Hard to believe this Sunday will be the first time since 2006 that the Bears have visited University of Phoenix Stadium.
“You know, I’m getting up in age … it’s hard for me to remember some things,” Bears coach Lovie Smith deadpanned, “but I do remember we came back and were able to win a big game out there.”
We won’t go over every detail — especially since I’ve done it before — but needless to say, that evening lives in infamy, at least around here. The defense dominated, and while the offense made crucial turnovers, everything that could go exactly wrong did for the Cards on a night where that was the only way the Bears were going to win.
The team coming in this year is in a much different place. That 2006 Bears team was 5-0 and later appeared in the Super Bowl. This year’s squad was 7-1 and is now 8-6, scrambling to make the playoffs and possibly save Smith’s job. The Cards, meanwhile, have just three players left on the roster from that long-ago evening: Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson (pictured here emoting against the Bears during the better part of that night.)
UPDATE: Here’s some Fitz — who was inactive that night and didn’t play — on the subject: “I remember everything about it. That was a rough one. We had ‘em.” Someone said “Were they who you thought they were?” Fitz smiled. “I’m not going to touch that. You know I love Denny Green. I’m not going to touch that.”
(An aside — the Cards started in a four-receiver set that night: Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson, Troy Walters and Carlyle Holiday.)
Times change. The Cards are a lot different than even the last time these teams met, a 41-21 Cardinals’ thrashing of the Bears in Chicago in 2009 when Kurt Warner sliced-and-diced Smith’s Cover 2. Now, we’re talking about Wilson’s future now, and even if the Bears make the postseason I don’t think anyone is expecting them to topple the NFC’s best and make it to another Super Bowl.
And I’m guessing, regardless of what happens, we won’t see a Ken Whisenhunt version of this, either.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bears, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith
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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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Darnell Dockett appeared on the “Bickley and MJ” show on XTRA 910 Wednesday to talk about his latest kerfuffle. Bottom line? “It’s not my intention to leave,” Dockett said, and insisted he hasn’t brought up to anyone the desire to be traded. That said, he also said he didn’t want to be anywhere where he wasn’t wanted — I don’t think anyone has told him with the Cardinals they don’t want him, but again, emotions have run high.
Highlights from Dockett’s comments:
– “This was not my saying or my idea of me being traded or people thinking I might be traded or came up with this or said this. I never said that. At the end of the day, I will never be anywhere I’m not wanted or I’m not going to be somewhere where I am treated unfairly. Things like that. I want to be happy. I play with passion, I give everything I have on the field.”
– On his reaction when he first was told on the sideline that letting the Jets score the final TD was the right strategy: “At the time I really didn’t know what was going on. I really didn’t think about it or anything like that. I just didn’t have the ‘quit’ attitude. Once they explained it to me real fast, I just didn’t want to be a part of that. Our defensive coaches emphasize all week, ‘Don’t let a team score, don’t let a team score.’ That’s embedded in me. … At the time, looking back at it, maybe I could have done something different, but I don’t have regret on what I’ve done.”
– On clearing the air with coach Ken Whisenhunt: “Maybe at the end of the season we’ll talk or whatever, but as of right now, my main focus is going out and playing hard. That’s my main focus. As far as a conversation of me being here or a conversation of our relationship, that’s not really my concern right now. He’s got a job to do, I have a job to do. I’m thinking we’re both frustrated at being on a nine-game losing streak.”
– The Big Red Rage tonight at 6 p.m. will feature kicker Jay Feely joining host Kerry Rhodes. As always, it is as Majerle’s Sports Grill in Chandler.
– No one is going to argue the Cardinals’ offense has been anything but poor. But FootballOutsiders.com, which measures DVOA (basically a system to compare units and players to the average unit or player), points out the Cards aren’t among the worst they’ve tracked, and even note that by those measurements, the Cards struggled more in 2010 through 14 weeks. It’s an interesting read.
Tags: Big Red Rage, Darnell Dockett
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As the future of the Cardinals and possible change became the top topic as the season heads toward its finish, it’s interesting that two of the team’s long-time stars also have their futures as topics. What happens with Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson, however, is far from determined.
With Wilson, it’s been a tough season. It started with a restructuring of his contract, which Wilson accepted because it is was so important to remain part of the Cardinals. Wilson talked about his legacy, and has never made any bones about his desire to play his entire career with the Cardinals. Then, during the bye, defensive coordinator Ray Horton restructured his lineup, taking Wilson out of packages that weren’t the base defense. Wilson still plays the majority of the time, but his playing time has definitely been cut — which, not surprisingly, hasn’t thrilled him.
He acknowledged to Kent Somers after the Seattle game the change and the Cards’ struggles “definitely makes me ponder about my future.” Could Wilson, who is still under contract through 2015, be gone after the season? The Cardinals might be willing to move on from the 33-year-old safety. But the men playing instead of Wilson on certain downs, Rashad Johnson and James Sanders, are both unrestricted free agents after the season. And Wilson is still playing most of the time. I don’t think, from my perspective, it is cut and dried.
The same goes for Dockett, who is in a different position. Dockett matter of factly talked to the media Monday, answering some direct questions after being benched from the starting lineup in Seattle and being fined for the previous week’s incident in New York. It wasn’t hard to figure out Dockett isn’t thrilled with how that turned out, and was asked if he saw himself playing in Arizona next season.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Dockett said. “I can only speak for myself. I am a hell of a competitor, I love what I do, I take what I do serious, I hold a lot of guys accountable, and if whatever situation comes my way, I will be prepared for it.”
Dockett, like Wilson, is under contract through 2015. It’s not like he is a free agent. And there is a lot that needs to first be sorted — again, if there is any coach or front office change — before player moves could even begin. Dockett did make clear he was going to keep playing hard — for DC Ray Horton and his teammates, Dockett said. I don’t see Wilson doing anything other than that either. Answers aren’t coming for a few months. It’ll be something to watch in the offseason.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett
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Not even sure where to start. Winning in Seattle is rare. But to see it derail like that? I don’t know what is next. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he hasn’t talked to anyone about his job situation. I don’t expect any drastic changes, not so close to the end of the season, but I haven’t talked to anyone about it either. In the meantime, the Cards have back-to-back home games to try and find a victory.
“Just everybody is really just playing for their pride at the end of the day,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “It’s going to take a lot of bonding for everybody to come together and win these last three games.”
– If Kevin Kolb doesn’t come back – and judging by how Kolb talked last week about his circumstances, that seems like a long shot – I’m not sure who Whisenhunt turns to at quarterback for the Lions game. The way both John Skelton and Ryan Lindley are playing, neither is an obvious option.
– The Cardinals were a plus-seven in turnover ratio coming into the game. After an eight-turnover game (and getting only one, the Patrick Peterson pick), the Cards are back to even.
– Dockett didn’t start as part of his punishment following the incident at the end of the New York game. He played, but not nearly as much as he normally would. Dockett was credited with a pair of assists and a quarterback hit. David Carter started in his place.
– No part of the Cardinals played well but Marshawn Lynch went off for 128 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries. Robert Turbin added 108 rushing yards himself on 20 carries. The run defense hasn’t been good enough but to surrender 284 yards on the ground is impossible to overcome.
– The Seahawks threw the ball deep on fourth and long late in the game and again later. Dockett said he was “surprised” but Whisenhunt wasn’t going there. “I have no comment on that, other than to say it’s our job to stop it.”
– The way the game went, I don’t think the Cards come out ahead regardless, but would things have been better had Skelton connected with Larry Fitzgerald on the first drive (pictured below) and not have it been an interception? The Cards had actually been successful on a couple of pass plays right before that. Then it turns into a turnover and … we all know the rest.
There is no analysis here, really. It was obviously the low point of this season and since Whisenhunt arrived. No one is arguing that. We will wait to see how the week goes.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Ryan Lindley, Seahawks
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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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Darnell Dockett addressed the argument he had with teammate Kerry Rhodes at the end of Sunday’s game, getting his point across but also apologizing in the process.
While he didn’t get into specifics of why the argument happened, it was pretty clear the reported reason — that Dockett did not want to let the Jets score on purpose just so the Cardinals could get the ball back — was behind the rift.
“Me and Kerry had a very heated argument, at a very heatful time in the game and there were things between me and him,” Dockett said. “I apologized to Kerry. Kerry forgave me. That’s it. It was a situation we totally didn’t agree on. So at the end of the day we did what was best to give our team the chance to win. That’s it. I look at Kerry as one of my brothers, I respect him and we had a disagreement. We move on from that.”
As for what the argument was about, “It was something I don’t believe in, something I don’t understand,” Dockett said. “It’s frustrating at the time. At the end of the day, I have never, ever laid down and quit. I’ve been playing football for over 20 years. I’ve been, for this organization, for Florida State, for my high school, giving everything I’ve got. I play with passion and I will never, ever quit. I love what I do, and I will play to the whistle and the clock reads zero.”
Rhodes did not speak Wednesday, but Tuesday put out a statement that emphasized Dockett had not spit on him — as had been reported — and that he and Dockett had worked it out. “We’re both moving on and I’ll leave it at that,” Rhodes said.
That was certainly where Dockett saw it Wednesday. “We were just talking about it outside today. I have no issue with anyone on this team, especially with the guys on defense. We have one goal, and that’s to end up in the top five (in the defensive rankings). That’s the most important thing to me and the rest of this defense.”
Dockett said he didn’t know if he would be punished for the incident. Coach Ken Whisenhunt reiterated it was something that would be handled internally and declined to comment further. “I can’t control that,” Dockett said. “I’m here, and anytime I get on the field I will play my ass off. Whatever decision is whatever. It is out of my hands.”
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Kerry Rhodes
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In regard to the incident between Darnell Dockett and Kerry Rhodes chronicled below, Rhodes Tuesday morning wanted to clarify some of the details floating around.
“Just to clear up what happened between Darnell and me at the end of the game Sunday and some of the reports that are out there,” Rhodes said. “Yes, we had a disagreement on the field but, no he did NOT spit in my face. Absolutely did not. I’m not going to get into all the details because I think those are things you keep within the team. But Darnell and I talked after the game, we’re both moving on and I’ll leave it at that.”
I’ve had a lot of people ask me about some sort of incident between Darnell Dockett and Kerry Rhodes at the end of Sunday’s game. I didn’t see anything nor hear anything until a couple of people asked me about it on Twitter. Today, Arizona Sports said Dockett could be disciplined but gave zero details to what the altercation was about besides it being an “on-field incident.” XTRA’s Mike Jurecki, after talking with Dockett, said only that Dockett acknowledged something had happened but didn’t want to get into details. Both Dockett and Rhodes seemed normal in the post-game locker room last night and I was on the field at the end of the game on the sideline and didn’t notice anything.
“We generally prefer to keep internal matters like that within the team and not discuss them publicly,” said coach Ken Whisenhunt during his weekly radio show Monday afternoon on Arizona Sports 620. “We will continue to do that going forward.”
UPDATE: profootballtalk.com is reporting on the details of the incident. Apparently it started with an argument about whether the Cards should let the Jets score at the end of the game to give the Cards a final chance to score.
A quick clarification by the way, since the commenters at PFT don’t seem to get it. Given the Cards lack of timeouts and the clock late in the game, the only chance the Cards were going to have to get the ball back was to let the Jets score. In fact, the Cards did try to let them score on the final running play of the Jets, but running back Shonn Greene smartly dropped at the 1-yard line. It allowed the Jets to kneel a couple times and run out the clock.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Kerry Rhodes
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O’Brien Schofield was back in the locker room Wednesday after practice, getting around after ankle surgery on a motorized scooter that looked much more fitting for one of those older women on a late night TV commercial selling such things than a 250-pound NFL linebacker.
“At first it was frustrating because I couldn’t believe I got hurt again, but I tried to put it in perspective,” Schofield said. “This gives me time to get my shoulders right, my knees right and completely heal up.”
Schofield only had ligament damage – it was torn. There was no fracture, but he wasn’t going to be able to come back. Still, not fun considering the freak nature of the play, where teammate Darnell Dockett fell on his leg as both were chasing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the game at Green Bay.
Dockett, though, apologized, even if he didn’t have to.
“Dock has been good through this,” Schofield said. “He’s been hitting me up, checking to see how I have been doing. He put my number on the back of his helmet, which was cool. He told me when I started rehabbing, if there was anything I need, just let him know.
“It wasn’t his fault at all. It was a freak accident. The way he has been, I appreciate his generosity.”
Dockett downplayed his post-injury role.
“That’s my brother,” Dockett said. “I’m like that with all my teammates. If they need anything to get better, especially off of injuries and stuff, I want to help.”
Dockett said he was going to let Schofield use his personal hyperbaric chamber to help speed Schofield’s recovery.
“He’s a good player, he came back (from a bad knee) and had a freak accident,” Dockett said. “We were just trying to do the same thing at the same time. As a friend, as a leader, as a brother outside of football, anything I can do to help him get back. He would do the same for me.”
Tags: Darnell Dockett, O'Brien Schofield
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