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Blogs

Friday before the Niners (and Bucs-Saints)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2013 – 4:01 pm

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 …


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So now it’s about the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2013 – 8:01 am

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.


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See the win over the Falcons all over again with Game Rewind

Posted by since1898 on October 27, 2013 – 9:49 pm

GameRewindATL

 

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Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 27, 2013 – 8:13 pm

A year ago, John Abraham was on the other side, watching the Cardinals’ defense take apart Matt Ryan. Then, he admitted, he was surprised. Watching the unit do it again Sunday, now that he’s part of it? Not so surprising.

“Seeing the defense, the athletes we have, Karlos (Dansby), 58 (Washington), 90 (Dockett), me, 32 (Mathieu), he’s an amazing rookie, 26 (Rashad Johnson), we’ve got so many numbers, 21 (Peterson) — I keep forgetting him,” Abraham rattled off. “There are so many numbers you can call.”

The offense was better Sunday. Much better. But as the Cardinals reach the halfway point, there is little question this team is anchored by a defense that creates problems much of the time. If the offense can do just enough, then maybe they can carve out a 5-3 mark in the second half and be in the playoff hunt.

Regardless, Sunday was not only a good win, but as every noted, a very nice way to hit the bye. The Cards only have a couple of days of practice this week. This is the background with which you want to have them.

Andre Ellington was fantastic. Don’t know how many plays he got, but he still only had 17 touches, and, sorry folks, I don’t expect that to grow tremendously. But that 80-yard run was a thing of beauty. Stepfan Taylor looked good too. Take away his clock-grinding-while-the-Falcons-had-10-in-the-box runs late, and even Taylor had 33 yards on eight yards. Now, the Falcons are not the Seahawks or Niners on defense, but 201 yards rushing is 201 yards rushing.

– And Michael Floyd crushed his cornerback outside on the Ellington 80-yard run. Even Fitz got in a good block. “I don’t like doing it, but I see (Floyd) doing it so well so I just try to keep up with him.”

– Arians would not commit to Ellington as stud starter. He just said he’d wait for Rashard Mendenhall to get 100 percent healthy – which who knows, may be a while, especially now – and evaluate it then. I’m pretty sure he knows what kind of weapon he has in Ellington.

Fitz said if he gets traded, he gets traded and there is nothing he can do about it. I wrote about the whole thing here. Bottom line, we are a long time away from this being something that needs to be talked about. He isn’t going anywhere during the season.

– Today was the first time since the Wild Card playoff win over the Packers after the 2009 season where the Cardinals scored on three straight offensive possessions. (To which I gotta say, wow.)

– That Ellington and Taylor looked good was not a good sign for Ryan Williams, who was inactive as it was. Barring a rash of injuries, yes, it’s possible Williams never is activated this season. But there is a belief in the organization he is worth keeping around, so unless some blow-me-away trade offer is made – and I don’t see it – Williams isn’t going to get cut. No reason to.

– Before the game during warmups just prior to the national anthem, a black cat shot across the field and through the Falcons’ bench. An omen? Who knows? Maybe the cat just partook a little too much during tailgating and decided to streak. I didn’t see any of his friends recording it for Youtube.

– Bradley Sowell was sitting there after the game waiting for reporters. Not as many talked to him this game after the debacle that was the Seattle game. “It’s a much different story for me this week,” the left tackle said. He did look better.

– Matt Ryan, in six games before Sunday: Threw three interceptions, sacked nine times. Ryan Sunday: Threw four interceptions, sacked four times.

– Tyrann Mathieu had an interception, but he nearly had another that he would have returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Now that would have been a highlight.

– That was the first game Carson Palmer had more TD passes than interceptions since the opener. It was also the first time since the opener that Palmer didn’t throw two interceptions. We’ll take that as progress.

That’s enough. With a bye week, there will be plenty of time to break the other stuff down.


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Join the conversation – #ATLvsAZ

Posted by since1898 on October 27, 2013 – 11:17 am

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Friday before the Falcons (and Ryan Williams?)

Posted by Darren Urban on October 25, 2013 – 4:05 pm

What is it about Ryan Williams and his story that is so intriguing? The Cardinals go into an important game against the Falcons Sunday, and even if Williams – because of the toe injury of Rashard Mendenhall – is active, he might not even play much. Yet many are waiting to see if Williams is active and what he would do if he played, and I am one of them.

Williams (smartly) hasn’t said much about his situation, but you can tell he’s frustrated. “I’m probably the freshest guy on the team right now,” Williams said. “I’m ready to play. I’m just waiting.” Practices are closed so it’s impossible to know exactly what Williams has done, and since he is so far down the depth chart, he’s likely getting what work he is getting on scout team and not the regular offense. But Bruce Arians has said a couple of times he has been happy with the work Williams has done. Now Sunday, if the Cards, for instance, are going to have newcomer Teddy Williams active to play special teams, who sits instead? Would that be Ryan Williams’ potential spot?

In a lot of ways, Williams might be in a type of limbo. Clearly he isn’t ahead of the others on the depth chart. But Mendenhall’s injury potential is high enough that the Cards might not want to let him go. If Mendenhall goes down with a major injury, do the Cards really want to lean just on two rookies in Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor? (There is still a chance I suppose he could be dealt before Tuesday’s deadline, but I don’t expect it.)

I guess I’m looking forward to seeing that inactive list at 11:55 a.m. Sunday.

– Lot of talk about Ellington, and people keep trying to send me comparative measurements between the 5-foot-9, 199-pound Ellington and other backs, like Jamaal Charles, etc. Look, I can’t speak to those guys. And I don’t know if Ellington could absorb more. But I think what Bruce Arians is thinking about limited reps is the idea that a lot of punishment would take away the best thing about Ellington — his explosion and ability to get outside. I’m sure he’ll touch the ball plenty Sunday.

– The Falcons were a Super Bowl favorite coming into the season. Now, the defense is much more leaky, the offense doesn’t have Julio Jones and Roddy White has been hurt so much he’s a non-factor. Steven Jackson has barely played. Now, it’s not like Atlanta hasn’t been close – their four losses have been by a total of 19 points – but they aren’t as daunting of an opponent as they once might have been.

– Matt Ryan was miserable in last year’s meeting. Ray Horton’s defense made him look terrible. Horton isn’t here anymore, obviously, but Todd Bowles is, and the Cards got after Russell Wilson pretty good. I wouldn’t expect five interceptions again, but the Cards are going to pressure him. “We got in his face early, rattled him up a little bit,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “This is a new team. With them not necessarily having their top guys … we can’t fall into that they aren’t 100 percent. They still have guys who can get the ball in the end zone. But I believe if we do the same recipe as last year, we will have good success.”

– Profootballfocus.com noted that there have been two receivers targeted a league-high six times when an interception has been thrown. One was Giants wideout Reuben Randle. The other? Larry Fitzgerald. Something to consider when Carson Palmer talks about being leery when forcing the ball to Fitz.

– Speaking of Fitz, he hammered Walter Thurmond on a blind-side block last week against Seattle and did it again later to Richard Sherman. They were blows – but they could have been much harder and destructive. Fitz downplayed them, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll came out and praised Fitzgerald for playing football the “new” way – those Seahawks still got hit pretty good, but it didn’t go over the top. You can say what you want about what that means for football, but I have to admit I agree with Carroll. You can walk that line.

– Be sure to welcome our new writer at azcardinals.com when he starts next week: Kyle Odegard. I think you’ll find him a quality addition.

– Arians talks about starting fast and you wonder about the coin flip. Arians has said he will always take the ball if he is given the choice, so the Cards end up with the ball first almost every time. That makes getting off to a quick start even more important in my eyes.

– Arians reiterated what offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said yesterday, that the Cardinals are “hoping” to play Bobby Massie some at right tackle. It will depend on how the game plays out, Arians said, but it would be for a series or two.

– Defensive end Calais Campbell took left tackle Bradley Sowell aside earlier this week to try and give him some advice. “I felt like the offensive linemen, the younger ones, they need to learn what we are trying to do to beat them,” Campbell said on the Big Red Rage radio show. “We just went over how I play the game and what I’m looking for. I gave him my advice. I think he has potential and we need him to win.”

– The Cards do need better play from Sowell at left tackle. And from the offense in general.


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John Abraham is ready to face his old team

Posted by since1898 on October 23, 2013 – 9:40 am

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Looking at young players is just that

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2013 – 1:03 pm

There will be no changes to the lineup this week, Bruce Arians said. Yes, he mentioned Bobby Massie possibly playing and looking at young players, but Arians clarified that looking at those players was all he was doing. He wants to make sure they are making progress and “really are the depth we’re looking for,” Arians said.

“It’s just a matter of opportunities in case one arises,” Arians added.

Opportunities, Arians said, come in the form of injuries, mostly. Those included under the microscope, according to the coach: The entire practice squad, along with guard Earl Watford, linebacker Dontay Moch, and tight end D.C. Jefferson. It’s clear the Cards continue to look at tight ends — Arians mentioned practice squad tight end Daniel Fells by name. But unless, for instance, Colledge is down this week because of his back problem (and Watford is currently running as Colledge’s backup), don’t expect an overhaul.

– Colledge (back), WR Brittan Golden (hamstring) and LB Matt Shaughnessy (looked like his leg was wrapped) were sidelined during the open part of Monday’s practice. There is no injury report before Wednesday, but Arians said there were no injury surprises today. He also said the Cards eased off on certain veterans who were hurting.

– The Falcons are expected to get running back Steven Jackson back from practice this week too, although he has missed so much time there is no guarantee he’ll be ready to play Sunday.

– LB Marcus Benard missed practice because he was out of town for the birth of his child. “I congratulate him on that,” Arians said. Arians added Benard played well. Benard started Thursday, although he only played 11 of 67 defensive snaps.

– Wide receiver Michael Floyd reiterated that the entire offense needs to shoulder the blame for its problems, and Arians repeated the same thing when asked about the issues of quarterback Carson Palmer. “I think Carson’s problem is, some are hit and some are the 10 guys around him,” Arians said. “It’s not just the line. It’s the receivers being in the wrong spots and running the wrong routes and not being in their reception areas, and then again the protection.”

– The three biggest injuries announced in the NFL today all impact the Cardinals and their home schedule. The Texans (visit Nov. 10) lost linebacker Brian Cushing for the season, the Colts (visit Nov. 24) lost wide receiver Reggie Wayne for the season, and the Rams (visit Dec. 8) lost quarterback Sam Bradford for the season.

 

 


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Download the #ATLvsAZ Facebook cover

Posted by since1898 on October 21, 2013 – 9:58 am

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With 2014 schedule, London calling?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2013 – 3:03 pm

The NFL announced today that three teams will host games in London during the 2014 season: Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta. Why does that matter? Because you never know if the Cardinals could get picked to be the visiting team to a London game.

The Cards don’t play Jacksonville next season. But they do travel to Oakland, and with an away game at the “matching” NFC South team wherever they finish, there is a chance the Cardinals could have a road game in Atlanta next season — making then two of the three London games possible. We are far away from knowing for sure, of course, but it’s an interesting tidbit to chew on.

So, as long as we are discussion the 2014 opponents — because why wouldn’t you five games into the previous season — here is the list of the Cardinals’ schedule-to-be:

HOME

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers

NFC North “like” finisher (If Cardinals finish in second place in division, for instance, they play the second-place team from NFCN)

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams

AWAY

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders

NFC South “like” finisher

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams


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