A couple of leftover anecdotes from the trip to Philadelphia:
– One was the slowly spreading story — mentioned by Kevin Kolb himself, originally, on a radio interview — that Kolb was calling out plays the Eagles were going to run while he was on the sideline sitting out with his injured foot. Asked about it Wednesday, Kolb downplayed his impact.
“There was some two-minute stuff that I could help out with here and there,” Kolb said. “I tried to game plan with (defensive coordinator) Ray (Horton) a little bit. How much help that I really did for our defense, I’m not really sure.
“You can’t go and change what you do because there is guy that knows the offense in the opposing locker room. That happens every single week. It happened to us with Anquan Boldin, with (Tim) Hightower, so everybody’s conscious of it but you have to stick to what you do and they do the same thing. I was screaming at the top of my lungs but I’m not sure anybody heard me over there.”
– Wide receiver Early Doucet scored the game winning touchdown but he wasn’t expecting it to be him. Not at first. He, like many others, expected Beanie Wells to pound it in from the 1-yard line after Larry Fitzgerald’s amazing catch. Wells gained no yards on first down, and lost four on second down, and suddenly, Doucet was needed — although he wasn’t totally at the ready.
“What was crazy, I was so confident we were going to punch it in, I was standing all the way on the other end of the sideline<” Doucet said. “We got to third down and they called four-wide and I had taken my helmet off and taken a knee, and I was like, ‘Oh crap.’ I had to run from the other end of the field.”
It worked out, obviously.
Tags: Eagles, Early Doucet, Kevin Kolb
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When we got on the plane tonight to fly back to Arizona, the announcement came that the headwinds were nasty. The return was going to be more than five hours. It didn’t seem to really matter. Gotta say, a long flight home always feels a little – OK, a lot – better after a victory. The mood is completely different.
Two wins in a row for the first time since Week 15 and 16 of 2009. The first win on the road since the season opener in St. Louis a season ago. And as coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed out, the Cards did a couple of things Sunday in Philly they hadn’t too many times this season: Scored a TD on a final drive when it was necessary, and gotten a defensive stop to finish it off.
So, with that as the big-picture background, a few thoughts:
– Of course, the big story is going to be John Skelton. Yes, the second-year QB just keeps making things stickier and stickier for Whisenhunt whenever Kevin Kolb returns to health. Larry Fitzgerald certainly wanted no part of a question asking him to compare Skelton and Kolb. “Both of them we feel we can win with, and that’s a good problem to have,” Fitzgerald said.
Good is relative. But Skelton just seems to be getting better. He needed that last drive to show that. He had 315 yards passing and three touchdowns. He also had two bad interceptions that almost cost them the game. He has made Andre Roberts relevant again. And he had two beautiful passes on that final drive, the bomb to Fitz (which he never saw, because he was getting clobbered as he threw) and the wheel route to The Hyphen on fourth-and-2.
He has shown a little bit of “it” though, hasn’t he? On the sideline, “He was mad and upset when he missed a couple of things,” Whisenhunt said. “But he is calm. He’s got that look and it shows in his demeanor on the field.”
Whiz was asked about Skelton as permanent starter. He didn’t dismiss it, like he had the previous week. But he punted. “I’m just going to enjoy this and worry about that later,” he said.
– In two starts, Skelton is 17-for-30 for 238 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in the fourth quarter – a 101.8 passing rating.
– “The Trade” didn’t exactly have a banner day as a storyline. Kolb was hurt and didn’t play. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hurt his ankle and left the game.
– In his last two games against the Eagles – which was today plus the NFC Championship game – Fitz has 16 catches for 298 yards and five touchdowns.
– Whiz, on the decision – gutsy as it was – to go for it on fourth-and-2 with 3:10 left and three timeouts remaining: “Fourth down, where it was, we had a good play. We felt they would give us a shot at LaRod. It’s a tough throw. We felt like we had a bead on that. The way they were playing. We felt like, in that situation, we had to take our shot.” Honestly, the call didn’t surprise me, and I thought it was worth it. Always looks better after it works.
– Here’s tangible proof of the better defensive play: The Cardinals had given up 41 plays of 20 or more yards in the first seven games. The last two? Five combined. The Eagles had two today, after notching 45 in their first seven games.
– Calais Campbell (pictured below) now isn’t just making sacks and blocking kicks, now he’s getting interceptions.
– A.J. Jefferson has had a rough go of it most of the season (and was flagged for another pass interference Sunday). But he came up with the game-sealing interception with 33 seconds left and was all smiles. “Yeah man, there is pressure on me, and getting that first pick, I feel like it’s the start of something,” Jefferson said. “It takes a lot of pressure off.”
– Adrian Wilson should have, what, four interceptions now? Lost one Sunday because of a Richard Marshall penalty and has dropped at least two (maybe three, the memory is sketchy). The one Sunday was a great grab.
– The Eagles kicked to Patrick Peterson and dared him to return punts. He only averaged 4.5 yards on six returns.
– Couldn’t have been a happier Card than Jay Feely, whose misses could have been disaster. But can I make a quick point? Feely hasn’t had a couple of bad games because he’s well-rounded or likes to tweet. To suggest that’s the reason is crazy.
– Want to enjoy some audio fun? Check out Jim Omohundro’s radio mashup from Sunday.
OK, that’s enough. A couple hours left in the flight. I’m sure it’ll fly by.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Eagles, Jay Feely, John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson
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As we sit on this flight back to Philly for one final two-day trip of the season, it jogs the memory of the last trip to Philly – which was only one day. That’s because the game was at night. A Thursday night to be exact, Thanksgiving night, when the Cards were knocked around pretty good, 48-20, and everyone wondered just what the Cardinals were going to be able to do in the playoffs a month later.
It was 2008 of course, and while the Cards had trouble keeping it on the road in that stretch run, we all know what they did in the playoffs. And that was the last time the Cardinals played the Eagles as well, hosting them in the NFC Championship game when Tim Hightower worked the perfect screen pass for the go-ahead touchdown. Funny thing was, even though the Eagles dominated the Cards every which way in that regular-season game, I always thought the Cards would win the playoff game.
It was that kind of season.
This season is different. Both the Eagles and Cards are struggling. The best subplot of this game – Kevin Kolb’s return – probably won’t happen. Kolb is officially questionable, but he hasn’t practiced at all since the Friday before the Ravens game. Besides, with all the problems he has had on the field, I don’t know if you would want to put him in this maelstrom of drama if he wasn’t totally healthy.
Instead, the Cards are trying for an upset. No one seems to think the Cards have a chance, although if they do win, even with all their troubles, they’d have the same record as the Eagles. Who would have thought that a few weeks ago?
– No Kolb would leave John Skelton of course, and while he has gone 3-0 in his home starts, his two road starts were not so good last season. He struggled mightily against both the Panthers – who were so bad they had the No. 1 overall pick, even after beating the Cards – and the 49ers.
– Before we even get to Sunday, Cardinals play-by-play man Dave Pasch has a huge assignment – he has to call the Penn State-Nebraska game for ESPN. Pasch knew his assignment last Sunday, just when the Penn State scandal was beginning to come to light.
“It’s just being prepared for anything,” Pasch told the New York Daily News. “Who knows what’s going to happen from now until Saturday, let alone from kickoff until the end of the game?”
A big job, but Pasch is so good he’ll pull it off. One subplot is already off the table – Urban Meyer, normally the third man in the booth with Pasch and Chris Spielman, won’t be there after his father passed away this morning.
– How will the Cards defend Michael Vick? Someone actually asked defensive coordinator Ray Horton if he would change personnel just for Vick, a query that brought a chuckle from Horton. He wasn’t about to reveal state secrets. Besides, containing Vick isn’t easy regardless.
“You can spy him, you can account for him, but he is going to get out because he is so elusive and, unless you have played this guy … you see it on film and you think, ‘I can get there,’ ” Horton said. “And you don’t.”
– Cornerback Michael Adams, who was close with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, said DRC was hurt that the Cards traded him away. DRC seemed to echo such a sentiment talking with Philly reporters this week.
“I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder since the Cardinals were the team that decided to trade me,” DRC said. But, he added, “I’m going to go out there and give it my all, like I do every week. I’m trying to treat this game like any other; I’m not going to let it affect my play. It’ll be nice to see some of my old teammates and friends, but at the end of the day it’s business.”
– If the Cardinals can keep it close, the Eagles can be had late – Philly has been outscored 60-24 in the fourth quarter.
– Of course, that only matters if the Cards keep it close. The first quarter is Arizona’s Achilles heel, getting outscored 48-23.
– A piece on FootballOutsiders.com says that Levi Brown is tied with the Rams’ Rodger Saffold for the most sacks allowed this season, with 8½. Obviously there is no true way to measure exactly what happens – the story acknowledges there are times when it is tough to tell, and there are times, for instance, when Kolb has dropped back so far he is out of the pocket. But everyone knows Brown needs to play better.
– The great under-the-radar news for the Cards: How much better running back Beanie Wells feels. Actually practicing full today means a lot, not only to Beanie but to this game. The Eagles can be run on (Matt Forte cracked 130 yards against them Monday) and it’s a crucial part of the Cards’ offense these days.
One last thing: My most memorable moment in Philly. No, it wasn’t Adrian Wilson crushing Donovan McNabb and breaking his ankle on the first series of the game, only to have McNabb play on it and throw four touchdown passes. No, this was the 2001 game, and going down on the field at Veterans’ Stadium and watching Jake Plummer hook up with MarTay Jenkins on an improbable Hail Mary-esque TD pass with 17 seconds left to beat the Eagles.
Man, I’ve never heard such a loud stadium get quiet so fast.
Tags: Dave Pasch, DRC, Eagles, Kevin Kolb, Levi Brown, Michael Vick
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The Cardinals have faced Michael Vick twice in his career, and both times it was before his reincarnation as a better, more studious passer. Both times it was during his stint with the Atlanta Falcons, a time before he was sent to prison for dog fighting and during the time he admittedly didn’t work very hard at his craft. Certainly, Vick still was an amazing athlete — like now playing for the Eagles — and his running ability makes him so dangerous.
In 2004, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast came up with a new scheme just to mess with Vick and it worked perfectly. The Falcons did almost nothing most of the day offensively in Atlanta, and the Cards bottled up Vick. Unfortunately, the Cards’ offense also did almost nothing, except turn the ball over a couple of times in scoring range. The Falcons kicked two field goals that day to Arizona’s one. Up until the very end, Vick was stymied — 10-for-20 passing for 115 yards and one interception, and seven rush attempts for 10 yards — until Vick made the one play to seal the 6-3 win, running a play-action naked bootleg with two minutes left on second-and-7 for 58 yards.
His 2006 showing was better, in a game that for Arizona fans was better known for Matt Leinart’s debut and introduction to the lineup (Denny Green grabbed the microphone during a postgame interview between Paul Calvisi and Leinart, as Leinart was trying to dance around the question of whether he would start, and announced that Leinart was indeed the starter). The Falcons romped, 32-10, kicking six field goals. Vick only threw for 153 yards (13-for-22, one pick) but he ran for 101 on just 11 carries.
Vick’s running ability hasn’t changed. He has 456 yards rushing and averages 8.0 yards a carry (remember, in the NFL, sacks are not included in a quarterback’s rushing totals). Keeping him contained will continue to be important — keeping gap responsibility, and being wary of where he is in the pocket. He can be deadly as a passer, but it’s his running that can be the backbreaker.
Tags: Eagles, Michael Vick
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Quarterback Kevin Kolb said during his weekly interview Tuesday on XTRA 910 that he is “touch-and-go” to practice tomorrow, but that he thinks he made a lot of progress this morning. He also has a bone bruise that “has shown its face” the last couple of days, which has complicated things. Regardless — and not surprisingly — Kolb really wants to play in Philadelphia and against his former team. Not only does he want to play the Eagles, but last week was the first time he wasn’t able to suit up, he said.
Reports on both ESPN and NFL Network both said he was unlikely to play against the Eagles. Kolb, at least publicly, is expressing slightly more optimism. “We’ll see what happens later on this week,” Kolb said.
As for the people who have embraced the idea of John Skelton playing and taking Kolb’s job permanently, Kolb said he understands after playing behind Donovan McNabb in Philly. “I was real popular for a long time,” Kolb said.
Tags: Eagles, Kevin Kolb
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Kevin Kolb was blunt: He has no doubt he will understand the offense and be comfortable with it by the time the Cardinals host Carolina in the regular-season opener.
But the quarterback isn’t to that point. Not yet.
“After the game we came back to our first practice and I felt totally comfortable,” Kolb said. “Then came the next onslaught of installs and plays. My mind got a little twisted for a couple of days. That’s part of the process. … I wouldn’t say I am chasing my tail, but I’m not on top of everything yet.”
Kolb said there is a difference between the offenses of the Cards and the Eagles, his former team, but it isn’t as big of a jump as he could have made had he ended up elsewhere. The verbiage and protections are different, and he said the Eagles had gotten to a point with their receiver personnel that they would often just take shots downfield, whereas the Cards look at themselves as a “true progression team” and spreading the ball around.
“Different days we struggle,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “(Tuesday) we put a lot of things in and it was new concepts, new terminology. Just when you start to feel good, you throw more at him. That clouds the whole picture. … But he’s done a very good job. I think as we start to get into more specific plays and gameplanning, he will have enough of a base that he will feel good about it.”
Whisenhunt said when he was playing, he went from an offense similar to what the Cards run now to a West Coast offense, and he struggled with it. “You had to hear the play and associate it with what you knew, and try and execute it from that standpoint,” Whisenhunt said. “That takes time.”
Whiz compared it to learning Spanish as an English speaker. Eventually, a person starts to hear words in Spanish instead of translating in the head. The same will go for Kolb and the new offense. Kolb said he needs to get reps of the plays on the field, and that’s the most important part right now.
Kolb’s language problem isn’t English but it is the verbiage. He joked that he’ll be watching video with Larry Fitzgerald and suggest running a “pirate” route on a certain look — except it was the Eagles who used the “pirate” and not the Cards, who call it an “under.” “The only way to do it is to be thrown in the fire and hear other guys talking about it,” Kolb said.
The time it is taking Kolb is certainly not from a lack of effort. He said he is thinking football all the time. “My sleep up here has not been very scheduled,” Kolb said. “It’s just because, one bad throw, one bad series, you start laying in bed and you can’t get it out of your mind. That can be a good and bad thing. You just have to learn how to deal with it.”
That will come as he gets more comfortable. That’s what this time is for.
– Whisenhunt said he could see Kolb playing into the second quarter Friday, but nothing will be finalized probably until Friday morning as the Cards assess the roster and their injuries.
Tags: Eagles, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb
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Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie just did a phone interview with Philadelphia radio station WIP, obviously to talk about the speculation that he would be part of a trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
“A lot of people been hitting me up,” DRC said. “I’m just playing it by ear. Whatever happens, happens.”
He added that whether the trade goes down or not, “It don’t matter to me.” He was careful to walk the line about being a Cardinal or being an Eagle. The hosts obviously wanted to ask him about coming to Philly, but DRC knows there is a chance he will remain in Arizona. Even the hosts, after it was over, noted DRC was trying to stay neutral.
“I’m waiting until it all plays out,” DRC said. “I ain’t getting too antsy yet.” Asked about his desire to play for the Eagles, DRC made clear he still had a fondness for the Cards because they were the team that drafted him and gave him his start. “But if they’re talking about trading me, I can’t do nothing about that, because it’s a business,” he added.
According to reports, teams can start discussing trades Tuesday, although they can’t become official until 3 p.m. Arizona time Friday.
The hosts did ask DRC about his tackling. “I know when it comes down to it, if I have to make the tackle, he’s going to come down,” DRC said.
Now we just have to wait to see in what uniform DRC will be doing that tackling.
Tags: DRC, Eagles
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
The accomplishments certainly weren’t lost as the Cardinals went on their most exciting month-long journey ever back in the first few weeks of 2009, but I’m not totally sure what Larry Fitzgerald was doing in the playoffs that year could have been completely appreciated given the circumstances.
As the wins came and the Super Bowl got closer, talking just about one player didn’t make sense (let’s not get it twisted – Fitz still got plenty of attention over those five weeks of the postseason, and I just thumbed through his clip file if I hadn’t remembered). When you go back and think, however, it almost started innocently against the Falcons.
At that point, the Cards just wanted to win a playoff game, after the 2-5 slide on which they entered the postseason. Fitz had 101 yards on six receptions that day, including an acrobatic catch in double-coverage for a 42-yard touchdown. But that was early, and the moments burned more harsh in the brain were things like Anquan Boldin’s 71-yard catch-and-run TD on which he came up hurt, the Dockett/Rolle combo that created a fumble for a touchdown, and tight end Stephen Spach’s game-clinching catch.
Fitz had nice numbers, but that was supposed to happen.
The next game, though, that’s when the momentum began to build. And when Fitz truly exploded.
Boldin was injured. The Cards were on the road in Carolina. And yet Fitzgerald ran roughshod, finishing with 166 yards on eight catches, with 122 of those yards coming when there was still five minutes left in the first half and the Cards were in complete control. He caught another bomb in double-coverage. He did whatever he wanted against the Panthers (who shouldn’t have been surprised; he had seven receptions for 115 yards when the teams met earlier in the season in Carolina and instead they looked like they had no idea how to deal with him). When Fitz scored his TD – an amazing effort on a crossing route in which he dove for the pylon and scored – it was still the first half and yet it felt like an exclamation point had already been stamped on the game.
His numbers were incredible. The Eagles knew this. They insisted during the week they would not let Fitzgerald go off. A noble pursuit. Yet at that point, impossible to back up with actions. Fitzgerald had three touchdown catches in the first half (he finished with nine receptions for 152 yards). The Eagles slowed him down in the second half, but he had done enough damage. It had reached the expectation that Fitzgerald was certain to get 125 yards in a game, that every jump ball would be his, that he could do no wrong and would carry the team all the way to a title. I mean, Boldin was back for the Eagles, but at that moment, Fitz was alone in the receiving stratosphere, not only on his own team but the entire league. There was no question.
(Well, I guess there was some question. But what is the two weeks leading up the Super Bowl about if not hyperbole.)
In the Super Bowl, Fitz had just one catch in the first three quarters. He had finally been tamed by the famed Steel Curtain. Except he wasn’t, suddenly going off in the final 15 minutes during the Cards’ furious rally, coming up with six receptions and capping it all with that magical 64-yard catch-and-run that seemed destined to be the highlight to signify the Cards’ improbable championship. Then it wasn’t, instead a reminder of what could have been.
The loss didn’t take away from what Fitzgerald did, however. He had seven more catches for 127 yards in the game and he had played so well for so long some were even marveling about the plays he almost made. He set playoff records for catches (30), yards (546) and TDs (7). It was a performance for the ages. “A lot of those playoff catches, he had guys draped over him and he was just making plays,” fellow wideout Steve Breaston said at the time. “You did kind of wonder: When was anyone going to stop him?”
That postseason, the answer was never.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Eagles, Falcons, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Steelers, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Super Bowl
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The Fourth of July has passed and that time when the lockout is creeping up on the season is coming fast. Talks are ongoing, and the hope still is that training camps won’t be delayed. Like everyone else, I am sitting back, waiting and hoping. In the meantime …
– Former NFL coach Herman Edwards was on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning talking about his top five players to watch this season. At five was Packers LB Clay Matthews. Four was Bucs QB Josh Freeman, three was Rams QB Sam Bradford and two was Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant. And his top guy to keep an eye on? Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson. Edwards has long been a fan of Peterson. Here’s hoping Edwards is right. Funny thing, by this time we’ve usually written and talked a ton about the first-round draft pick but because of the circumstances, he remains a relative mystery for this level. Will he jump in? Is he going to take longer to assimilate to the pro game because of no offseason (another reason it seems crazy for the Cards to deal DRC)?
– Speaking of the DRC “trade” — or more specifically, Eagles QB Kevin Kolb, some interesting stuff floating out there right now in this speculation bonanza we have. There is little question the Eagles think they can get a ransom for him right now, but who knows what that means? A Seattle radio station floated last week that the Seahawks would be willing to give up a first- and third-round pick for Kolb. That would change the dynamic of the situation, certainly.
As for Kolb’s play, Adam Caplan and Greg Cosell did an in-depth breakdown of Kolb’s five starts. It’s good stuff for anyone wanting to know more about this potential QB.
– Coach Ken Whisenhunt will be back in the U.S. soon after his trip overseas to visit military troops, a journey that took him to Kuwait and over to Iraq and eventually Baghdad and allowed him to spend Fourth of July with men and women defending the very nature of the holiday. Whiz is also scheduled to return to the American Century Championship according to the tourney. That’s the celebrity golf tournament held every year at Lake Tahoe (This year, it’s July 12-17). Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter is also on the list to play this year.
Then again, you never know what could be happening football-wise. I don’t know what a new labor agreement would immediately mean for the coaches. Hope we get to find out soon.
Tags: Clay Matthews, Dez Bryant, DRC, Eagles, Herman Edwards, Joey Porter, Josh Freeman, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, labor, Patrick Peterson, Sam Bradford, Seahawks
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Several times this offseason both general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt (and president Michael Bidwill, for that matter) have talked about the plan the team has in place once the offseason starts. Both Whisenhunt and Bidwill have used the term “aggressive” when it comes to free agency, and that will help given the situation that the Cards have a lot of work to do to firm up a roster in what figures to be a short time period.
It’s impossible to know what is “aggressive” and how the plan will play out (and part of that includes the moving parts once everything is able to begin; for instance, a trade for a quarterback complicates/affects things more than a straight free-agent signing of a QB would). The Cardinals will have some room to maneuver, however. ESPN’s John Clayton, in fact, thinks the Cards are one of the teams best suited to get things done given their potential salary-cap room (and every labor report seems to believe there indeed will be a salary cap once football resumes).
Writes Clayton, “The Cardinals are in great position to be players in free agency and the trade market. They have $37.38 million of cap room along with a current payroll of $85.76 million. They have the fourth most cap room of any team in football, giving them plenty of incentive to trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb and give him a huge long-term contract.”
The other teams in good shape, according to Clayton are the Redskins, Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles. The teams not in such good shape? Bengals, Bucs, Raiders, Cowboys and Jets — although it’s funny, the Bucs and Bengals land on the list not because they have poor cap room but actually because they may have too much, given their current roster situations.
Tags: Bengals, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Eagles, free agency, Jets, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Michael Bidwill, Panthers, Raiders, Redskins, Rod Graves, salary cap, Seahawks
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