Some people are just born to have lives other people talk about. I mean doesn’t it seem that’s how it is with Larry Fitzgerald? He’s not old and I don’t know if he drinks Dos Equis, but I’m not sure he couldn’t be in the running for most interesting man in the world. He makes a ton of cash, is a football superhero, and in the offseason, he hangs out with cheetahs and helps third-world kids who have hearing problems.
Speaking of Fitzgerald, NFL.com is calling the Cards’ 27-26 win over the Cowboys the 16th-best game of the past season, and given how much the Cards struggled, I’ll take that. It was certainly a thrilling Christmas present. I am guessing the Cowboys fans would disagree. Between the Toler/DRC TD returns, Jay Feely booting key field goals and Skelton-to-Fitz on fourth-and-15, however, plenty of fond memories.
And with that, I’m out of the office for a week. Catch up with you later.
Tags: Cowboys, DRC, Greg Toler, Jay Feely, John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald
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In the middle of waiting for the labor problems to be resolved comes the news the 2011 regular-season schedule will be released tomorrow — Tuesday — at 4 p.m. Arizona time (which is 7 p.m. Eastern). I know, I know, there are some of you who feel “What’s the point” until there is a labor agreement, and clearly, the NFL has taken part of that into account. Another game in London, between the Bears and Bucs, has been scheduled for Oct. 23 — except there is a caveat that the game will move back to Tampa Bay if a new labor agreement hasn’t been reached by Aug. 1.
As a quick reminder, the Cards’ home schedule includes the NFC West teams, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Carolina, Cleveland and the New York Giants. The away schedule includes the NFC West, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Washington.
Tags: Bears, Bengals, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Panthers, Ravens, Redskins, schedule, Steelers, Vikings
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I knew Fitz didn’t look right.
As I noted late Saturday night (Sunday morning) while writing my “aftermath” and watching the tape of the just completed Cards-Cowboys game, it looked like Larry Fitzgerald had taken a head shot (maybe helmet-to-helmet) on the first down play of that last drive. Originally, I thought Fitz had made a catch, but he dropped it, and the video showed him shaking his head and blinking his eyes after the hit. Turns out, Fitz indeed felt it.
“I don’t remember much from the end of the game, to be honest with you,” Fitzgerald said. “I took a shot and I was a little bit out of it.”
(Side comment in today’s concussion-concerned NFL: Yikes.)
Fitz never came out of the game. I’m guessing he never said anything. A couple plays later, rookie Andre Roberts was the one telling Fitz where to go on fourth-and-15, one of the most important plays of the Cardinals’ season.
“I knew I had to run up the seam and I saw the ball and I just tried to make a play,” Fitzgerald said, breaking into a chuckle. “That’s pretty much all I remember, honestly.”
Quarterback John Skelton just remembered the fourth-down play as “do or die.” “It’s really your last chance … but we had a good play dialed up. Larry found a soft spot (in the zone coverage) and I think that one completion got the ball rolling for the rest of the drive.”
Indeed, the Cards moved the ball every play after that (save for two spikes to stop the clock). After the Cowboys had clamped down the first three plays, Skelton hit Fitz, scrambled for five yards, tossed a six-yard completion to Tim Hightower and after a spike, maybe made the most impressive throw of the drive, a laser off his back foot on the move under pressure to fellow rookie Max Komar for 19 yards.
But it started with fourth down.
“We shouldn’t have gotten to fourth-and-15,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s the first thing.
“It’s a tough situation, just about as tough a situation as you can be in. Having the lead the whole game, losing it, and then all of a sudden you’re at fourth-and-15 and you know if you don’t convert the game is over. To be able to move up in the pocket, make the throw, put it where he had to put it … it’s a good sign.”
Tags: Cowboys, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Max Komar, Tim Hightower
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With one game left — and the Cards safely out of the playoff picture — it’s a lot easier to narrow down some key portions of 2011 concerning both draft position and the schedule.
– As for the draft, the Cardinals have four teams with worse records than their own 5-10 mark. Arizona is one of seven teams with five wins. But as of right now, the Cardinals are fifth overall in the draft and “first” among those seven teams because of the Cards’ weak strength of schedule (Draft position is not broken by head-to-head or various playoff-type tiebreakers but instead the inverse — the weaker the opponents you played were, the higher pick, because the thought process is if your record is the same against weaker opponents, you are considered the weaker team and in need of a higher pick).
The Cardinals’ strength-of-schedule is so weak, in fact, that no matter any team(s) they end up tied with in the draft position, they will be choosing higher. So, for instance, even if the Cards beat the 49ers this weekend and the Seahawks lose and both the Cards and Seahawks finish with six wins, the Cards will be slotted higher in the draft. (Of course, beating the 49ers will mean the Cards end up with a better record than San Francisco, meaning the Niners will of course be ahead in the order).
Looking over the standings, the “lowest” the Cardinals will be picking will be 11th in the draft. If the Cardinals beat San Francisco, the Niners would be “ahead” of the Cards, while of the other five teams who have five wins, four could lose (two of the five-win teams play each other, Minnesota at Detroit, and I am assuming the Vikings lose in Philadelphia tomorrow night). Cleveland (hosting Pittsburgh), Dallas (at Philly) and Houston (hosting Jacksonville) are the other five-win teams.
If the Cards lose to the 49ers, they could still in theory have as high as the No. 2 pick in the draft, but that would mean Denver (hosting San Diego), Cincinnati (at Baltimore) and Buffalo (at the Jets) all won this weekend. Carolina has already clinched Andrew Lu, errr, the No. 1 pick overall.
– As for the schedule, that is always all but set. In cement are home games against the three NFC West foes, Dallas, the Giants, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals will go on the road to the three NFC West opponents, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
The remaining road/home games set up like this: If the Cards win, they will host Tampa Bay again. (UPDATE: My mistake — if the Saints lose tonight and then the Buccaneers beat the Saints next week, the Cards would host the Saints again next year in this scenario). If they lose, the extra home game will be Carolina.
For the final road game, a Cardinal win means the Cards will play at the winner of this weekend’s Minnesota-Detroit game. A loss in San Francisco means they will travel to the loser of the Vikings-Lions.
– UPDATE II: For those confused about why the schedule, for instance, has the Cards hosting Pittsburgh again after the Steelers came in 2007 and the Cards last went to Pittsburgh in 2003, here was the info I received on the subject from the league:
“You need to look at the scheduling formula on a larger scale. it’s not as simple as just alternating the home games for every opponent – the math would not work out that way. The formula is set so that you’ll play all non-division conference opponents at least one every three years and at home at least once every six years. Also, keep in mind for non-division opponents in the conference, you’re rotating three divisions over a period of time, so if you take the original eight-year rotation, the math doesn’t work out so that it’s a straight alternating system. So by just taking selective end points and asking about ’04, ’07 and ’10, you’re not looking at a complete picture.”
Under the formula, every team within a division plays 16 games as follows:
- Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
- The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
- The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
- Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cowboys, draft, Lions, Panthers, Saints, schedule, Seahawks, Texans, Vikings
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The penalty flag was thrown, and suddenly, I thought of Leonard Davis. No, not because big Len was on the other sideline for the Cowboys. Because I remember a sweaty September day at Sun Devil Stadium in 2005, when the Cards had reached the Rams’ 5-yard line down five points in the waning seconds. A comeback win was within reach – except Davis was called for a false start with seven seconds left. The Cards had no timeouts left, and by rule, that meant a 10-second runoff. It meant a very difficult way to lose a chance to win.
So that’s what I was thinking when the flag came out Saturday night, when the Cards had finally made it to the Dallas 25-yard line down two points. A spike, a penalty, oh God. I wasn’t the only one. Players were headed to the locker room, for goodness sake.
QB John Skelton said he didn’t know what was going on, deferring to center Lyle Sendlein, who was already barking at the officials. Sendlein said he didn’t have anything to offer other than insist there were more than the 10 seconds that were displayed on the stadium clock. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was planning to argue the same.
You can’t hear anything down on the field, although I did hear “10-second runoff.” Turns out all the ref was saying was that there would not be a runoff. Since all the players were set on the illegal formation (and not, in Davis’ long-ago case, a false start) it just cost the Cards five yards. The runoff is to prevent a team from having a penalty in order to stop the clock. Since the Cards did pull off a proper spike – again, with everyone set, even if they weren’t in the right spots – it didn’t cost them time.
And for Jay Feely, what’s another five yards?
– Holder Ben Graham did a great job pulling down a slightly high snap on the game-winning field goal.
– If you would’ve told me the Cards would win when Larry Fitzgerald would have one catch and Steve Breaston none, I’d have laughed. Fitz insisted he wasn’t frustrated. Hmmm. I am going to guess he was trying to be nice when he said that. That said, I know he was thrilled to get the win and the frustration eased considerably when Feely’s field goal split the uprights.
– Watching the replay of the game right now, the most amazing part of Fitz’s late catch is that he was drilled – helmet to helmet? – on a first-down incompletion three plays earlier and cameras caught Fitz blinking his eyes and shaking his head, as if to clear cobwebs.
– In terms of Breaston, a very odd situation. I thought there was a chance he was hurt at some point, enough so that they limited his snaps. But no. Whisenhunt said he used rookie Andre Roberts more because of blocking schemes and “we try to spell (Breaston)” more, but again, it was odd to see Breaston on the sideline and Roberts in. Roberts had a very good game, but again, just struck me as odd. The free-agent-to-be didn’t have one pass thrown his way.
– The Cardinals had a season-high five sacks, getting a decent amount of pressure when they just rushed four. For a second straight game, they used a lot of four-down linemen. It was generally effective. I’m sure it was in part because Joey Porter was out and the team didn’t have a plethora of trustworthy linebackers for a 3-4 alignment, so they tinkered. But it worked.
– Here’s a stat I heard on the radio on the way home tonight: Since 2008, there had been 75 pass plays in the NFL on fourth down needing at least 15 yards for a first down. The number of conversions? Eight. Kinda glad John Skelton didn’t know that before throwing the dart to Fitz.
– I mentioned this a couple of times on Twitter, but given the grief running back Beanie Wells has gotten for his blocking, the excellent blitz pickup he provided on the 74-yard TD pass from Skelton to Roberts was key.
– That was the Cards’ ninth TD pass. They have nine non-offensive return TDs. The battle will go down to the final game.
– DRC and Greg Toler get Pick-6s. Amazing. It’s been simple this year really. Five wins – at St. Louis, Oakland, New Orleans, Denver, Dallas. Except for the Rams game, and in that one the defense forced a bunch of turnovers, the Cards win because of those return TDs.
That’s enough. It’s 1:30 a.m. I’ve outlasted Christmas. But what a Christmas for the Cards.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Cowboys, DRC, Greg Toler, Jay Feely, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Lyle Sendlein, Steve Breaston
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’Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the complex,
Not a creature was stirring, errr, except for Larry Fitz;
OK, there were others, the whole team in fact,
Prepping to play the Cowboys, win some pride back;
With Porter maybe on the shelf and The Hyphen banged up,
Roberts must kick return, Schofield hoping to erupt;
Skelton the Cowboy-hater gets start No. 3,
A first touchdown pass would provide needed glee;
(Attempting to rhyme lines here isn’t an easy chore,
Not when trying to be newsy and not be a bore)
There will be no Romo, no playoffs on the line,
It’s still about winning plus getting young guys time;
We’re waiting to see what the offense will bring,
Maybe Hightower? More Beanie? Breaston on the wing?
Slowing Felix Jones on the ground a defensive key,
At the same time, can’t allow Witten to run free;
The stadium roof will be open this time,
Closing the season in temperatures just fine;
Frankly, on Christmas Eve, I need to cut this short,
Family is waiting, that’s of more import;
I’ll have more later when NFL Net puts on a show,
A battle between Cardinals and Cowboys to follow;
Hopefully hearing Dockett shout as he finishes the fight,
“Merry Christmas to all, damn it was a good night!”
– I hope everyone has a good holiday (and so do the Cards).
Tags: Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Cowboys, Darnell Dockett, Joey Porter, John Skelton, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, O'Brien Schofield, roof, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
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That high the Cardinals were on last week after beating up the Broncos? Gone today. In a season that has already been disappointing, to lose to a team with just one win hurts a lot. Plus, the Cards head into a short week and have to play a team Christmas night that has found its groove in the Dallas Cowboys.
It was tough not to notice the growing pains of quarterback John Skelton Sunday. The offense simply doesn’t have consistency – which was brought up time and again – and struggles to score touchdowns. “It’s just getting old,” Larry Fitzgerald said.
– The Cards actually seemed to do a good job putting themselves in manageable third downs, especially early. The Cards’ third down-to-go yardage in the first half: 4, 4, 3, 3 (after a five-yard penalty), 3, 4, 4, 4, 10, 5. Unfortunately, the Cardinals converted only four of those 10 plays (and one was the third-and-10.
“One of the things we’ve been battling is third downs and a lot of that is because we’ve had third and long,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We did a better job of getting into the third and (short) section. We had good plays there and we didn’t execute. We had guys open. Part of that is a young quarterback and going through his reads on those things. He’ll get better at that as he progresses.”
– Skelton was matter-of-fact about his day and his errors. He knows he is still learning. On his interception – a bad choice – he said “those are plays that at a lower level you can get away with but you come here and they’re going to make plays on defense. You know even though the plays might have gone the wrong place with the ball and they’re drops or incompletion or whatever, they are still plays I need to make.”
– One final note on Skelton: It was funny to see this quote from Panthers rookie QB Jimmy Clausen about Skelton: “That’s what I told him after the game. I said, ‘Everything will slow down for you. Just give it some time. Just keep working.’ I was in that situation before. He’s going to be a heck of a player.” Nice words, but considering Skelton actually had an NFL win before Clausen did – Sunday was Clausen’s first – and considering Clausen is just as green, it just struck me as odd.
– In terms of the quarterback situation going forward, wanted to note that Rich Bartel signed a two-year contract. Does that mean he’ll be around in 2011? Not necessarily. But he will be around in the offseason as the Cards try to figure out how they are putting together the QB puzzle for next season.
– The Cardinals used four down linemen quite a bit to battle the Panthers’ running game. It worked at times, although early on, missed tackles didn’t help the defense much. The Cards sold out to stop the run most of the day; that’s what happened on the Panthers’ lone TD when Adrian Wilson was caught on play-action and couldn’t recover to cover tight end Jeff King.
– Drops hurt the Cards again early. TE Stephen Spach, RB Beanie Wells and WR Early Doucet each had passes they couldn’t come up with (a screen to Tim Hightower, in my opinion, was a little too hard in a tight space to be considered a drop) as the Cards had those issues. Again, it might not be more than the past, but when you have trouble moving the ball, those mistakes are magnified.
“I said to our team last night, watching the Thursday Night game, early in that game they put a ball up and their player comes down with and scores a touchdown,” Whisenhunt said. “That kind of got them going and kind of set the table for San Diego. I said that is what has got to happen for us. We have to have some guys step up and make a play for us. We didn’t make any plays until late in the game.”
– The final defensive stats are always iffy, since coaches go back and tweak them for every team. But defensive end Calais Campbell had his best game of the season. He was credited with 11 tackles, a sack and four tackles for loss.
– Whisenhunt said he isn’t worried about losing the players or having them shut it down despite the record. “I haven’t seen it,” Whisenhunt said. And wide receiver Steve Breaston said you couldn’t think that way anyway. “You can’t cancel the season in the middle,” Breaston said.
Nope, you can’t. Fourteen down, two to go.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Cowboys, Early Doucet, Jimmy Clausen, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Richard Bartel, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
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The game Sunday between the Cardinals and Broncos has been officially announced as a sellout, making the Cardinals 52-for-52 at University of Phoenix Stadium on sellouts, assuring that the game won’t be blacked out on local television and, perhaps most significantly, virtually means the Cards will be blackout-free in 2010. The only home game remaining after Sunday is Christmas with the Dallas Cowboys, and any game with Dallas — regardless of records — is basically a lock to be a sellout.
– A quick reminder, the Cards’ two defensive captains, Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett, will be the stars of tonight’s Big Red Rage at Majerle’s in Chandler at 6 p.m. The show airs live on Sports 620 KTAR, or, if you can’t make it in person, you can watch it streamed live right here.
– If “Marcos Tucson” is reading, please e-mail me ASAP at email@example.com.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Big Red Rage, blackout, Broncos, Cowboys, sellout
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Well, obviously the schedule has been released. The Cards got a pair of national TV games, which is probably what should have been expected after Kurt Warner’s retirement. The games against the 49ers already loomed large and now both are positioned as such: a Monday night game at home and the season finale (the NFC West on the line, perhaps?). Bottom line, the pre-bye portion of the schedule — three of the first four on the road, a four-week stretch that includes the Falcons, Chargers and Saints — will set the tone for the season. But if the Cards can maneuver their way around it OK, that post-bye stretch could produce results. Plus the road games get (at least on paper) easier with trips to Seattle, Kansas City and Carolina, in addition to a ton of home games.
Tags: 49ers, Cowboys, schedule
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So Darnell Dockett tweeted this morning that he wanted the Cardinals to get some prime-time games this season so he and some of his fellow defenders can kick some butt in front of a national audience. It got me thinking just how will the Cards be viewed by the NFL with the schedule.
The schedule, by the way, should be out at some point this week. This is usually the week it happens. I think it’ll be before the draft and it’s hard to believe the league will wait until the week of the draft, when everyone will be building up toward that event. That gives the league a few more days before running into obstacles.
As for the team’s prime-time value, last season the Cards got three big-time games, including two on Sunday nights. But that was coming off the Super Bowl, and that was with Kurt Warner. But Matt Leinart still has marquee value, and the Cards do have some opponents that would work: the Cowboys, Chargers, Vikings and Saints, and maybe a Leinart-Pete Carroll reunion against Seattle.
Tags: Chargers, Cowboys, Darnell Dockett, Saints, schedule, Vikings
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