Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Instagram, Lions, Patrick Peterson
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This may be a game between the Cardinals and the Lions, but it feels like in some way, shape or form this week has been about arguably the best two wide receivers in the game (with a little Levi Brown sprinkled in.) Seeing how the Cardinals deal with Calvin Johnson – through Patrick Peterson, of course – was a natural, and then Larry Fitzgerald had to go and tweak his hamstring Wednesday and make his status a big part of the narrative.
The Lions are a better team and more importantly, in a better place, than the group that showed up to University of Phoenix Stadium last December and got pounded, 38-10. Then again, and I think this gets lost, so are the Cardinals. That Cardinals team was floundering on offense (and did so again in that game, mostly, even with the lopsided score) and on a nine-game losing streak. So it’s not like the Cards haven’t moved forward themselves.
It comes down to this: You can’t afford to start 0-2. Not in this division, not with this schedule, not with a team coming cross country to play in your home opener.
“We need a great crowd and the energy that will be there in the stadium,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Hopefully it will ignite us even more. Sometimes you use the opponent’s crowd cheering for them, but it’s nothing like when they are cheering for you.”
— Fitzgerald was asked this week if there are any matchups against a cornerback he relishes like Peterson does going against a guy like Johnson. Fitz said – no doubt knowing exactly what he meant – that it would be Peterson.
“Every day I match up with Patrick is special, in practice,” Fitzgerald said. “I have the benefit of having the top guy in my own locker room.”
We will take him at his word. Fitz did note how Peterson has gotten so much smarter as a cornerback, using safety help to create better leverage and just overall taking a step forward in the mental game when he already had a lot going for him physically. “That’s a deadly, deadly combination,” Fitz said.
— Life on an island against great receivers isn’t easy. But it can’t matter, cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “You know what you are getting into once you play this position,” Powers said. “You know some of the big-time names and guys in the league out there who have proved it, Calvin and Larry, that you know are top-notch. You have to believe in your technique and believe in your ability. They put their shoes on just like they do. You just have to have that type of confidence.”
— Big game for left tackle Levi Brown. It’s one thing to deal with speedster Robert Quinn on the turf. He’ll be back on grass, and the Lions don’t have an edge guy like Quinn. For all the focus on the Peterson-Megatron matchup, everyone knows Brown will be under the microscope too, after last week.
“We have a high expectation for that position and he has to meet that,” said offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin. “(He needs to) carry over things he does in practice and take it to the game. That’s all he has to do and he’ll be fine.”
— Arians said he thought inside linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby played “solid” in St. Louis, although he said Brinkley got caught in space a couple of times. Profootballfocus.com gave both good grades against the run but noted their struggles in pass coverage.
— Missed tackles were an issue last week too. “I’m not surprised,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “Probably disappointed. (The Rams) are a good football team. We just have to tackle better. We had been doing a good job of it, but we didn’t last week.”
— Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was credited with two tackles and one quarterback pressure last week, according to the coaching staff. Dockett will need to make more of an impact for this defense to really shine.
“I don’t feel I played bad,” Dockett said. “I played well in spurts. I can do better. No matter what the stats say I always feel I could have done something better. The biggest thing was creating pressure when I had one-on-one blocks, I could have done a lot better with those.”
— The Cardinals, if you wanted to know, will be wearing their red jerseys. I anticipate white pants.
— There were no fines last week for the Rams for any of the hits on Andre Roberts. But cornerback Cortland Finnegan was fined $7,875 for a late hit (I believe on Michael Floyd, that was the play Finnegan drew an unnecessary roughness flag) and so was St. Louis linebacker William Hayes, who hit someone late after the play on a punt.
— Almost a week later, Tyrann Mathieu still isn’t going to get all giddy about his forced fumble against Rams tight end Jared Cook last week. He’s much more matter-of-fact.
“It definitely boosts your confidence, let’s you know you can make plays in the NFL,” Mathieu said. “I am looking forward to making more plays like that in the NFL. It’s all about how you practice. If you practice those things, 100 percent of the time you will make those plays in games.”
I mentioned that both Arians and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders (who happens to be a Mathieu mentor) called it one of the best plays they had ever seen. Mathieu shrugged his shoulders. “If I forced a fumble and picked it up and ran it back 100 yards, that’s amazing to me,” Mathieu said. “But I understand why they said it. It was a big-time play. I’m happy those guys are rooting for me.”
OK, that’s plenty. Cards-Lions Sunday. I’ll be on pre-game radio at 10 a.m., on KTAR 92.3 FM, if you want to give a listen.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Calvin Johnson, Cortland Finnegan, Darnell Dockett, Deion Sanders, Harold Goodwin, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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It’s easy to think of the Lions and wide receiver Calvin Johnson and get locked in on him, but Bruce Arians tried to zoom out a bit when talking Wednesday about the Cardinals’ Sunday opponent.
“Everybody that they have is capable of beating you,” Arians said. “You can’t just look at one guy.”
Of course, Johnson is the guy people think of first. Patrick Peterson will not cover Johnson one-on-one all the time, Arians said, but he will do it some. That will likely work for Peterson, who cherishes these matchups (Peterson was not available during the media session today, so we’ll have more on this tomorrow.) Arians smiled with that assessment of Peterson, though. “You have to watch what you wish for sometimes,” Arians said.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz did say, if officials hadn’t overturned two touchdowns in the opener, Johnson would have come out much better than his four-catch-for-37-yard day. “If he has those two, it’s a Megatron game.”
— The ability of Detroit DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will mean the pressure this week will be on the Cardinals’ interior line of Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein and Paul Fanaika, as opposed to the pressure the tackles were under in St. Louis, Arians said.
— This from Arians, which was important to note: He said newcomer tackle Bradley Sowell can play both sides. But he said Bobby Massie cannot play left tackle — which would be a reason, for all of you who have asked, why he has not been tried there. Arians did say he thinks Massie “has all the talent in the world.”
— Arians, asked for his evaluation of Suh’s reputation as a dirty football player, said he only thing he goes off of is the video. “When I watch tape I see a great football player,” Arians said. “All the rest of the stuff, I don’t have to deal with.”
— Arians said the only player sitting out of practice was tight end Rob Housler, whom Arians already said would probably miss the Detroit game. Some players will be limited today. We will see the official injury report later today.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Calvin Johnson, Daryn Colledge, Lions, Lyle Sendlein, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler
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Here’s one benefit of playing the Lions and Bears in back-to-back weeks: The blueprint was already there for the defense, after covering Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, to deal with the Bears’ Brandon Marshall. Johnson has been a beast this season, no question, but Marshall has been fairly beastly himself, with 107 catches, 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns already himself.
Now, that doesn’t mean the Cards will necessarily give Marshall the “vice” look they gave Johnson at times last week – when Johnson was in the slot, safety Kerry Rhodes and cornerback William Gay would basically double-team him at the line, like Johnson was a gunner on punt coverage. But who knows? We could see it again. It’ll be fun to watch this defense regardless, against a struggling offensive line and against a quarterback who has shown he can be harassed into bad decisions.
— We do know we’ll see Patrick Peterson on Marshall , as Peterson keeps making his late-season push. I don’t think he’s getting double-digit picks, but he’s closer than I thought he’d get earlier in the season. He also talked a little this week about his confidence which is obvious.
“All the good corners have confidence in their ability to go out and make plays for their team,” Peterson said. “I believe the confidence started in high school. It was something my Dad always instilled in me growing up – ‘Always be confident in your ability, confident in what you are doing at all times.’ Not cocky. There is definitely a difference.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to go out and boast and brag about my ability, but if I feel like I am doing something better than another guy or doing something at the top level, I’ll definitely let you guys know.”
Peterson added, in a question about whether he was the best in the game, “I believe I am playing at a top level right now.”
— Both Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and James Sanders (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time this week. Both are questionable. I would guess at least one will play Sunday, if not both, but starter Adrian Wilson could get more playing time, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.
“There’s never been a question of Adrian’s ability,” said Horton, although Wilson has lost snaps since the bye. Horton said Friday part of the reason for that was to reward the good play of Johnson and Sanders.
Nevertheless, Wilson understands – as do many – there is a chance this could be Wilson’s final home game Sunday, with his future with the team murky right now. Horton was asked about calling the blitz last weekend that got Wilson the sack he needed to reach the 25-25 club.
“I was aware of where he was in the (historical rankings) in the league and it was a perfect opportunity to do it,” Horton said. “It was kind of called for him.”
— If the Cardinals win Sunday, it will be Ken Whisenhunt’s 50th victory as Cardinals’ head coach including playoffs.
— Given the problems with the Bears’ offensive line and the way the 49ers play offense, this might be the week linebacker Daryl Washington wants to get that elusive 10th sack of the season. Time is running out for him to his double-digits.
— Nothing official, but yes, I expect the roof open Sunday.
— Don’t know what’s going to happen with quarterback Brian Hoyer. I still think he ends up active in one of the final two games, if not both. Does that mean he plays? Not necessarily. Whisenhunt made it plain he wouldn’t change things up and jeopardize winning just to look at Hoyer, so my guess would be if a game got out of hand, then he might be willing to test-drive the new guy. But again, he’s got to be active for that to happen. Which likely means John Skelton would be made inactive.
— While Sunday’s game doesn’t kick off until 2:25 p.m., the plaza at University of Phoenix Stadium will open early, at 10:45 a.m., so fans can get through screening. The stadium still does not open until 90 minutes prior to kickoff for non-premium seat holders, but food and beverage options will be available on the plaza, in addition to entertainment at Gate 2. Anyone with food or beverage purchased on the plaza can bring it into the stadium when the doors open.
We come to the end of another home schedule. Seems like we were just showing up for that Seahawks game in early September. Back then, Ryan Williams, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein were still around (playing, I mean) and so were hopes for the season. Now the Cards just want to finish above .500 at UoP.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bears, Brandon Marshall, Brian Hoyer, Calvin Johnson, Daryl Washington, James Sanders, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, William Gay
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It was Thursday, and those are the days Larry Fitzgerald talks to the media. Normally, a wide receiver with six catches over four games doesn’t draw a crowd, but given Fitz’s stature, it’s even more important these days to listen to what Fitzgerald has to say more than any other time because both the team’s season and his season have fallen way, way short of expectations.
And as usual, Fitzgerald handled the time well. He was asked what he thought about whether quarterback Kevin Kolb would return in 2013. “I would love to see everybody come back, but that’s not my decision,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s for management to take care of. Hopefully I can come back next year. Hopefully they bring me back. My season hasn’t been that great.”
It provided a chuckle, even if it was true. Fitz has dropped a few passes this season that in past years he seemed to come up with. But as has been chronicled many times, his numbers — 57 receptions, 652 yards, four touchdowns — aren’t reflective of his ability as much as the struggles at quarterback. Every week, Fitz compiles the plays of the top receivers in the league, guys like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Houston’s Andre Johnson, New England’s Wes Welker, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, Tampa’s Vincent Jackson and Atlanta’s Roddy White among them, and studies their work. He tries to pick up tips, but he can’t steal the throws they are getting from their QBs, and his numbers will fall far short of those other elite receivers.
“When we didn’t have a starting quarterback, in a season when I caught TD passes with five quarterbacks – that’s crazy,” Calvin Johnson told detroitlions.com. “He’s in a situation where they don’t have a steady quarterback situation. You don’t have a chance to get the ball.”
Fitz isn’t going to complain. He knows it makes no difference. Besides, he can let others (like Calvin Johnson did) do it for him. It’s not rocket science to analyze his frustration. But he also wants to power through the end of the season and set a good example.
“Certain days I am up, certain days I am down. I’m human,” Fitzgerald said. “I try my best to be a professional every day, come to work and give it my best. It’d be easy to hang your head and be disappointed but as a teammate you can’t do that to your teammates. You have to keep practicing and working hard and trying to improve. That’s my mindset. I never feel sorry for myself.”
Tags: Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker
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The NFL Network’s summer tour of the top 100 players — as chosen by a vote of players — wraps up tonight. Somewhere in the final 10, Larry Fitzgerald will have his named called.
(The show airs at 5 p.m. Arizona time. And I am sure we will have Fitz’s segment available on the site soon after. … And here it is.)
Last year, Fitz was No. 14. Where will he be in a couple of hours? Don’t know. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis remain. I will be interested where Fitz is in relation to Johnson. Something tells me that could get the fans riled up. I already know — since I watched it unfold on Twitter — that people aren’t thrilled Calais Campbell/Adrian Wilson/Darnell Dockett didn’t make the list. Only Patrick Peterson will join Fitz.
Is Campbell or one of the others one of the current 100 best players in the league? An argument can be made, sure. I don’t know how many players participated in the voting, but someone came up with this list. (I mean, is Eli Manning really only the 31st best player? Worse than James Harrison? Or Wes Welker? Um, no.) This is about talking about the NFL in the deadest time of the NFL calendar, however. Don’t ever forget that. Lists are popular to make because they generate such conversation. And we are certainly talking about it, right?
UPDATE: Fitz was seventh. Calvin Johnson was third, behind Rodgers and Brees. Said Fitz on Twitter, “Honored 2 b voted a top 10 player by my peers. Congrats 2 all others. I will continue striving 4 perfection. 6 spots 2 go.
UPDATE, THE SEQUEL: Fitz had an even longer — and poignant — response on Facebook:
“Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement.
“I’ve completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal.
“Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players.
“My sincere hope is that we can get back to the playoffs on a regular basis and become Super Bowl Champions.
“Our team was 2minutes away from that goal on February 4, 2009, and similarly, my 7th rank of NFL top players leaves room for improvement.
“I will strive as always to expand my role and contributions to team success, be as productive as possible,and win a Championship…..”
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Calvin Johnson, Darnell Dockett, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, James Harrison, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
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It started with a Tweet, as so many things do these days.
Over at ESPN, Mike Sando noted Larry Fitzgerald had just one drop this season, the lowest total (easily) among the four players (Roddy White, Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson) targeted at least 150 times. Fitz answered back that that was “One too many.” There was only one really obvious drop for Fitz this season, so obvious coach Ken Whisenhunt even called him out for it after the Minnesota game, during the Cards’ dark, dark days of this season.
My access is to Stats, Inc., not ESPN. Stats has Fitzgerald with two drops (which doesn’t shock me; while the Vikings’ one I remember, there were a couple others I remember thinking they could be Fitz drops at the time) among his 154 targets. By way of comparison, Stats has Andre Roberts with 98 targets and four drops, and Early Doucet with 97 targets and six drops.
(Drops, of course, are judgment calls.)
For further comparison, it’s Fitz with those high-volume counterparts, and whether it was one or two, Fitz comes out looking good. Stats lists Welker with five drops in 173 targets, Johnson with six and 158 targets, and White with a stunning 15 drops on 180 targets (and remember, targets are just looking in a guy’s direction; it doesn’t mean it was anywhere near catchable. Stats judged 37 passes that came Fitz’s way this season as a “poor throw.” Three targets were intentionally thrown away, and 25 were either defended or knocked down at the line. )
Drops have never really been a Fitz issue, however. He even had a “perfect” season according to Stats: 2007, and he still had 100 receptions. Fitz’s year-by-year drops:
- 2011: 2 (80 catches)
- 2010: 4 (90)
- 2009: 2 (97)
- 2008: 2 (96)
- 2007: 0 (100)
- 2006: 5 (69)
- 2005: 1 (103)
- 2004: 2 (58)
Funny that his two most prolific reception seasons are his lowest drop years too.
P.S. I will be hosting a live chat tomorrow (Thursday) at 12:30 p.m. Arizona time to talk about all things offseason. And in-season. Whatever you want. Click here to join.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Calvin Johnson, Early Doucet, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Wes Welker
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So what was Sunday, exactly?
Was it the scary way the Cards managed to come up with a win in Detroit? Was it, ultimately, the fact they won the game and turned it into the NFC West title by the end of the night (pictures from the flight home are right here)? A little of both, I suppose. The Lions, by the end, were using a third-string quarterback, a second-string running back and couldn’t get the ball to star wideout Calvin Johnson. Mistakes were made. Yet the Cards ended up with a victory. That wasn’t the team that took apart the Vikings on “Sunday Night Football” but it wasn’t the team that played in San Francisco either.
If it makes any frustrated fans out there feel better, there’s was enough concern lingering in the locker room to make sure the close call won’t go for naught.
“As a team, we have to know, being who we are, we’re going to get it every week,” wide receiver Steve Breaston said. “That is what we have to understand.”
“We’ve got to look at this film, look at the second half and look ourselves in the mirror,” safety Adrian Wilson said. “We’ve got some good team coming up so we can’t continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
With the one-win Rams coming in to University of Phoenix Stadium this week, everyone will be looking for domination. That may or may not happen, but maybe it’s something the Cards strive for as they gear up for what is now a guaranteed playoff berth.
— Wilson is thisclose to reaching the 20/20 club for career sacks and interceptions. He got to 19½ sacks Sunday when he got a half, splitting one with Clark Haggans. “I ain’t tripping off that,” Wilson said. “It’s a half. I’ll continue to work. Sooner or later, it’ll come around.”
— The Cardinals faced four third-and-1 plays Sunday. Beanie Wells lost three yards on the first, Kurt Warner was sacked for a loss of eight on the second, Wells was stuffed for no gain on the third. The fourth was a nine-yard swing pass to running back Tim Hightower. But the Cards obviously need to get better on converting those, and it was one of the reasons their offense had so many fits and starts.
— Wells was very, very good Sunday. I will now get a bunch of e-mails/blog questions/Tweets asking me if he will replace Hightower in the starting lineup. I doubt it, and the only reason I am not saying it definitely won’t happen is because you can never say never. But as I have said many times, I don’t think coach Ken Whisenhunt has any reason to upset that apple cart. Hightower started Sunday and Wells was on the field – making the Cards’ first rushing attempt of the game – on the Cards’ second play. We all can see what Beanie brings. Whether he starts, truthfully, is immaterial.
— In case anyone wasn’t sure, punter Ben Graham continues to have his unbelievably good season (and that’s with a sore groin right now). He averaged 50.3 yards on seven kicks Sunday, put three more inside the Detroit 20-yard line and can boast this stat: He hasn’t kicked a ball into the end zone since the Houston game, which was the fourth game of the season. That’s 62 straight punts without a touchback over 11 games. He has 32 punts inside the 20 in that span.
— Jeremy Bridges got another start at left tackle, and that may not change. Mike Gandy is struggling mightily with that pelvic injury – Larry Fitzgerald said last week Gandy’s guts were “falling out” – and I’m not sure Gandy is going to be able to get back out there. It makes the Bridges signing gigantic.
— Congrats to tight end Anthony Becht, who played in his 150th straight game Sunday.
— Quarterback Kurt Warner just seemed, I don’t know, off. There were a couple chances, especially early, where Anquan Boldin was open down the field and Warner didn’t see him or didn’t look his way. There were also a couple of near misses on interceptions on which Warner was lucky they weren’t turnovers. The fumble right before halftime – on which Warner simply wasn’t given enough time – cost the Cards three points.
Then again, Warner calmly hit Fitzgerald for a 13-yard gain to start the final drive (Oh, and don’t forget the huge 39-yard kickoff return by LaRod Stephens-Howling to set the offense up). And his final pass was the perfect five-yard screen to Boldin for a touchdown (I do love that Boldin screen in the red zone). Warner’s day was kind of a microcosm of the Cards’ day – yes, it was up and down. But in the end, it was good enough.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Anthony Becht, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Calvin Johnson, Clark Haggans, Jeremy Bridges, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Mike Gandy, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
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