It’s an inevitable comparison, especially when the NFL gets down to a Final Four and the team you cover (or root for, in the case of a fan) isn’t one of those four: How exactly did Team Whomever fare against those left? The Cardinals had four games against three of the teams, sporting a 1-3 record. They split with the 49ers, of course, playing poorly (especially on offense) in San Francisco and then dramatically holding off the division champs in Arizona (in the only one of the last five home games of the season that didn’t go to overtime).
The losses to the Ravens and Giants, of course, were the two most painful of the season. In both cases the Cardinals probably should have won given the circumstances, with a 24-3 lead in Baltimore late in the first half in the first case and a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left at home in the second.
Of course, “should have” is a dangerous concept in this league. There are eight opponents of the Cards this season that were undoubtedly thinking “should have” after the Cards knocked them off. Still, second-guessing isn’t limited to fans and media. Players and coaches all say they put it behind them by Tuesday — and in the context of the season, they usually do — but it lingers and gets rehashed.
Not that it has an impact this weekend.
Speaking of this weekend, I’d be curious, if I could take a poll (and it was answered honestly) what the results would be about the 49ers’ place in the NFC title game and what they want to happen. Is it a case of guys wanting the NFC West to succeed? Or has enough bile built up that they are hoping the Niners get knocked off?
– As a postscript apropos of nothing, guard Daryn Colledge (who has been here rehabbing his surgically repaired elbow) and his wife donated $150,000 to his alma mater, Boise State, today to improve the weight room for the athletics program. Colledge was a four-year starter at Boise from 2002-05.
Tags: 49ers, Daryn Colledge, Giants, Ravens
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The Cardinals officially have sold out Sunday’s game, meaning it will not be blacked out locally and instead be shown on Fox (Ch. 10) in the Valley. The game is the 61st straight time – out of 61 possibilities – in which the Cards have sold out University of Phoenix Stadium.
That’s an impressive total (46 of those games are from the regular season) but they have a while to go to match the longest streaks. Both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins have sold out all their regular season games since 1974. The Steelers since 1976. The Jets date back to 1981, the Giants 1981 and the Packers 1989.
Tags: Broncos, Giants, Jets, Packers, Redskins, sellout, Steelers
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Was it a fumble? Does it even matter?
This is the reality – Giants receiver Victor Cruz did an amazing job keep his feet after an initial hit by cornerback Michael Adams. He made a couple of moves back and forth. Then he “gave himself up” and then dropped the ball. The Cards picked it up. “I thought it was a fumble,” safety Kerry Rhodes said, and honestly, as I stood down on the sideline some 20 yards away, it looked that way to me. Giants quarterback Eli Manning admitted the Giants caught a break.
To me, I get the idea of being able to give yourself up, OK. But to me, you’ve got to catch and drop down immediately. If you’re not a QB, once you are running down the field, you should have to be touched down. If Cruz ended up pulling a Plaxico, so be it. It seems – based on reaction by NFL analysts around the league – the Cards indeed should have gotten the ball.
Watching the replay seems to make the call even more egregious than I originally thought.
Of course, as Larry Fitzgerald said, it shouldn’t have come to that and that’s completely true. The Cards aren’t the only team melting down with a lead Sunday. I was listening on the radio on the ride home about all the big lost leads and it was Dallas blowing one against Detroit and Philly choking against San Francisco. It doesn’t make it OK, but it happens.
The emotional swing from the time Beanie rumbled in for his third TD to the last incompletion to Fitz on fourth down was simply giant (pun intended). To be 2-2 going to winless Minnesota, compared to 1-3 …
Some thoughts about today:
– Beanie Wells said he isn’t even completely healthy. He sure looked healthy. He gets 138 yards and three touchdowns. He finally gets a big-carry game – 27 when it was all over. It was enough. It really should have been enough (although I won’t lie, I was hoping for the shotgun-quick draw to him on that final fourth down just to pick up the first down).
– The heave-it-up-to-Fitz-and-let-him-make-a-play worked giveth – on the 47-yard bomb to set up a TD – and it taketh away – on the Antrel Rolle interception. Although it did look like if Kevin Kolb had a little less air under the pass, I’m not sure Rolle would have gotten there. It was a very athletic play by Rolle. (Although Rolle said he “knew” that’s where he’d be headed the whole time.)
– Eli Manning has had some pretty good luck throwing into that one end zone at University of Phoenix Stadium.
– As usual, Jeremy Bridges brought a little bit of nasty to the field when he replaced Brandon Keith at right tackle. Keith hurt his right knee, but it will be interesting to see, even if/when Keith is OK if Bridges gets a chance to play more.
– The last sack Kolb took was on a screen, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said it was simply a four-man rush (which makes sense, because on a screen the linemen basically let the rushers go). “We should have gotten rid of it,” Whisenhunt said. To take a 10-yard sack there was a killer.
– Many people think Hakeem Nicks is one of the top receivers in the game. His numbers – 10 catches for 162 yards – seemed to show that. I know there is frustration with the cornerbacks, like Patrick Peterson on the last play, but Nicks made some Pro Bowl-esque plays.
– A.J. Jefferson was still returning kickoffs. I would guess that has more to do with LaRod Stephens-Howlings coming off the hand injury rather than feeling the Hyphen isn’t the best kick return man anymore.
– The vaunted running duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 57 yards rushing on 21 carries. It’s hollow somewhat because of the Giants’ comeback, but it was a nice effort by the Cards’ rush defense.
– I thought Darnell Dockett played really well. Officially Dockett had two tackles for loss among his four tackles, but he drew a few holding penalties and was in the backfield most of the day (and another hold could have been called on the infamous non-fumble play. I thought Dockett was going to reach Manning on that play).
Well, everyone was talking about moving on. That sounds like a good idea. I still have a little Sunday left to not think about football.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Beanie Wells, Brandon Keith, Darnell Dockett, Eli Manning, Giants, Jeremy Bridges, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Patrick Peterson, Plaxico Burress, Victor Cruz
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As expected, running backs Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling are active for the Cardinals today, as the team is as healthy has its been since the season opener. Wells said earlier in the week the reason he sat out last week was to make sure he’d be back healthy right away, and it seems to have worked. Having Stephens-Howling return gives the Cards much more flexibility in the backfield as well.
There are no surprises on the inactive list, which is as fallows:
- WR Chansi Stuckey (hamstring)
- WR Stephen Williams
- QB john Skelton
- CB Korey Lindsey
- T D’Anthony Batiste
- TE Jim Dray (pectoral)
- DE Ronald Talley
Tags: Beanie Wells, Giants, inactives, LaRod Stephens-Howling
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The term “must-win” always creates a sticky situation, unless, you know, a team must win – think, oh, the Atlanta Braves the other night after the St. Louis Cardinals won. That was a must-win. The Cardinals aren’t playing a must-win Sunday against the Giants, because the bottom line is that worst-case scenario, they would only be two games behind the 49ers in the division with 12 to play, and two games left with San Francisco. Logically, nothing is over with a loss.
Obviously, there is a sense of urgency, however, especially after the Cards came up short – painfully so – in Seattle. That was one I thought was going to be a victory, and I am pretty sure I’m not the only one. The Giants are coming off an impressive win in Philadelphia, and they are going to have defensive end Osi Umenyiora back. The momentum is on their side, especially after the Cards sputtered in the Northwest.
But oftentimes, these are the early-season home games the Cards somehow seem to win — the Steelers in 2007, the undefeated Bills in 2008 (and the Cowboys the next week), the Saints last year.
The ebb and flow of a football season can mess with emotions, especially with a week between games. The grind has a long way to go. Beating the Giants changes the vibe considerably, however, compared to the alternative – which would be a 1-3 record.
– This will be a big test for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb said this week he felt like he took a step back in Seattle. Taking a step forward – against the Giants’ pass rush – isn’t an easy task. I expect, after the second-half issues with Fitz, that the Cards will work very hard to get Larry Fitzgerald consistently involved. Kolb is very aware of what the Giants’ defense is all about, having studied them as a division opponent his first four seasons (although he’s never played against them) and he got a chance to talk to Michael Vick earlier this week. Wonder if Vick was able to give him any pointers.
– Interesting to hear today that O’Brien Schofield will wear a wristband to make sure he knows the defensive plays. If that’s what it takes to get Schofield on the field more often, that’s fine. It’s not about pride, it’s about results no matter how it is accomplished.
– It sure seems Beanie Wells will be back carrying the ball this week. You got the vibe last week Wells wouldn’t be able to go and he didn’t. It’s the other way this week. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off. The Cards need that. A side boost from LaRod Stephens-Howling wouldn’t hurt either.
– It’s been two seasons, but the last time the Cards had a shot at Eli Manning, they made Manning look very ordinary up in New York in 2009 on “Sunday Night Football.” That was a game where the defense and Wells shined, more than being a Kurt Warner production. I would think that would have to be the recipe again. Tom Coughlin is conservative. If the Cards can force a couple of turnovers, I think they will be OK. If not …
– As nasty as the hit by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was on Todd Heap last Sunday, it may not have been illegal. That seems to be the sentiment from the NFL after Chancellor was not fined.
– The game is a sellout, of course. On TV locally, but more importantly, loud for the home team in theory. After two straight on the road, that will make a difference.
– Interesting stats from Profootballfocus.com, as they grade out the offensive lines thus far as far as pass protection. They make the point that how quickly the quarterbacks release the ball isn’t factored into the equation yet, but the Cards – by their metrics – are 29th in the league, and every offense lineman except for guard Rex Hadnot is in their bottom rankings.
– The Giants still use running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs so well. Slowing them is the key – defensive coordinator Ray Horton said as much – as long as the Cards don’t let Hakeem Nicks get deep.
– Why does this feel like a game where Darnell Dockett makes the highlights?
Remember, it’s the breast cancer awareness game, as well as alternate uniform game. So be sure to wear your best pink-and-black combo, and we’ll see if the Cardinals can get back to .500 and steady the ship a bit.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Eli Manning, Giants, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, O'Brien Schofield, Todd Heap
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For everyone who has been asking — and it seems like I have been asked quite a bit — the Cardinals will be wearing their black jerseys again Sunday against the Giants. The Cards are trying to get into the win column with the third alternate jersey, having fallen while wearing them last year against the Bucs and 49ers.
A quick refresher: Black came on board in part because players for the longest time had wanted to wear the color. The rules for the third alternate jerseys were altered this season. No longer can they be worn in preseason, and they have to be worn (a max of twice) before the flexible scheduling begins in mid-November, so the timeframe to pick them obviously is a lot shorter.
Tags: black uniforms, Giants
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Forbes.com has come out with a list of the 50 most valuable sports teams in the world, and the Cardinals rank 30th, with a Forbes-estimated value of $919 million. That’s third in the NFC West, with the Seahawks at No. 25 ($989 million) and the 49ers at No. 29 ($925 million). The Rams are 40th ($779 million). Not shockingly, all 32 NFL teams made it into the top 50.
The top 10 teams in the world? Soccer’s Manchester United is No. 1, valued at $1.86 billion. They are followed by the Dallas Cowboys ($1.81 billion), New York Yankees ($1.7 billion), Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion), soccer’s Real Madrid $1.45 billion), New England Patriots ($1.37 billion), soccer’s Arsenal ($1.19 billion), New York Giants ($1.18 billion), then somewhat surprisingly the Houston Texans ($1.17 billion), and, rounding out the top 10, the New York Jets ($1.14 billion).
Tags: 49ers, Cowboys, Forbes, Giants, Jets, NFC West, Patriots, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks, Texans
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
“And so it ends, not with a bang, but without a kicker.”
Whenever I think back to the infamous Bill Gramatica-blows-out-his-knee game, that’s the line I remember – the lead to the column of my co-worker at the time, Scott Bordow. The play itself – which came after Gramatica booted a 42-yard field goal and then celebrated in the first quarter in New York against the Giants – has become a punchline. It’s funny though, because I remember that game for so many reasons, and Gramatica was just one.
It was 2001, after all, and a Saturday game. The night before, just about three months after the 9/11 attacks, four of us – myself and Scott, and the Republic’s Pedro Gomez and Kent Somers – went to Ground Zero after a late dinner. It was jacket weather but remarkably warm for December, and I just remember the eerie glow of the artificial lights as workers (still going around the clock) cleared debris while a small part of one of the towers remained sticking in the air. Some windows on the surrounding buildings that stayed erect were still broken.
Then came the game the next day, when the 5-7 Cards were still breathing for a playoff spot and dominated the game – only to find themselves unable to score enough to win. That wasn’t helped by the early injury to Gramatica.
He wasn’t out for the game. That’s a false memory many have. He even somehow booted a 23-yard field goal after the injury. But he tried to kick off (pictured) and couldn’t, leading to another memory – Pat Tillman as emergency kickoff man (I tried to find video. Promise. Couldn’t.) and Tillman admitted he was “stoked” to get a chance to kick. (He wasn’t very good at it though. I’ll take Tim Hightower every time.)
The Cards got a miracle fourth-and-forever touchdown pass from Jake Plummer to tight end Tywan Mitchell to take the lead (After Mitchell made his improbable catch, TV reporter Lesley Visser, who was to do postgame, leaned over the very high row above us writers in the press box and yelled, “Who was that?” She had no idea who Mitchell was. Few did). But the Giants drove down and scored with 25 seconds left for a heartbreaking loss.
Afterward, the specter of the Gramatica injury hovered over everything.
Bill was not happy with the way the whole thing was covered. He and brother Martin had always taken grief about the way they jumped for joy over every single kick, so it was natural they got jabbed for it when it turned into an injury. A couple days later, Gramatica came to talk to a couple of beat writers, but I always sensed he was pretty ticked at the media.
He seemed to get past it the following training camp, when he was remarkably back to kick. He had booted game-winners against Oakland and San Diego the year before prior to the injury, and the next year, he did the same against Dallas and Carolina when the Cards got out to a 3-2 start. Everybody got injured on the Cards that season, however, including Gramatica (his back this time) and his time in Arizona faded quickly – early in the 2003 season, he was gone. It ended, not with a bang, but without a kicker (who is most famously known for a celebration gone wrong).
Tags: Bill Gramatica, Giants, Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, Revisionist history, Tywan Mitchell
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
Back in 1996, the Cards – again – were searching for a quarterback.
Vince Tobin had taken over for Buddy Ryan as coach, and the Cards cleaned house at the most important position. They signed Kent Graham, who had limited experience in his first three seasons with the New York Giants. And for their other option, they also plucked a New York QB – Jets castoff Boomer Esiason, who seemed to be on his last legs after a stellar career with the Bengals and Jets.
Indeed, Esiason didn’t show enough to stay on the field, losing the first three starts and his job to Graham. Graham played decently as a starter but then hurt his knee. Esiason was back in the lineup, and for a brief time, he recaptured some of his previous magic. None more than an early November game in Washington, when the Cards pulled off a 37-34 overtime win and Esiason threw for a stunning 522 yards – one of the most prolific efforts in NFL history. (It was and still is the third-most in NFL annals, behind the 554 the Rams’ Norm Van Brocklin piled up in a 1951 game and the 527 Warren Moon had for the Oilers in a 1990 game.)
Esiason talked about how his time on the bench was important to the Cards and how brutally his Cards’ career had started. Given that Graham was still going to be out for the time being with his injury, Esiason could ride the wave of good feelings. Beating the Giants and then the Eagles the next two weeks didn’t hurt, especially since those performances (in which Boomer passed for another 627 yards, 5 TDs, one interception and a passer rating of 107) got the Cards to a 6-6 record and into the playoff hunt.
Then, the Boomer era collapsed as quickly as it had re-started.
The Cards were blown out in Minnesota by a mediocre Vikings team and lost a close home game to Dallas and Esiason not playing great, but not horrible either. With the playoffs out of the picture and two games left, Tobin decided to let Graham get some more experience going into 1997, not altogether shocking on the surface – except Esiason took it personally, walking out on the team and saying he thought it was because he would have made extra money in incentives had he continued to play. That didn’t sit well with Tobin, who insisted he was making choices based on football only.
Esiason returned and played in the season finale against Philadelphia in relief of Graham, but his time in Arizona was over (his biggest incentive was $100,000 for 2,300 passing yards; Esiason fell seven yards short although he had a chance, completing just 12 of 26 passes versus the Eagles). By the next season, the Cards drafted Jake Plummer, and Esiason was gone.
Still, the 522-yard game remains atop the Cards’ record book, a number Kurt Warner couldn’t even really threaten.
Tags: Boomer Esiason, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Jake Plummer, Kent Graham, Norm Van Brocklin, Redskins, Revisionist history, Vikings, Vince Tobin, Warren Moon
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
There is a fair argument to be made that the course of Cardinals’ history was changed on Nov. 13, 1988. That was the day the Cards beat the New York Giants, 24-17, at Sun Devil Stadium to run their record to 7-4 and reside in first place in the NFC East. It was also the day quarterback Neil Lomax’s career began to spiral to its ugly conclusion.
Some of the details about that season, and Lomax’s end, seem to have gotten cloudy over the years. The big picture was the most painful. Lomax never won another game as a quarterback. The Cards ended up losing their final five games of the season that year and didn’t make the playoffs. And Lomax’s bad left hip ultimately forced his premature retirement.
But it wasn’t as simple as Lomax getting hurt against the Giants and never playing again.
Lomax got hurt in that game against the Giants, but it was a twisted left knee that sent him to the sideline and not his hip. Lomax even threw a touchdown pass – 44 yards to Roy Green – after the play on which he thought he got hurt. At that point, Lomax had 19 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions and the Cards were cruising during their first season in Arizona.
Lomax did come back that season, however. He sat out losses at Houston and at Philadelphia while Cliff Stoudt struggled. He was brought back against a good Giants’ team in New York and was pummeled, completing just 9-of-25 passes for 103 yards and two interceptions in a crushing 44-7 loss. With playoff hopes slipping away, Lomax did OK against the Eagles (29-for-50, 384 yards, one TD, one INT) but the Cards lost at home, 23-17. Then he had a bumpy day against the lowly Packers (15-for-33, 172 yards) in a final loss.
Lomax never played in the regular-season again. He gave preseason work a try in 1989 and went through training camp (pictured below, with Gary Hogeboom to Lomax’s right). But he couldn’t move, and went on injured reserve at the end of training camp. By that point, Lomax was trying to hold out hope he could still play, but it was becoming clear he probably wouldn’t because of the hip. That was crystallized the following January, when Lomax finally retired at age 30. He made two Pro Bowls and could’ve made a third in 1988 had he not hurt his knee. He held most of the Cards’ passing records before Kurt Warner came along.
Hindsight shows Lomax’s hip problem was bad enough that his end was coming regardless, although the way it played out – and the way the Cards’ 1988 season finished up – made for more of a sad narrative.
Tags: Cliff Stoudt, Eagles, Gary Hogeboom, Giants, Kurt Warner, Neil Lomax, Oilers, Packers, Revisionist history, Roy Green
Posted in Blog | 18 Comments »