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Leaving points, and Friday before the 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2015 – 3:41 pm

It’s hard not to talk about the points.

The Cardinals lead the NFL in points scored, in case you hadn’t heard. They also have a league-high 176 points on the road – with still three road games left – this season, with their 22 road TDs five more than the rest of the field (Cincinnati is second with 17). They just happen to be visiting San Francisco this weekend, to play a 49ers team that they happened to score a season-high 47 points against earlier this season.

So why is it, when talking to the players or coaches, they always seem to be a bit irritated with how the Cardinals play offense? It’s simple, really. They get ticked when they don’t convert a third down, when they have a red-zone hiccup, when they turn the ball over. Perfecting the “nuances,” as Larry Fitzgerald called them.

“Scary to think if we do, how many points we could score,” Fitzgerald said.

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was being asked about the running game and it needing to be more consistent. Even though the Cards have run it fine and again, most points in the league.

“It’s something good for me to get pissed off about,” Goodwin said. “Leaving points out there.”

Goodwin, and Bruce Arians, and everyone else, knows what they have (assuming Carson Palmer is healthy): A deep offense capable of scoring with a great many options, and a quarterback who knows how to make it all run.

“As long as the offensive line protects, we can dice anyone up in this league,” Goodwin said. “I stand on solid ground when I say that.”

— The Cardinals had a long injury list when the week began, but realistically, they aren’t going to be as short-handed as thought. Patrick Peterson looks like he’s going to play, receivers Michael Floyd and John Brown (Brown is “probable” for the first time in a while) both should be on the field and while they are down a couple of defensive lineman, the addition of Red Bryant should help.

— The idea of sitting players because it’s “just the 49ers” is never going to fly, by the way. The Cardinals need all these wins. If you are healthy enough to play, you play. If you aren’t, you don’t. Could that change in Week 17 if the Cards are locked into their playoff position? Sure. But not with six games left.

— Fitzgerald needs 74 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a season for the first time since 2011. That’s been a pretty long drought too.

— Markus Golden already had started a couple of games when Alex Okafor was out, but that starting job is his for good now that LaMarr Woodley is out for the season. Golden is turning out to have the greatest impact from the draft class, with all due respect to Rodney Gunter and David Johnson. Profootballfocus.com has him among the top 10 rookies in the league, and he’s on his way to being a key part of this defense the next few years.

“Since the beginning of the season I’m way better,” Golden said. “I’m more focused, and I’m not thinking as much.”

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said he loves the outside linebacker rotation, even with the Woodley loss. In a perfect world, he said, those guys would have snap counts in the 20s, although he said he was OK with veteran Dwight Freeney around 30 or 35 snaps.

— S Deone Bucannon was fined $23,152 for his unflagged helmet-to-helmet hit on Bengals receiver A.J. Green last week. It was a surprise the play didn’t draw a penalty. Could that have been the source of the concussion Bucannon suffered?

— One name that could appear now with Woodley out is rookie Shaq Riddick, who has been inactive every game. “We think he’s a guy who is going to be in the mix, could be this weekend, maybe the future,” Bettcher said.

— This will be Mike Iupati’s first game against his former team. If you recall, there was a chance Iupati, coming off training camp knee surgery, would debut against the 49ers, but he wasn’t quite ready that week. He admitted the game will have meaning for him.

“I do care about them,” said Iupati, who spent five seasons in San Francisco. “They are having a tough season. But that’s how it is. It’s football. I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

— The Cards have had a 100-yard receiver in six straight games against the 49ers – either Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd. Floyd in particular has done well in San Francisco. Perhaps he can get there again.

— Both Arians and Goodwin were hoping that the running game will find its way back after a couple of off games versus two good front sevens against the Seahawks and Bengals. The coaches are hoping for more steady plays – four yards every play, rather than getting one looking for a big one. It’s a concept running back Chris Johnson admitted isn’t always easy.

“Being the type of player I am, the type of back I am who is so used to breaking the long runs, getting big gains,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of tough being patient and waiting on it. It’s the sort of thing where you’ve got to understand the gameplan of the week and you’ve got to stick to it.”

— Johnson also said at age 30, the maintenance needed to stay ready at this point (he’s averaging 24 carries the past three games) is crucial.

“You’ve got to put more time in as far as off the field,” Johnson said, referring to massages and the training room. “You put more time in and you’ll be OK when Sunday gets here.”

— Crazy to think the Cards have had more trouble winning in San Francisco than Seattle. But a win this weekend, and the Cardinals are 3-1 in the NFC West. If there is anything Arians has yet to accomplish, it’s a winning record within the division. That’s something they’d like to check off the list.


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Fewer practice throws for Palmer

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2015 – 9:29 am

It’s that time of year. You can tell from the injury report — it’s the longest it’s been all season this week, and that addition of safety Deone Bucannon on Thanksgiving with a concussion makes you pause — and Bruce Arians said earlier this week the Cardinals were going without pads heading into the 49ers game. It only makes sense, as banged up as they are.

There are other places where they are going to be careful. That includes the passes thrown by Carson Palmer in practice. You don’t want to have the quarterback’s arm fade when you conceivably could still have as many as nine or 10 games left to play. Palmer only played six games last season, so he’s already thrown well beyond what he did last year (224 attempts in 2014, 339 attempts this season), although he is in great shape — and that includes his arm.

Nevertheless, Palmer acknowledged there will be fewer throws during the week.

“That’s something completely not in my wheelhouse,” Palmer said. “(Strength and conditioning coach) Buddy Morris is as smart of a guy in that department. He’s been studying it a long time. He understands mechanics. He understands the velocity of throws. He uses all these big words that I’m not even going to get into. He’s a researcher and he’s done a ton of research. Your age, your number of years, how many throws you have typically thrown this time of year or that time of year; whatever it is. There’s an equation he’s drawn out and there’s a certain number of throws we’ll hit, but I don’t get into that. I just do whatever he tells me.”

The Cardinals have been careful at practice in multiple areas. Morris had already put in place a harness system that measures the steps of each skill guy, as to make sure they aren’t running too much in practice. This is just another example of what Bruce Arians likes to call “sports science,” and Palmer isn’t going to argue.

“I’m trusting a professional,” Palmer said. “Buddy is as good as they get. He’s as good as they come in this league. I’ve been around a bunch of great strength coaches, but Buddy is hands down the best. He’s very focused. He’s very concerned with it. It takes up a lot of his day because he’s always talking about it, but I love having a guy like that on our side.”



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11 Cards still top 10 in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2015 – 12:19 pm

The Cardinals continue to do well in Pro Bowl voting (which you can do yourself by clicking here or going to azcardinals.com/probowl. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has dropped out of the overall top 10, but quarterback Carson Palmer remains there, seventh overall and the fifth quarterback. Fitzgerald is now fourth among wide receivers, behind Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.

The top Cardinal at a position remains free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is still second among his position, 14,000 votes or so behind Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (the Panthers have a fanbase dedicated to the voting; they rank high at most positions.) The other Cardinals ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions:

— RB Chris Johnson is fifth.

— Mike Iupati fell to sixth among guards.

— DT Calais Campbell is fifth.

— CB Patrick Peterson is fourth.

— Rashad Johnson is sixth and Deone Bucannon is eighth among strong safeties.

— David Johnson is 10th among kick returners.

— Justin Bethel is fourth for special teamers.

Pro Bowl voting continues through Dec. 15.


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Keim: Peterson’s value/injury, and rookie help

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2015 – 8:13 am

Before Patrick Peterson got hurt Sunday night, he was once again playing excellent cornerback, making life very hard for Bengals start wide receiver A.J. Green. Then he hurt his ankle, and General Manager Steve Keim said Monday morning on his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports that he had no new news and that Peterson was getting an MRI. But just listening to Keim, it drives home the critical nature of having Peterson — or potentially not having him — in the lineup.

“Last year, some of the concerns with Patrick … (were) issues with consistency,” Keim said. “A lot of it had to do with playing weight. He came back in phenomenal shape. Now his level of consistency, he’s taken to a whole different level.” And that’s even putting Peterson in “some really tough positions” on an island so the defense can do things elsewhere on the field.

If Peterson can’t go, the most likely scenario is Justin Bethel stepping in to the lineup and the Cardinals using former Arizona State corner Robert Nelson Jr., who has been on the roster but inactive the last two games. Nelson played for the Browns a little last season.

Other Keim thoughts from the win over the Bengals:

— The storyline that excited Keim the most (perhaps not all that surprisingly) was the big game from the rookie class. Led by J.J. Nelson and Markus Golden, the draftees were good, and that’s with No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries still inactive.

— The turnaround in the game started with Carson Palmer, Keim said, but he also said the Cardinals’ offensive line finally starting matching the intensity and physicality of the Bengals’ defensive line in the second half.

— Keim noted that defensive coordinator James Bettcher did a nice job dialing up some pressure on Bengals QB Andy Dalton, but it also left the Cards susceptible to mismatches — notably linebacker Kevin Minter trying to cover quick running back Gio Bernard. (That didn’t go so well most of the night.)

The Cardinals are talented, and Keim has noticed all the national analysts suggesting the Cardinals might have the most talented roster in the league. But “all I see is holes,” he said. “Areas where we need to improve, where we need to get better.” Not shockingly, those start up front — a better pass rush, and more consistency in pass protection.

— As for the national attention that’s beginning to build, “you have to embrace it when you consider where we’ve come from,” he said.

— The record of 8-2 is nice, Keim said, but it’s nothing right now.

“We haven’t arrived,” Keim said. “We haven’t won any championships yet. Last year was a great lesson for us, starting 9-1 and having things crumble away.”

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Bengals aftermath, with more dancing

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2015 – 12:55 am

There was more dancing for the Cardinals on a Sunday night. It doesn’t look like it’ll go viral, but that doesn’t mean that Smokey Brown’s post-TD celebration didn’t harken back to Drew Stanton’s shimmy-heard-round-the-world from last week.

“I had to bring it back,” Brown said. “I was in a little competition with Drew, but I didn’t want to tell him. I had to get my fans back.”

This is how it works when you win. Brown is still hurting with his bad hamstring, but he had three catches (and two jet sweeps) against the Bengals, and said his leg doesn’t hurt as much now as it did in Seattle. Winning always helps the pain. The Cardinals didn’t have Michael Floyd, but no worries, J.J. Nelson steps in with four catches for 142 yards and this team’s receiving depth is just underscored again.

Part of that is the quarterback, of course. Carson Palmer threw two bad first-quarter interceptions, and he knew it. But at the end of the night, he had four touchdown passes, and that doesn’t include the cool-as-a-cucumber, less-than-a-minute-left field-goal drive that he deftly orchestrated. That is why this team has so much faith in Palmer (and why I’m left shaking my head at the few fans who seem ready to hammer him with any early mistake.) It’s hard to believe any team who wouldn’t want him right now. Maybe the Patriots. The Panthers. Probably the Packers. Everyone else? They could use CP3.

Meanwhile, this team is 8-2 and opened the brutal second-half schedule with two wins against two playoff-worthy teams.

— It was a breakout night for the draft class. Markus Golden had a strip-sack. Nelson was great. Rodney Gunter had a sack. David Johnson had a TD catch. This is the time of year the Cardinals will need those guys.

— It would not be good, with Cory Redding down, if Frostee Rucker’s ankle injury kept him out. Rucker has been fantastic this season. But the hold-the-breath moment has to be with cornerback Patrick Peterson. No way to know how bad he’s hurt, and he wasn’t around to talk after. He’s having by far his best season as a cornerback. As much as there is belief in Justin Bethel, an extended Peterson absence would be bad news.

— I totally understand the Bengals not being happy with the final unsportsmanlike penalty call for barking the cadence. But I also like that they threw in that it shouldn’t have come to that. Way too easy for the Cards to complete three long passes in that situation. Palmer-to-Fitz seemed like the obvious go-to, yet twice it got big yards.

— Linebacker Kevin Minter was mad at himself for how Bengals running back Gio Bernard got off for 128 yards on eight catches. Minter said he should have played better technique in coverage. But that’s definitely a matchup that does not favor the Cardinals, technique or no.

— The Bengals had allowed exactly 10 points in each of their previous three games. The Cardinals scored 34, 10 more than the worst Cincinnati defensive performance previous this season.

— Getting Chandler Catanzaro a game-winning kick for the first time (pictured below) will be helpful down the road. A miss wouldn’t have meant a loss, necessarily, but that’s the first time Cat-Man has had to do that, and experience matters.

— Two exciting, nationally televised games in a row, both wins. Now comes a road game in San Francisco, against a struggling 49ers team and Blaine Gabbert. This week the story will be about not letting down, because the Cardinals will be heavy favorites.

“Bruce will tell us we haven’t done anything yet,” Palmer said. “I know that’s coming. He’s keeping us grounded, which is exactly what a great had coach does.”


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Friday before the Bengals

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2015 – 4:08 pm

The Cardinals will play their 100th game at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night against the Bengals. They still have one player who has been around for all 100. In fact, Larry Fitzgerald – who, once we get there, will have played in 97 of them – actually can make comparisons, since his first two seasons were spent playing home games at Arizona State.

“I remember back in the days playing at Sun Devil Stadium when you couldn’t pay someone to watch us play out there,” Fitzgerald said. “Now you can’t get a seat in the building. It’s great to see the turnaround.”

It’s been a few weeks since the Cardinals last had a home game. That too was nationally televised against an AFC North team. The Cardinals beat Baltimore on “Monday Night Football.” Now, thanks to a flex choice, the Cardinals get Cincinnati on “Sunday Night Football.”

The 100 games – all official sellouts – includes everything: Preseason and postseason. This one will have a bit of a postseason feel too, given that the Cardinals are 7-2 and battling (for now) to keep the No. 2 seed in the NFC and the 8-1 Bengals hoping they can still catch the undefeated Patriots for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

This one should be fun, even with the Cards a little beat up. The Bengals have their issues too.

— The Cards will likely be down one starting offensive lineman in right guard Jonathan Cooper, but I’d think Ted Larsen would start for him (Earl Watford is still possible.) They will have Mike Iupati at left guard. I don’t think Michael Floyd plays after missing practice all week, and Smokey Brown isn’t at full strength. But the Bengals are also likely to not have two defensive starters in defensive end Michael Johnson and No. 1 cornerback Pacman Jones, so there’s no advantage.

If Floyd is down, J.J. Nelson will be active, and you figure he’ll be the deep threat if Brown cannot be. Besides, as long as Carson Palmer is in the pocket, the passing game will survive.

— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin didn’t seem particularly worried about where the injuries left the Cards.

“We don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty good freaking offense,” Goodwin said.

— Bruce Arians acknowledged that he didn’t notice much of a difference last year when the University of Phoenix Stadium roof was open for “Sunday Night Football” against the Seahawks compared to when it is closed.

But, “do I like having it closed?” Arians said. “Hell yeah.”

— No official word about the roof status until Sunday afternoon, most likely.

— Speaking of the stadium, don’t forget there will be heightened security around the game because of recent terrorist events around the globe. Give yourself plenty of time to get into the building.

— With defensive tackle Cory Redding out with a bad ankle, there is a chance we could see undrafted rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams active for the first time this season.

— Palmer was fined $11,576 for his sideline gesture that was caught on camera in Seattle following Andre Ellington’s late touchdown run. Palmer had a couple of first pumps but then threw in a pelvic thrust toward the crowd. Palmer said after the game his reaction was toward three friends he had in the stands.

“I had my buddies on the sideline right four or five rows up,” Palmer said. “I saw them pretty excited, and it got me excited to see them excited.”

— Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright was fined $23,152 for his crushing hit to the head on Larry Fitzgerald. The Seattle Times reported that Wright, who is appealing, said he apologized to Fitz and that Fitz got up laughing after the hit. (I’m not sure what that matters in terms of the fine, but …)

— ESPN did a breakdown on the luckiest and unluckiest teams in the NFL based on random events, and the Cardinals actually were called unlucky. That’s because out of their own 12 fumbles on offense, the Cardinals have recovered only four, and out of 10 opponent fumbles while on defense the Cardinals have recovered only three. Since fumble recoveries are usually luck of the bounce/right place, right time, the Cards should have more. Also, opposing kickers have yet to miss on 16 field-goal attempts.

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher is happy with his outside linebacker rotation of Alex Okafor, LaMarr Woodley, Dwight Freeney and Markus Golden, but he said it’s hard to get everyone the playing time they deserve. Golden only played 10 snaps in Seattle in the first game with all four players available.

“As a defensive coach, you don’t want to play more snaps, but you wish there were more snaps for guys to get,” Bettcher said.

— Profootballfocus.com said of their grades, only three cornerbacks do not have a game with a negative number this season: Carolina’s Josh Norman, and the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. (PFF considers Mathieu a slot cornerback since he’s played the most snaps there.)

— Ex-Bengal and current defensive line starter Frostee Rucker has been quietly one of GM Steve Keim’s best signings. Rucker signed in 2013 to be a backup and role player, but has emerged as a highly effective starter and locker-room leader. And Rucker is enjoying his increased role.

“It’s the pat on the back that someone doesn’t have to say, because you know you’re contributing to something that’s good,” Rucker said.

It’s a feeling a lot of Cardinals have right now.

On to Cincinnati.



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Who will play receiver against the Bengals?

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2015 – 12:21 pm

The Cardinals have had excellent production from their top three receivers this season. It’ll be interesting to see just which ones will be able to help Sunday night against the Bengals. Michael Floyd looked to be sitting out practice for a second straight day Thursday, and judging by the way he came up lame on the play in which he got hurt against Seattle (if you have GamePass, it’s the fourth-quarter 10-yard reception he made at the 11:29 mark), it did not look good. We’ll see what he can do Friday, but it doesn’t seem like Floyd is trending the right way, which is too bad given how well he has played of late.

John Brown looked like he was going to at least be limited Thursday. What he can provide is also a mystery. He played 59 snaps in Seattle so it wasn’t like Smoke was limited; he was on the field for every play of the final two drives. But he didn’t have a catch. If Floyd can’t go, Brown’s ability to produce something will obviously increase in importance.

But the Cardinals and their No. 1-ranked offense do have some things that will help. One is Larry Fitzgerald, in the middle of one of his best seasons and totally healthy. Two is the way Jaron Brown stepped in and up with Floyd’s injury last week; the “other” J.B. made plays and that will help on a confidence level. Brittan Golden has made catches before, and J.J. Nelson, while inactive against the Seahawks, looked pretty good as the Smoke replacement at Cleveland a few weeks back.

Oh, the Cardinals also have a pretty good quarterback, who has some pretty good motivation this week. That alone tends to mitigate some short-term scrambling with the pass catchers.


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Palmer talks Bengals’ end, and The Stanton

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2015 – 2:34 pm

It was a very interesting press conference with Carson Palmer Wednesday. Many questions were about his time with the Bengals and especially how it ended — with Palmer saying he’d retire before playing with the team again. Palmer handled the questions deftly, saying only he and owner Mike Brown had a “very colorful, heated argument” and disagreed with each other. He declined to say more detail. When he was reminded that he said one day he’d tell his side of things, so when might that be, Palmer didn’t miss a beat. “Not in Week 11.” (More in a homepage story in a bit.)

But the presser also ended with Palmer being asked to revisit the really, really big story of the week: #TheStanton.

“I was telling Drew this morning, I think I’ve seen it roughly between 38 and 46 times,” Palmer said. “And I’ve laughed just as hard every time I’ve seen it. It was just spectacular.

“If we win this game, I’m not saying I’ll do that dance, because I can’t replicate it, but this is a big game for us and we would be very excited to win this game and I hope that dance comes back out from Drew.”

Asked if Stanton had a sense Andre Ellington was going to score on that play and thus in position to do The Stanton, Palmer shook his head.

“I don’t think that was premeditated,” Palmer said. “I think it just happened. Ballgame, game over, we won and it all came out. I think all of use were feeling that. Drew showed it.”

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Keim: Iupati sore but OK

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2015 – 8:20 am

Considering how scary it was to see a 6-foot-5, listed-at-331-pound man down on the field to the point where an ambulance had to come on the field to take him away, the news about guard Mike Iupati was incredibly excellent after the game. Bruce Arians said last night Iupati has been cleared going forward. General Manager Steve Keim didn’t quite go that far during his appearance Monday morning on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, but it sure sounds like there is at least a chance Iupati could be ready for next the upcoming Sunday night game against the Bengals. (Iupati looked like he was walking around fine when I saw him on the plane last night.)

“He’s pretty sore, but thank goodness there were no major issues from an injury standpoint,” Keim said.

Some other Keim points on a (very) short night, after the Cardinals didn’t even land at Sky Harbor until 3:15 a.m.:

— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals needed to win in Seattle, but echoed the sentiment of some of his players, that it was a “confidence-builder.”

“Playing up there you know you’re going to face adversity at some point,” Keim said. Yet the Cardinals rallied. The Cardinals, by the way, didn’t even win the turnover battle, with a minus-two for the game. No one expected that in Seattle, but now, that’s two Palmer wins there in a row despite losing the turnover faceoff.

— Keim noted the communication issues a couple of times with the pass protection.

— Keim said the drive that really stuck with him was the one ending with Jermaine Gresham to give the Cardinals a lead they didn’t relinquish. For Carson Palmer, that “was a statement drive.”

“That was a drive that really embodies the type of guy he is,” Keim said. “The leader he is, the mental toughness he has and the competitive spirit he has.”

Keim also marveled at the way Palmer continues to keep plays alive with his footwork in the pocket. Palmer was really, really good at that Sunday night.

— Props from Keim to wide receivers Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden, who came up big when no one expected.

— Some other players he noted for playing good games were defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker. As for wide receiver Michael Floyd, “he has really, really matured,” Keim said, adding that his practice habits are good and Floyd has “completely bought in.”

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Late night Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2015 – 2:22 am

It didn’t take long for Drew Stanton to see it – he was already trending on Twitter by the time he got to the locker room – but the backup quarterback’s sideline gyrations during Andre Ellington’s game-clinching touchdown run went from “Sunday Night Football” to social media sensation in an instant.

“That’s what I heard,” Stanton said. “ ‘Sunday Night Football’ is a very heavily-watched show, so …”

“We don’t have our hype man here anymore. Ryan Lindley used to do stuff like that, so I had to take over.”

Said Carson Palmer, “It was just all heart. … I think that was dedicated to Ryan Lindley because he was a great sideline celebrator, and I think Drew just slid ahead of Ryan.”

There’s nothing like a big win to celebrate. You don’t talk about such things like sideline dances after a loss. Make no mistake, this was a big win.

The Cardinals still haven’t beaten a team above .500, but obviously beating the Seahawks means something. It really means something when it’s done in Seattle, beyond the Cardinals opening up a mammoth three-game lead in the division with seven left to play. The second half of the schedule remains harder than the first, but all of a sudden games against the Eagles and Packers don’t seem quite as daunting. The Cards will know they’ve already beaten the Seahawks once, and now they get them in their own building (and that’s assuming there is still something to play for in the regular-season finale.)

Another nationally televised game coming in a week. I’d assume the Bengals will win Monday night and be undefeated. I’d also assume the Cardinals will relish such an opportunity.

— Carson Palmer was really remarkable. He shouldn’t have thrown the ball that was intercepted early in the game, and yes, he probably has to find a way to hold on to the ball despite nasty (and oft-unblocked) pressure. But you wonder why this team has so much confidence when Palmer is behind center, why it meant more than just having the starting QB going to Seattle, as opposed to last year. That fourth quarter is why.

— Great news that Mike Iupati was OK. He got back to see his teammates and fly back with the team. We’ll see how his health is this week.

— You do have to worry about the hamstring injuries for the receiving corps. Michael Floyd had his huge game end early after he hurt himself, and John Brown – already nursing a hamstring injury and held without a catch against the Seahawks – wasn’t in the lineup for the last series.

— Then again, that opened the door for some unsung heroes. Brittan Golden was playing at the end of the game, and he had the crucial block on the Ellington TD run.

— Meanwhile, Jaron Brown was fantastic in Floyd’s sted. His play to not only stop a sure interception of a tipped pass but actually turn it into a catch, and then his big first-down catch on the Ellington drive, was clutch. He admitted it didn’t quite make up for dropping the TD catch last year in Seattle, but it sure was impressive.

— The way Floyd is playing, it’s really going to make for some interesting choices about him going into the offseason (Floyd is under contract for 2016 at $7 million, money that is not guaranteed.) The way this offense is playing together, it’d be hard not to keep the Fitz-Floyd-Smokey trio together.

— As for Fitz, what a game. He’s had some big games against the Seahawks in the past (he went 10 catches for 151 yards there in 2008) but his 10 for 130 Sunday was more yards than his combined yards there since 2010 (114 in four games; Fitz didn’t play in Seattle in 2014 because of a knee injury.)

— The Seattle defense allowed just 39 points total in their final six games in 2014, including that 35-6 romp at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals got 39 on Sunday alone. That’s the most points the Seahawks had allowed since giving up 40 to the 49ers in late 2010 – and the most since Richard Sherman showed up to fill out the “Legion of Boom.”

— The Seahawks had been giving up 186.4 passing yards a game. The Cardinals piled up 363.

— The Cardinals have already scored 29 more points on the road – in five road games – than they did all last season – in eight.

— Chris Johnson grinded out 25 carries. He only gained 58 yards – it wasn’t a great game. But it was an important effort. The Cards never stopped trying to run, and lo and behold, Ellington snaps off a 48-yarder for the biggest play of the game.

— A lot has been said about the kicking game, but Sunday both Chandler Catanzaro and Drew Butler did well. Cat Man converted all three of his field-goal attempts and all four extra points. Butler averaged 44.7 yards on his three punts and more importantly, Tyler Lockett had zero punt return yards.

— We’re pushing 2:15 a.m. Phoenix time and by the time many of you read this, I’ll have posted another entry on the blog. The Cardinals are going to bed knowing they are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC (and they have the No. 3 Vikings coming to Arizona next month.) A good way to start the second half of the season.


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