Rex Ryan is the Bills coach, the Seahawks are favorites to return to the Super Bowl (and thus extend their season another three weeks) and now is the time when teams without head coaches begin to get a little antsy when it comes to their coaching vacancies. So it’s probably no surprise that, with Ryan choosing Buffalo, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has reportedly become the front-runner for the opening to coach the Atlanta Falcons.
Bowles was said to have had a good interview with the Falcons over the weekend. There are ties there to the man now charged to run the football side — Scott Pioli — since Pioli is Bill Parcells’ son-in-law and Bowles coached under Parcells in both Miami and Dallas. More importantly, Bowles is a defensive mind for a team that needs to upgrade on the defensive side. For Bowles, the Falcons’ job would have to be as attractive as any, given the softness of the divison (for now) and the fact he has a quarterback (Matt Ryan) in place. It’s not often you can walk into a head coaching job with a good QB already there; that’s usually why there is an opening in the first place.
We’ll see if that plays out. (The Falcons are not only getting Bowles for a second interview, but so are the Jets.)
But if it does, what then for the Cardinals? Bruce Arians has already said he has a plan in place if Bowles left. That was a plan put together before the startling news this weekend that Dick LeBeau was resigning as defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a move that initially sure gave off similar vibes as when the Steelers announced Bruce Arians was “re-fired” once upon a time. (In hindsight, B.A. loves that story.) As soon as the LeBeau story hit, the questions came: If Bowles leaves, does Arians — who worked with LeBeau all those years in Pittsburgh — replace Bowles with LeBeau?
There are a lot of things that go into this. LeBeau made it very clear he was resigning but not retiring. At 77, is LeBeau what Arians wants for his staff (although, obviously with Tom Pratt and Tom Moore, the age itself isn’t an issue). Does the Cards’ personnel fit what LeBeau would want to do? More importantly, how crucial did Arians see his previous moves to fill Bowles’ spot had Bowles’ left? (Was there a promotion coming in-house?)
It would be interesting, however, after how badly former coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to lure LeBeau to the Cardinals once upon a time (in 2011, back when Ray Horton ended up the choice), if LeBeau finally did make it to the Cards long after Whisenhunt was gone.
First, though, Bowles has to take a job elsewhere, which still isn’t a sure thing.
UPDATE: A report from Pittsburgh says Arians has already spoken to LeBeau about joining the Cardinals.
Tags: coaching staff, Dick LeBeau, Falcons, Todd Bowles
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Now that the Cardinals’ season is over, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can begin interviewing with various teams for their head coaching spots. And it sounds like that will make this a busy week.
Multiple reports have Bowles interviewing with the Jets on Wednesday, the Falcons Thursday, the 49ers on Friday and the Bears on Saturday. There are still rumblings that the Bills and Raiders could still ask to interview too. Either way, Bowles would seem to be a good chance to be promoted before too long, but after he signed his extension (which gave him a hefty raise) Bowles can afford to be choosy — which he was always going to be anyway. That’s just who Bowles is.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed both ways,” coach Bruce Arians joked Monday, on one hand hoping his friend and former player gets a head coaching gig and on the other hoping he stays in place.
We still don’t know who would be Arians’ choice to succeed Bowles as defensive coordinator (on staff, could it be Mike Caldwell? James Bettcher? Someone else?) but Arians has said a plan is in place. Now we wait for Bowles to go through the interview process.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Falcons, James Bettcher, Jets, Mike Caldwell, Todd Bowles
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It’s been a while since the Chiefs have come to Arizona. The last visit was in 2006, in the first season of University of Phoenix Stadium. It, like this Sunday’s visit, comes a week after the Cardinals made a trip to Atlanta and lost. Back then, the Chiefs’ game was the first NFL start of a first-round draft pick – quarterback Matt Leinart. This week it’s the first NFL start of first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper.
It’s an interesting parallel even if it doesn’t relate directly to Sunday’s game. Leinart actually played well that day with a couple of touchdown passes (even though Larry Fitzgerald left with a hamstring injury that would ultimately keep him out three games, the longest down-time of his career) and should have had a third if Bryant Johnson didn’t let a throw go right between his arms.
But that was then, this is now. Game-day decision Fitzgerald should play against the Chiefs after missing the last two games – keeping that three-game stretch back in 2006 as his career-high (or low?). And Cooper’s play, while important, won’t be as important as the play of quarterback Drew Stanton, who needs to bounce back. The QB is in the crosshairs, especially with the Cardinals without running back Andre Ellington and his problem hip.
— If the Cardinals win, they remain the NFC’s top team, regardless of any other game, with three games to go. If they lose, they will no longer be the NFC’s top team regardless, because Philadelphia and Seattle play each other and a win with a Cards’ loss puts either ahead in the standings. The Cardinals don’t want that.
— One running back the Cards won’t have is Michael Bush, who was released Friday. That could be a short-term thing, but for now, the non-Ellington backfield will feature Stepfan Taylor—who will get the start in a running-back-by-committee scenario — and Marion Grice. Arians had some praise for Grice Friday. And all season, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he saw Grice as a player who could fill the Ellington role. Now he has to.
“We have a lot of trust in him,” Goodwin said.
— This is interesting: Cardinals punter Drew Butler was fined $8,268 for facemasking Falcons punt returner Devin Hester on Hester’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back. It was called back because Hester was flagged for facemasking Butler. Except … Hester wasn’t fined for the penalty.
— So to recap, the man who was penalized was essentially exonerated with no flag, and the man who should have been flagged wasn’t. Throw in the fine-but-no-penalty for William Moore on Cards’ wide receiver Jaron Brown, and it doesn’t seem like the officials had the best game.
— For those who want to know, the Cardinals will again wear their red pants Sunday (with the normal red home jersey.)
— The Cardinals are holding their annual toy drive Sunday at the game. Partnering with The RoomStore, volunteers will join cheerleaders to collect unwrapped toys and donations for underprivileged children outside each entrance at University of Phoenix Stadium.
— If the Cardinals win, they will have seven home victories. That would be the most for the franchise since 1925, when the Cards had 11. Eleven home wins. It helps that the Cards that year played 13 of 14 games at home (which was in Chicago at the time.)
— In 59 career games before he infamously lost the tip of his finger trying to make a tackle in New Orleans, safety Rashad Johnson had three interceptions. In 22 games since, he has seven interceptions. To be fair, Johnson didn’t start really playing a lot until the second half of the 2012 season, but still.
— Larry Fitzgerald, asked if he takes pride in his run blocking in the offense: “I take a lot more pride in catching passes.”
Fitz laughed as he said it, and he did say he does want to help with his blocking. But let’s not confuse this. Later, Fitz said “I have nothing to do with the run game. I’m a wide receiver.”
— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the game in Atlanta was a “bad day at the office” for his unit. Bowles said they forgot it quickly, and have to move on. The defense needs to. They will be crucial down the stretch, especially as offensive injuries mount.
— Bowles was on the staff of Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid in Reid’s final year as Eagles’ head coach. It didn’t go well – the Eagles were bad, and Bowles, who eventually took over as interim defensive coordinator, was hammered by fans and media as the defense struggled – but Reid said now Bowles was the best interview he’s ever had. Bowles returned the compliment.
“It was great working for him,” Bowles said. “I probably learned more from him in one year than I have from a lot of people over a long time.”
— Hopefully for the Cardinals, it also means Bowles learned Reid’s tendencies. The Cards need every advantage.
See you Sunday.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andy Reid, Bryan Johnson, Chiefs, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Falcons, Jaron Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Michael Bush, Rashad Johnson, Todd Bowles
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In the locker room after the loss to the Falcons, wide receiver Jaron Brown shrugged off the shot he took from Falcons safety William Moore late in the game — a play in which Brown held on to the 23-yard pass and jumped right back up after he was leveled.
“Wasn’t no big hit,” Brown said.
It did come with a big fine, though. While no penalty flag was thrown on the play (and coach Bruce Arians angrily asked the officials about that at the time) Moore was fined $22,050 by the league for the play. The NFL said he struck Brown with the crown of his helmet. Moore wasn’t happy about that turn of events either.
“I’m proud of myself because I didn’t get a flag on that play,” Moore told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That was more important to me. I’ve been working on playing within the rules and that’s what I’m proud about; I didn’t cost the team 15 yards. That was huge.”
Moore is appealing the fine.
“I watched it a few times and I’m trying to play within the rules,” Moore said. “I pride myself in trying to be a class act and play the game how it’s supposed to be played. I still try to play hard-nosed. I don’t know what to do if they are going to fine us for everything that we do. Is it really about the players is what I have to ask?”
Maybe it wasn’t too big a hit for Brown. He did make another two catches for 16 more yards after the blow.
Tags: Falcons, Jaron Brown, William Moore
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Everything Sunday was supposed to be for the Cardinals – everything the Cards needed it to be – it wasn’t. Bruce Arians called the loss to the Falcons disappointing, lots of players called it disappointing, but more importantly, they were asking themselves why it happened the way it did when they simply couldn’t afford such a performance.
“We didn’t wake up,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It was like we were asleep the whole game. We’ve just got to do better, man. Do what got us here, as far as hitting people in the mouth, just playing hungry, playing nasty – play like we are one of the top teams in the league, which we supposedly were until these last two games. We’ve just got to wake back up and get back on this winning train.”
The offense wasn’t good, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But from the time that Steven Jackson – Steven Jackson? – reeled off a 55-yard run on the game’s first possession, it was the defense that simply didn’t do enough Sunday. No, the offense didn’t do enough either, but this year, with this team, the defense is held to the higher standard. The defense will be what takes the Cardinals however far they will go.
Jackson gained 101 yards. The Cardinals never give up 100 yards to a running back. Julio Jones put Patrick Peterson on blast to the tune of a career-high 189 yards, and Harry Douglas added 116 himself – you know, as long as Roddy White was hurt, why not?
The last time the Cardinals gave up at least 100 yards in a game to a running back and two receivers? Way (way) back on Nov. 12, 2000, when Robert Smith rushed for 117 yards, Cris Carter had 119 yards receiving and Randy Moss has 104 for the Vikings. Of course, that was for a bad, bad Cardinals team that went through a midseason coaching change. This was by a defense that not only is better, but when it is playing well is one of the best in the league.
Adversity has come to visit, linebacker Larry Foote said. With four games left – including the last three within the division – the Cardinals have to figure out how to overcome. It starts on defense.
— Stanton did seem to find a little bit of a groove after a very slow start. But the Cards kill themselves over and over. A Michael Floyd fumble here. A Ted Larsen holding penalty there. An incomplete bomb to Ted Ginn on third-and-2. The first thing Stanton talked about after the game was converting third downs, of which the Cards did only once Sunday.
— Andre Ellington said he’ll be OK after his hip pointer – he said it was a different injury than the one he has been dealing with – but the run game didn’t help again. Falling behind so big so early didn’t help, but Ellington and backup Marion Grice combined for just 10 rushing attempts, for just 35 yards.
— There were too many important players standing out of uniform on the sideline during the game – Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham – to not make you think if all the injuries are starting to catch up to this team.
— The Cardinals do get linebacker Matt Shaughnessy back this week and he can play against the Chiefs. That isn’t a small thing.
— Jaron Brown had his best game, with a team-best seven catches for 75 yards in Fitz’s absence, and absorbed one wicked blow late as he was tackled. Brown was fine with that, he said. He wasn’t fine with the ball that glanced off his hands early in the game, which turned into the Falcons’ first interception. The pass looked too high from Stanton, but to that Brown shrugged off.
“That catch I should have made,” he said. “It hit my hands. Those tips are something we can’t have.”
— Lyle Sendlein, who used to be an offensive captain before Carson Palmer took a foothold in the locker room, is wearing the “C” on his uniform again now that Palmer is out for the season.
— With the high-ankle sprain of Paul Fanaika, it sure looks like Jonathan Cooper will be in the lineup as a starting guard for a little while at least. Even before Fanaika got hurt, Cooper was swapping series with Ted Larsen at left guard. It looked like the effort to reintroduce him into the lineup had begun.
— Arians said he didn’t challenge the 41-yard catch by Julio Jones in the second half – the one in which numerous fans mentioned to me on Twitter Jones only got one foot down – because the coaches upstairs never saw a replay. Peterson was called for holding on the play, but a challenge could have saved the Cards 36 yards if the catch had been negated.
— The punt team nearly was burned on a 70-yard punt return touchdown by Devin Hester. But Hester was called for a facemask while trying to straight-arm punter Drew Butler, and then the Falcons were flagged for another 15-yard penalty for complaining about that call. Cost the Falcons four points in the end (Atlanta later got a field goal). Hester afterward insisted it was a bad call.
— That’s it from 30,000 feet. The Cardinals go back to work tomorrow, trying desperately to right what’s wrong.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Cris Carter, Devin Hester, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Falcons, Harry Douglas, Jaron Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Julio Jones, Kevin Minter, Lyle Sendlein, Marion Grice, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, Randy Moss, Robert Smith, Steven Jackson, Ted Larsen
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It isn’t a big surprise but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will miss his second straight game with his knee sprain. It’s only the second time Fitz has missed back-to-back games in his career — the first coming in 2006. He wasn’t going to play if he couldn’t do everything, coach Bruce Arians said, and clearly, Fitz can’t do everything yet. New running back Michael Bush, still learning the system, is also inactive.
Today also marks the first NFL game for rookie undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson, who is needed on special teams with Kenny Demens (hamstring) out.
The full inactive list:
— WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee)
— RB Michael Bush
— LB Desmond Bishop
— LB Kenny Demens (hamstring)
— DT Alameda Ta’amu
— DT Ed Stinson (toe)
— TE Matthew Mulligan
The Falcons have their own high-end receiver sitting out: Roddy White will be inactive with an ankle injury.
Tags: Falcons, Glenn Carson, inactives, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bush
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In all the seasons the Cardinals have been a franchise – and in this case, we’ll just go back to the Cards’ jumping into the fledgling NFL in 1920 – the team has won at least 10 games only seven times. Only twice has the team won 10 since the franchise moved to Arizona, last season and the 10-6 mark the team posted in 2009, the year after the Super Bowl.
The Cards would reach 10 wins Sunday with a win in Atlanta. They should win at least 10 this season at some point, but in so many ways, it’s crucial that it come this weekend, against this team. The Falcons are in first place. They do have Julio Jones and Roddy White this time around. But this is a game the Cardinals have to have, with the way the Seahawks are playing, with the way the Packers are playing, with the way the Eagles are playing.
Bruce Arians is constantly talking about how good teams don’t lose two in a row. His players parrot it. The only time the Cardinals have lost a second in a row since Arians showed up was to eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle on a short-week Thursday night. This is where we need to see that resilience show up again, against a lesser opponent.
— Larry Fitzgerald is officially questionable but I won’t be surprised to see him sit for a second straight game. It’d be only the second time Fitz would have missed back-to-back games in his career. I’m sure it’s eating up Fitz. He’s got a lot on the line here on a lot of levels, between his hot play before he got hurt, his presence that helps the offense and even his impending contract dilemma after the season. But if he can’t go, he can’t go.
— New running back Michael Bush seems unlikely to be active. Arians said this week he’s got to learn a lot and he’s here for the “long haul.” It may be a little soon to reach that point yet.
— The Cardinals are not unaware that the Falcons have Jones and White this time. Patrick Peterson said this week he and Antonio Cromartie are ready for that kind of upscale challenge. Last year, “it definitely minimized their shock plays and how they attacked our defense (having them out),” Peterson said.
— As rough as it was for the Cardinals’ offense in Seattle last week, Arians kept saying that defense was pretty good – and then the Seahawks’ D dismantled Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense on Thanksgiving night. So maybe that was more of a reflection of the Seahawks coming around than the Cards’ offense.
— Of course, the Cardinals do have something to prove offensively this weekend, at least that it was an outlier as Arians believed. This offense was fine shredding a good Lions’ D for a quarter. It’s possible. QB Drew Stanton and company just have to pull it off.
— Kickoff is at 4 p.m. Atlanta time. So the team, unlike previous Atlanta trips, doesn’t fly out until Saturday and the players will be able to play a game on a regular body-clock kickoff of 2 p.m. That hopefully will help.
— The post-Thanksgiving stretch is where divisions are won. This is where the Cards’ road begins.
Tags: Drew Stanton, Falcons, Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bush, Patrick Peterson
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A decade ago this weekend (on Dec. 28 to be exact), the Cardinals knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs with a dramatic Hail Mary touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Nate Poole that thrust the Packers into an improbable postseason berth. Ten years later, McCown is a backup Bear, hoping his own team can get into the playoffs. Larry Fitzgerald, the guy the Cards drafted because they went from the No. 1 to No. 3 overall pick that day, is the face of the franchise. And the Cardinals are hoping Mike Glennon can be their Josh McCown.
Like the Packers that day, who still needed to beat the Broncos to have a Vikings loss mean anything, the Cardinals must knock off the 49ers to have a shot at the playoffs. But if they do, they must count on the Buccaneers – playing the role of the 2003 Cardinals – to knock off, in New Orleans, the heavily favored Saints – playing the role of the 2003 Vikings. It’s unlikely, yes. But so too were the Cards, McCown and Poole.
“Anybody can beat anybody in the National Football League,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s a tough place to play but they play them every year in that division.”
Then again, Arians has stressed to his team all week they should only be paying attention to the 49ers and not the scoreboard. It’s simple, really. If the Cards blow the game against San Francisco (and it will be anything but easy), the Saints-Bucs game means nothing anyway.
“If we don’t win, that would really be a crying shame,” Arians said.
— One last note on the missed chance the Falcons had to knock off the 49ers. Arians cracked he was asleep when the final interception happened to cost Atlanta at least a chance to tie. He watched it later on video. “I like the fact Smitty was playing for the win,” Arians said of Falcons coach Mike Smith and the pass play at the end.
— The Cardinals had their last practice of the season Friday. Maybe. “I’ve been in a bunch of these, where the last one counts,” Arians said. “You don’t know what is going to happen Sunday. This team has a chance to make history and that’s all we have talked about all week.”
— The local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association handed out its two annual awards Friday. Center Lyle Sendlein was given the Steve Schoenfeld “Good Guy” award for being always accessible and insightful with the media regardless of the situation. Linebacker Karlos Dansby received the Lloyd Herberg MVP award. Both awards are named after former Arizona Republic Cardinals writers whose lives were tragically cut short.
— A reminder: Cards are wearing red-on-red Sunday.
— The roof will be open for the game.
— In the weekly video about officiating that the league sends out, VP of officiating Dean Blandino explained the confusing first-and-20 situation in Seattle after an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Cardinals. A flag was thrown on defensive end Frostee Rucker. The penalty was for verbal abuse of an official. A normal unsportsmanlike penalty would be marked off and then the first-and-10 chains set – normally making it first-and-10 at the Arizona 10-yard line. When the penalty is against an official, however, the chains are set and then the penalty is marked off. So the Cards had a first-and-20 at their 10.
— In their last nine meetings against the 49ers, the Cardinals have a whopping 28 turnovers and have never won the turnover battle. That’s why they have lost eight of them (and the one win, the Cards had three turnovers, the Niners zero.) The Cards must take better care of the ball.
— The Cardinals did not play great that day in San Francisco back in October, but were left with the feeling of a missed opportunity. That’s been an underlying theme this week.
— Here’s hoping the Cards have found out how to quell tight end Vernon Davis, who beat them up pretty well the first time around (8-180-2). ”
— I am interested to see what it is like in University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday. This game has been sold out for a while. The Cards have a chance to win 11 for the first time in Arizona, playoffs or no playoffs. This is a rivalry. “If we could only win two games the whole season, I would pick both to be the 49ers,” Fitz said this week, and this is a chance to get one.
Until Sunday …
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Dean Blandino, Falcons, Josh McCown, Nate Poole, Saints, University of Phoenix stadium, Vernon Davis
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Go … Lavonte David?
In case you missed it last night — and I’m sure most of you didn’t — the 49ers beat the Falcons to clinch a playoff berth and eliminate the one opportunity left for the Cardinals to control their own postseason destiny. The Falcons almost posted a miracle finish, scoring a touchdown to pull within three and then recovering the onside kick and driving deep into San Francisco territory. Then this happened. And the Cards’ hopes were kicked right in the wrong place.
(And as a quick aside, I had no problem with the Falcons passing. Ryan was shredding the Niners in the fourth quarter with the pass and there, you are playing to win, not to settle for a field goal and overtime.)
So that leaves one playoff scenario for Arizona. Beat San Francisco at home, first of all. Second, the Cards must hope the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go into New Orleans and knock off (or at least tie) the Saints. Sure, the Saints are favored by a whopping 12 points. Sure, they are 7-0 at home with an average margin of victory of more than 17 points. Hey, the Bucs only lost by two to the Saints earlier in the season (in Tampa, and the Saints are a totally different team on the road.)
The NFL, into drama as it is, moved the kickoff of the Saints-Bucs game from an early to a late game, meaning the Cardinals’ chances will be riding along in parallel games with the 2:25 p.m. kickoff. Otherwise, the Cards might have known they were eliminated before they even took the field. I can’t see how Bruce Arians and his guys won’t be scoreboard watching in this case.
It’s about winning 11 games now for the Cardinals, and as Arians said, letting the chips fall. But the Cards have come within less than two minutes of two monumentally needed outcomes this weekend before being punched in the face twice — the Panthers were on the verge of a loss before Cam Newton threw a game-winning TD pass with 23 seconds left, and NaVarro Bowman’s game-changing interception last night was with 1:28 on the clock — and those chips are landing exactly where the Cards do not want them. One chip left to play.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Falcons, NaVarro Bowman, playoffs, Saints
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