’t do anything to make you think he won’t start against the Bears next week.
– Fitz did get four catches after just six in the previous four games. It was just for 22 yards, but baby steps. Besides, Fitz was happy. “Christmas came early here in the desert,” Fitz said. “Santa made a delivery at University of Phoenix Stadium and we are all happy with the gift we received. It’s incomprehensible what we’ve been going through the last couple of weeks. Nine weeks in a row to not come out with a win, it feels good to be back home and get a win.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Lindley
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The other day defensive tackle Nick Eason was saying that, in the aftermath of the Cards’ 58-0 loss in Seattle, that the players were simply going to go back to work. “That’s all we can do,” Eason said, noting that they were football players, and this was just another week of football.
So the reaction Wednesday coming off what in some ways was a historic loss was just like the Cards have done every Wednesday after their other losses. And their wins, for that matter.
“It was a typical practice,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We were flying around. Same as it has been all season.”
Quarterback Ryan Lindley noted “you try to forget about (Sunday) as quick as possible.” “We did some things all right (today),” Lindley said. “Wednesday is always an up and down day because you are putting new stuff in. (Thursday) will be better.”
The message wasn’t going to change much. There are guys banged up — wide receiver Early Doucet suffered a concussion, and the Cards could use nose tackle Dan Williams given their woes stopping the run, but Williams was also sitting out with his bad hamstring — yet that isn’t going to stop the schedule and the three games left.
“I don’t think anybody was happy,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said after practice. “They’re all upset about what happened. They worked well today. Came back out here and had good energy. That’s a painful thing to go through and we went through and looked at why that happened, tried to correct those things, and worked on correcting them today. That’s all you can do.”
– Whisenhunt named Lindley his starter for Sunday’s game. Not a surprise, since Lindley finished the game and John Skelton had five turnovers in his brief chance to start again.
– Whiz said it is wait-and-see for new QB Brian Hoyer. I don’t see how he’d play this week. Beyond that? Let’s see how Lindley fares, but I will not be shocked to see Hoyer get a start down the stretch.
– QB Kevin Kolb wants to be back next season. He hasn’t had any discussions about his contract, which would need to be restructured, I’m sure. He said his “heart and soul” are with the Cardinals.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Early Doucet, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Nick Eason, Ryan Lindley
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The Cardinals will have WR Andre Roberts and DE Calais Campbell active today, which is a good sign. The surprise inactive today is rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming, who has been dealing with a back issue but more importantly has lost snaps over recent weeks falling down the depth chart.
– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)
– DE Ronald Talley (ankle)
– WR LaRon Byrd
– G Senio Kelemete
– T Pat McQuistan
– TE Kory Sperry
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is active, but given his on-field argument with Kerry Rhodes last weekend and his disagreement with the decision of the coaching staff at the end of the Jets game, he is expected to lose some playing time. With Talley out, the Cards figure they will need Dockett.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, inactives, Jamell Fleming, Kory Sperry, LaRon Byrd, Levin Kolb, Pat McQuistan, Ronald Talley, Senio Kelemete
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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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Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) both are inactive today. So too is tight end Todd Heap, who has recovered from his knee injury but apparently isn’t in the Cards’ plans unless there is an injury to another tight end. With Roberts out — and he is, not Larry Fitzgerald, leading the team in yards receiving and receiving touchdowns — that means rookie Michael Floyd will get his first start. David Carter will start in Campbell’s place.
The rest of the inactive list isn’t a surprise:
– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)
– G Senio Kelemete
– T Pat McQuistan
– RB Alfonso Smith
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, inactives, Kevin Kolb, Michael Floyd, Pat McQuistan, Senio Kelemete, Todd Heap
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Wide receiver Andre Roberts did not practice again Friday, meaning he sat out the entire week with his bad ankle. But he is still listed as questionable to play against the Jets, one of three receivers for the Cards who are questionable. On the good side, the other two questionable — Early Doucet (back) and LaRon Byrd (head) — each we’re upgraded to full practice Friday.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he also expects two other players listed as questionable to play barring an unforeseen setback between now and game day: DE Calais Campbell (calf) and running back Beanie Wells (knee). I thought all week Beanie was just precautionary, but if he is listed as questionable, perhaps not.
The other questionable player, QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), seems like a long shot to be active Sunday given his circumstances.
One of those listed as questionable for the Jets, backup QB Tim Tebow, is dealing with fractured ribs. ESPN reported Tebow will be inactive Sunday.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Early Doucet, Kevin Kolb, LaRon Byrd, Tim Tebow
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Kevin Kolb made progress in practice last week but still was having soreness. His availability for this weekend’s game in New York against the Jets is very much in doubt with an entire week of practice to go. With that in mind, coach Ken Whisenhunt said today Ryan Lindley will get a second straight start in the New York game.
Now, we’ll have to see, if Kolb keeps progressing, if that could change. Whiz never came out and said Kolb would start if healthy. He just said he didn’t know where Kolb would be health-wise.
“For this week, yes, we stay with Ryan,” Whisenhunt said. “You can’t have the interceptions. But in the first half, I thought he did a really nice job.”
As for Kolb, “He still had soreness, and you have to weigh that against taking a hit in the pocket,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s going to happen in this league even when you get throws off. It has to be a safety concern there as well.”
– Whiz said he expects defensive end Calais Campbell to play against the Jets. And in response to a question about tight end Todd Heap being a “healthy scratch” on Sunday, Whiz said “I think Todd is just about to the point where he can play now (after a knee injury). It’s been disappointing we haven’t been able to get him back but we’ll see how he does in practice this week.”
Tags: Calais Campbell, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, Todd Heap
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Injuries will keep defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Early Doucet (ribs) as inactive today against the Rams, but it would seem that it is a coach’s decision that will keep tight end Todd Heap inactive once again. Heap practiced full all week and was probable for the game, but after missing every game since Week 2 with knee issues, coach Ken Whisenhunt warned that Heap being active on game day would depend on the rest of the 46-man game day roster. With Rob Housler playing a bigger role, Heap just isn’t as crucial at this point.
With Doucet down, rookie Michael Floyd will have to perform, and it means LaRon Byrd is active too.
Besides Heap, Doucet and Campbell, the rest of the inactives:
– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)
– RB Alfonso Smith (with Beanie back and LaRod Stephens-Howling playing despite sore ribs, Smith must sit)
– G Senio Kelemete
– T Pat McQuistan
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Calais Campbell, Early Doucet, inactives, Kevin Kolb, LaRon Byrd, Pat McQuistan, Senio Kelemete, Todd Heap
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So I engaged in a Twitter discussion today with a fan with whom I have traded many tweets with in the past. He was frustrated with something coach Ken Whisenhunt said today about the challenge flags after the debacle of Jim Schwartz in Detroit yesterday (I’ll have Whiz’s thoughts in a moment). The fan’s problem was that Whiz was even talking about it, instead of, apparently, his job performance.
It seemed to be a good time to bring this up, because it’s not the first time someone is upset with a) what a coach or a player is talking about and b) the media not hounding coaches or players into some sort of bloodletting in front of the cameras.
Almost every quote you hear or read from these guys is prompted by a question. Whiz wasn’t talking about, in this case, the challenge flags, out of the blue. It was asked. He answered. It’s timely. Players always are answering questions. We’re all trying to generate interesting things to talk about. It’s not always about the status of job security.
That leads to the second point. I’m not sure what fans are expecting. Coaches and players tend to have a personality with their media interaction. Spend enough time around them, you know what they are going to get. Everyone seems to be waiting for Whisenhunt to change course now and that’s not going to happen. And guess what – it doesn’t matter. Whisenhunt isn’t saying anything different or handling anything different than when the Cards were winning, and no one had a problem with it then. Andy Reid stands up and says mea culpa every week in Philly and everyone still wants him fired because he’s not winning. The message doesn’t matter as much as results. Whisenhunt isn’t oblivious to the outside world. He knows what is going on. Yet this notion that if he talks about anything but, say, his future or the quarterbacks or the offensive line issue is just pointless, well, I don’t get it. Those things are important, but there are other things to talk about too.
Lemme get off the soap box now to hit some other points heading into the Rams’ game:
– Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would like to have a big game. He’s not saying it, but you know he’s feeling it. Winning, though, is still his priority, he insisted. “We won in New England when I had one catch for four yards,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s possible to be done. If that’s what it takes that’s what it takes.”
When it was pointed out he’d prefer to win with a lot more catches and some touchdowns, Fitz laughed. “I prefer a lot of things,” Fitzgerald said. “But hey, it’s the way it is.”
– It’s so hard to predict what Fitz might do this week, but I’d be surprised if newbie Ryan Lindley doesn’t try to get him the ball. A Pro Bowl wide receiver can be a nice security blanket for a rookie QB.
– Whiz said he isn’t planning on scaling back the offense because Lindley is playing. He just wants his offense to do what they already can do better.
– Whisenhunt noted that the last time the Cards played the Rams, Darnell Dockett was limited. Actually he was very limited, making almost no impact because of the hamstring injury bothering him at the time. Dockett is good now. He created a lot of havoc last week in Atlanta – “You see his explosiveness,” Whisenhunt said – and will be a new factor with which the Rams must deal.
– It’s a tradeoff, because Rams running back Steven Jackson is looking better than he has in a couple of years. That may be because he is healthier than he has been in a couple of years (he has 182 yards over the past two games, averaging more than five yards a carry.)
“He’s the unsung NFL MVP,” Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves said. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it shows the Cards’ respect for Jackson.
– Jackson will be even more important with the news Rams receiver Danny Amendola is doubtful with a foot injury. Amendola didn’t practice all week, yet he was the one guy – along with Jackson – Cardinals players kept mentioning. Amendola was also the receiver that was shredding the Cards in the first meeting before he got hurt early. His absence would be a boon to the Cards.
– About Whisenhunt and the challenge flags. Lions coach Jim Schwartz screwed up on Thanksgiving. He threw his flag when an 81-yard TD run by Texans RB Justin Forsett that should have been called down wasn’t, which is a no-no – Forsett ran for a TD, and all scoring plays, like turnover, are automatically reviewed. Throwing your flag before the review is officially called for not only is a 15-yard penalty, it wipes out the review itself. The Cards watched the Falcons do the same exact thing less than a week ago.
“They warn you every game,” Whisenhunt said. “They make a point before every game of telling you on turnovers and scoring plays, you can’t throw the flag.”
Is the rule just? That’s debatable. It’ll be looked at in the offseason, I’m sure. But Whisenhunt was blunt in answering whether it is fair. “That’s the rule,” he said.
– I think we’ll see Calais Campbell play this weekend. How much I’m not sure. Will it be Dockett limited from the first Rams’ game? Maybe. Maybe he’ll play more. David Carter did a nice job last week as a fill-in, so that works.
– Tight end Todd Heap has practiced full all week with his knee issue. He is probable for the first time. Yet Whiz said whether Heap plays depends on the 46-man game day roster. If Heap isn’t active Sunday, it’ll be a coach’s decision. Will Heap’s long stint on the shelf cost him a chance to play going forward, barring an injury to a tight end? I don’t know if you take reps from Rob Housler for Heap. Then again, if you think Heap can make that much of an impact, I don’t know if you can afford to sit him either.
– With LaRod Stephens-Howling limited with a rib problem – technically he is questionable — it will be interesting to see if that will impact Beanie Wells’ workload in his return. Whiz has seemed to be warning off a heavy game for Beanie since he is just coming back.
– One final thought, as the Cards head into the final six games of the season, from linebacker Daryl Washington.
“If we can lose six games in a row, we can win six games (in a row) too,” he said. “That’s tough in the NFL but I believe we can do it. It would take a lot of effort, a lot of hard work. In the meantime, we have to focus on one at a time.”
Tags: Calais Campbell, Danny Amendola, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Jim Schwartz, Justin Forsett, Ken Whisenhunt, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Rams, Rob Housler, Ryan Lindley, Steven Jackson, Todd Heap
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