The weekend signaled the end of the NFC West’s season (with the Seahawks getting run over in Atlanta) and then the Packers toppling the No. 1-seeded Cowboys Sunday. Some thoughts as the NFC — which didn’t have the Cardinals — whittled their Super Bowl possibilities down to two:
— Aaron Rodgers is amazing. That pass he lasered to tight end Jared Cook to set up the game-winning field goal (Cook made an incredible catch too) was hard to fathom. It’s not like the Cardinals haven’t seen that before. They (and their fans) did just last year. It’s just that Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald made sure Rodgers didn’t get the last word in overtime.
— Coming into the season, Bruce Arians talked more than once about how the Cards have started hot before and want to see what it would be like to go into the postseason as the hot team. Obviously the Cardinals didn’t get to do that, but the Packers are the ultimate example of a hot team now. Yes, Green Bay got a home game in the first week as a division winner, but they are 2008 Cardinals hot right now. The Falcons are playing really well right now, they get a home NFC Championship and the Packers are injured all over the place on defense. But then again, A-Rod.
— That final week Pack-over-the-Lions game that gave the Cardinals a road game in Detroit next season instead of Green Bay (and put the Seahawks with a road game at Green Bay) could mean a lot in the NFC West race.
— The Cards also get a home game against the Cowboys next season, and I’ve seen enough of Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott to understand that Dallas is going to be a force in the conference for awhile, barring injury.
— The way the Packers and the Falcons can score, will they threaten that 51-45 Cardinals-Packers playoff score from a few years back?
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Jared Cook, Lions, Packers, playoffs
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It was toward the wrong end zone, and it was the Cardinals’ defense instead of its offense, but it was difficult not to look at Tyrann Mathieu racing down the middle of the Edward Jones turf Sunday behind a breakaway Ram and not think of Steve Breaston.
In 2010, Breaston, the wide receiver, had a wasn’t-gonna-give-up play after a Cardinal turnover, and a sure Rams TD was undercut when Breaston knocked the ball loose and into the end zone, where the Cardinals recovered. This time, it was Mathieu, flying up behind Rams tight end Jared Cook and improbably popping it loose – into the end zone, where linebacker Karlos Dansby jumped on it.
Honey Badger – remember, he’s good with it again – said he was just always going to try and make a game-changing play, and that could have been it. Perhaps should have been. The Cards save seven points there and when they took the 11-point lead into the fourth quarter, you were thinking that should have been enough.
That wasn’t the only déjà vu I had Sunday though. Watching running back Andre Ellington run that key third-down wheel route – and see him get wide open beyond the linebacker – reminded me so much of the one LaRod Stephens-Howling ran in Philadelphia in 2011 on a key third down during the Cardinals’ game-winning drive that game. Ellington was in position to do the same – except the pass never really had a chance.
(By the way, Stephens-Howling tore his ACL Sunday playing for the Steelers and is out for the season. Brutal.)
The Cards won the Breaston game. The Cards won that Hyphen game. They couldn’t win Sunday.
— We’ve had this discussion before, about Levi Brown. I’m guessing this won’t be the last time. He didn’t play well enough against the Rams. Got a holding call and was beaten three times by Robert Quinn for sacks. And then, after the game, Bruce Arians first said – before he even got a question – that he wasn’t worried about his offensive line. Then, asked about Brown specifically, said Brown was his guy and made the point there was no one better to replace him with.
I know everyone says it should be Nate Potter, but Arians gave Potter a lot of opportunity in the preseason and Potter did not seize the moment (in fact, struggled at times like Brown did, mostly against guys deeper on the depth chart.) The way Arians talked Sunday, he feels strongly there is no one on the roster for which to bench Brown. Steve Keim is always looking for upgrades, but I’m not sure you’re going to find a left tackle on the street. The Cards would have loved for one of those tackles to fall to seven in the draft, but it didn’t happen. They took Jon Cooper, and yes, I am sure left tackle will be a point of emphasis next offseason.
— Carson Palmer looked like he had plenty left to me.
— Andre Roberts had the stuffing beaten out of him, and he held the ball every time. It may have been Roberts’ best game as a pro.
— The Cardinals missed Daryl Washington. It’s obvious to say a team misses a Pro Bowl player, but he would have been able to make an impact. Maybe been a better matchup for Rams tight end Jared Cook.
— Speaking of linebackers, Arians said John Abraham was fine. He didn’t play a ton though.
— With 26 seconds left and the ball on their own 20 in the first half, it would have been easy for Bruce Arians to sit on the ball. But the man who says “No risk it, no biscuit” risked it, and Carson Palmer, after a completion, hit three straight long passes to set up a 50-yard field goal. Unfortunately, Jay Feely pushed it a bit wide right, painful in a three-point loss.
“We couldn’t have executed it any better,” Arians said. “You have to make that kick and that was the deciding factor in the ball game.”
— Javier Arenas didn’t play defense, but the veteran cornerback was in there to return kickoffs. It didn’t go well. One time he fielded the ball deep in the end zone and was stuffed short of the 10-yard line. Another time, a return from deep ended up being fumbled, although the Cards fell on it.
“You have to make better decisions,” Arians said. “Stay in there.”
— We’ll see how the Cards adjust this week. And we’ll see if the Cards make any roster moves too.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Jared Cook, Javie Arenas, John Abraham, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Levi Brown, Nate Potter, Rams, Steve Breaston, Tyrann Mathieu
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