After a while, even these endings tend to numb you. The Cardinals didn’t really do anything different than they have been. They won. Their playoff hopes took a blow when the Raiders couldn’t finish off the Lions in Oakland – the Cards need a lot of help the next two weeks, even if they win out, for the playoffs – but the goal at this point can only be a 9-7 record and let the rest settle out as it may.
Let’s put this four-game winning streak in perspective, at least when it comes to me. I’ve never seen one. I started covering this team full time in 2000; the Cards’ last four-game win streak was in 1999. (I’ve seen a few four-game losing streaks, but I digress).
– Props to Ken Whisenhunt’s 43rd win as Cards’ coach to set the franchise record and break his tie with Don Coryell. No, it’s not a Belichickian total, but it means something. It especially means something since it looked all but impossible to reach this season after that wretched start.
– It’s still so hard to decipher QB John Skelton. Some great plays. Some plays he’s got to make. A stumbling offense, but a win. Good yardage – 313 – but a passing rating below 80 because he threw so many incompletions. Cards have won five of six he has played the majority of the snaps, however.
“Everyone talks about Tim Tebow and his record but you look at John’s record and it’s pretty good too,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
Let’s not bring Tebow into this, Fitz. Skelton’s his own man. “I don’t consider myself able to lean on the crutch I am a young quarterback anymore,” Skelton said. “If there are plays that need to be made, I need to make them.”
– Fitzgerald explained the game-winning play where he unbelievably got wide open for the 32-yard gain. “We had been in that bunch (formation) three times throughout the day and every single time we ran it before, we ran the ‘Toss Crack’ out of it for Beanie,” Fitzgerald said. “As soon as I lined up in the formation they were yelling ‘Crack, crack, crack!’ The cornerback kind of settled, and I saw that and went vertical and broke it to the corner.”
– Speaking of playcalls, here was Whiz’s explanation of the shovel pass that went sour after Schofield’s forced fumble. The Cards ended up kicking a tying field goal when Skelton was sacked (and the Cards went nowhere on three downs). “We had a play we thought would work,” Whisenhunt said. “It was a good play to get to LaRod (Stephens-Howling) on a shovel pass inside. They played it (well). Kudos to them. … It’s a situation where we’ll second-guess that or I’ll think about it all night, would have, could have, should have run the ball. The ones that work, you don’t second-guess.”
– I will admit I was expecting a lot more Beanie. Skelton had 48 pass attempts and Beanie Wells just 15 rushing attempts (for 51 yards, so he is still six short of 1,000 for the season). Obviously the Cards fell behind, but against the 31st-ranked rush defense, it was surprising.
– Safety Kerry Rhodes made his return, and showed up a couple of big times, one on a diving play to break up a deep pass, and another to take down a pass receiver short of a first down. “Getting back into the mix was a little weird, but no rust,” Rhodes said.
– Kicker Jay Feely said he was ready to kick a 54-yard field goal had that last pass to Fitzgerald not been completed. Then maybe Fitz couldn’t have gotten off his postgame jab at the kicker: “I wish I would have been able to get in the end zone,” Fitz said, “but I wanted Jay to get a shot. I wanted to get his Twitter followers up.”
– That’s @JayFeely, for those interested. And @LarryFitzgerald.
– The field-position game started lousy for the Cards (obviously, since the offense couldn’t do anything) but ended perfect. Patrick Peterson’s big last punt return was huge, but it was helped because the defense forced a punt deep in Cleveland territory.
– Thank goodness for the first turnover in three weeks. Only gave the Cards a field goal, but it was enough.
– Cornerback Michael Adams said some on defense needed to “wake up” after that first Cleveland drive, but they did. Browns RB Payton Hillis had 51 yards rushing in the first quarter and still didn’t get to 100 (99 total).
– Fitz was full of one-liners. On playing yet another barnburner: “We wanted to help CBS with their ratings.”
Christmas is coming. A winning streak — which the Cards will attempt to make five in Cincy Christmas Eve — is a fun gift for the whole family.
Tags: Browns, Don Coryell, Jay Feely, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald
Posted in Blog | 82 Comments »
A couple of links here before we (OK, I) begin a four-day holiday weekend:
– Former Cardinals coach Don Coryell, the most successful coach in modern Cardinals’ history before Ken Whisenhunt, passed away Thursday at the age of 85. The San Diego Tribune did a great story on Coryell, who will be better known for the aerial attack he put together for the Chargers in the early 1980s. But those Cardinals’ teams everyone has referenced the last couple of years — the 1974-76 squads that achieved double-digit wins in a 14-game seasons — were constructed by Coryell. UPDATE: Here is a story about Coryell’s years with the Cardinals.
– Kent Somers has a nice piece on Deuce Lutui becoming a U.S. citizen tomorrow, timely given the controversy this state has seen because of SB 1070. Congrats to Lutui, who has been working on becoming an official citizen since 2001, something his father wanted. Unfortunately, Lutui’s father passed away last season, but Lutui made sure the dream came true. On a side note, Lutui declined comment on both his weight and contract situation.
Tags: Deuce Lutui, Don Coryell
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »
This is what I first thought in the aftermath of all the scary injuries the Cards suffered last weekend, the ones that seemingly put them on tenuous ground going into Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game against the Packers:
(OK, maybe it’s not what I first thought, because the first thought is, “You’ve got to be #*$@&%$ kidding me.”)
The thought was, “At some point, this was going to happen.”
You can argue that, for instance, Anquan Boldin shouldn’t have been in the game and you can make a strong case. You could argue (with a much weaker case) DRC and Calais Campbell shouldn’t have been playing. But as Boldin said today, “This is football. You play the game hard, you’re going to get injured at some point.”
That’s what the Cards have been able to sidestep so deftly since the beginning of 2008. Last year, injuries were at a minimum and when they did hit the Cards, they were either short-term (Boldin’s face fracture kept him out only two games), were early enough to be sidestepped (linebacker Clark Haggans was out down the stretch and in the playoffs) or were apparently ignored (Kurt Warner’s bad hip). The offensive and defensive lines stayed intact.
This year, it’s been a little tougher. Left tackle Mike Gandy went down and out, and it’s clear the Cards’ defense (and, on more individual scale, Adrian Wilson) was hampered by the loss of safety Matt Ware. As for the latest aches and pains, it’s the timing more than the injuries themselves, since being less than 100 percent can kill in the playoffs.
Then again, the Packers are without a starting cornerback (Al Harris) and good pass rusher (Aaron Kampman) because of injuries, and it’s a non-story – because those injuries happened a few weeks ago.
It’s football. You’re going to get injured at some point. Even the Cardinals.
On to some last-minute bits and pieces:
– The Cards must get off to a good start, for multiple reasons. They need to feel good about themselves, and that goes for every week. And while the first two times these teams met this year ultimately meant nothing, it doesn’t mean the Packers did not derive confidence (and likely a certain bulletproof mentality) in playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cards also need to keep the crowd engaged.
“(A good start) makes a difference for us,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Against Minnesota, we recovered from (a poor start). When we start quickly — Chicago comes to mind, and Jacksonville — we are a tough team to beat. We have talked about it.”
– Speaking of the crowd, will there be a chunk of Packer backers? Probably. But I have seen people concerned about 10,000, even 15,000. My thought is, so what? By my math, 63,000 (slightly less than capacity) minus 15,000 still equals 48,000 Cardinals fans. They will drown out any Packers contingent, as long as they have something to cheer for.
– The Cards had five passes of 40 yards or more in the postseason last year. They had three the entire 2009 regular season. We’ll see if the offense can generate some big plays again – they’ll likely need it.
– As everyone knows by now, three of the four playoff games this weekend are rematches of regular-season finales: Cardinals-Packers, Cowboys-Eagles, Jets-Bengals. The two NFC games will be played in the same stadium, a coincidence that has happened five previous times. In those five games, the home team won the playoff game three times.
– Larry Fitzgerald, talking about what it means to have Anquan Boldin around: “His desire and his passion he displays every week is infectious. Anybody that’s around him can see it and feel it. He’s definitely and old-school player, an old-school defensive mentality guy. Early in the season, he was always lobbying to get in there and play defense and try to get a blitz. I don’t doubt if he ever got the opportunity to get in there, he’d make a play.”
– Congrats to assistant head coach/offensive line coach/run game coordinator Russ Grimm (I love that title) for being one of the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Grimm has been here before and he downplays it every time, but one of these years, I think that decade he spent anchoring the “Hogs” offensive line in Washington will get him in. Former Cards cornerback Aeneas Williams didn’t make the cut this time around. Former Cards running back Emmitt Smith did – maybe on the strength of what he did elsewhere during his career – as did one-time coach Don Coryell. Coryell was the Cards’ coach the last time this franchise won 10 games in a season.
– Also congrats to defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and Warner, each of whom capture the annual awards from the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association (sponsored by Oregano’s Pizza Bistros). Dockett was awarded the Lloyd Herberg MVP award, beating out Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. Warner was given the Steve Schoenfeld Good Guy, given to the player the writers deem most helpful to the media, beating out Fitzgerald, Campbell and Tim Hightower, among others. The awards are named after two former Cardinals/NFL writers for the Arizona Republic who each passed away while still covering the team: Herberg from cancer, Schoenfeld in a hit-and-run accident.
– The Cards, I would think, need to run the ball Sunday some, to control the clock a bit and keep the Packers’ offense off the field. It is a unit that can put up points, and while the Cards always have been able to themselves, you get a feeling – even against Green Bay’s top-ranked run defense – the Cards have to find a way to make Beanie Wells and Hightower a factor.
– It wouldn’t be bad if the Cards could somehow get to Aaron Rodgers like teams were getting to him earlier this year. This is when Dockett shines, under the spotlight. It’s time to see a heaping helping of 9-0.
– There has been a sense all week the Cards not only have something up their sleeve, but they know a little something everyone else doesn’t. Whisenhunt has been eerily calm, in a good mood. As Warner said, this is the fun time of year, so maybe that’s just part of it. Personally, I’m just a little tired of talking Packers after two straight weeks.
I’d like to be talking Saints or Vikings at this point next week.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Clark Haggans, crowd, Darnell Dockett, Don Coryell, DRC, Hall of Fame, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ware, Mike Gandy, Packers, playoffs, Russ Grimm, Tim Hightower
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »