It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, both with his play and most importantly, his fan base, that Tyrann Mathieu is rising up in the Pro Bowl balloting at free safety. Mathieu, who wasn’t even on the ballot the first few weeks voting was open, is now sixth at his position with 42,359 votes. Seattle’s Earl Thomas leads with 277,482 votes; no other free safety has reached 88,000. Mathieu remains one of five Cardinals among the top 10 at his position in this new year of “unconferenced” teams in the Pro Bowl. Fan balloting remains one-third of the final voting, with coaches and players counting for the other two-thirds. Once players make it, the teams will be “drafted” by former players who are serving as captains.
The other four Cardinals showing up on the voting list:
– DT Darnell Dockett is ninth (99,561 votes, trails first-place Dontari Poe of the Chiefs, who has 233,212.)
– ILB Karlos Dansby is ninth (79,050, Buffalo’s Kiko Alonso, 265,232)
– CB Patrick Peterson is third (253,688, Seattle’s Richard Sherman, 367,076)
– Special teamer Justin Bethel is eighth (35,775, Denver’s David Bruton, 95,841)
Voting concludes Dec. 26. If you want to vote, click here.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl, Tyrann Mathieu
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Special-teams ace Justin Bethel is active for today’s game against the Colts, a big deal after the Cards struggled on special teams following Bethel’s concussion in Jacksonville. The inactive list is actually the exact same seven guys as the last two games:
– WR Brittan Golden (hamstring)
– QB Ryan Lindley
– RB Ryan Williams
– LB Dontay Moch
–G Earl Watford
– TE Kory Sperry
– DE Ronald Talley
Tags: Colts, inactives, Justin Bethel
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The Cardinals have become stellar on defense in the second half – that’s well-chronicled and came to the forefront against last week in Jacksonville when the Cards shut out the Jaguars the final two quarters. The Colts have been a second-half kind of offense, most recently showing that off when they rallied a week ago from a 17-6 halftime deficit to beat the Titans.
So something has to give when the two teams play Sunday. Right?
“It’ll be a good matchup, two second-half teams going at it,” Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Hopefully we can have a good start though. Hopefully we don’t wait until the second half again.”
I don’t think anyone will have to wait for the second half to get a feel for Sunday’s very large game between these teams. But these teams’ respective strengths will collide eventually, and we’ll have to see which comes out on top. The Colts are up three games in the AFC South and it would take an epic collapse for them not to win the division. This game is not as crucial to Indy as the Cards. Then again, the fact Bruce Arians is on the other sideline will mean something.
– That last thought reminds me of the game the Cardinals – and first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt – played against the Steelers at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2007. The Steelers were generally regarded as the better team, as the Colts are now. The Cards won the game, and you could tell it meant a ton to Whiz and his staff. I’d expect that emotion to flow from Arians and his staff too in a win.
– What, you say you don’t fully understand the Arians-Colts connection? Click here for the whole story.
– And if you missed it, this was a sad but important lesson learned by offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.
– Linebacker John Abraham has been better than the Cardinals could have hoped. He’s playing nearly every snap, he’s defending the run, he’s been upgraded on the injury report so he’s been practicing full, and he’s the sack machine he’s always been. Shut out in the first six games, he’s had seven sacks in his last four games. That’s a franchise record for a four-game stretch, and it’d be tough to bet against him reaching Andrew Luck Sunday.
– Remember Patrick Peterson’s muffed punt in Jacksonville, the one where he somehow got it back and the Jaguars were angry and challenged the call? Yeah, they weren’t allowed to challenge the call. That’s been confirmed in the latest NFL officials video (which you can watch here, along with some more somehow-that-wasn’t-pass-interference call from Patriots-Panthers). At the time, it was pretty clear the muffed punt wasn’t reviewable. How an entire officials crew didn’t know that is surprising.
– Congrats to former Cardinals wide receiver Jerheme Urban, who at age 33 has been named the head football coach at his alma mater, Trinity University.
– It will be a blow if the Cardinals cannot get Justin Bethel back and healthy Sunday. You don’t want to mess with concussions, of course. But the Cards’ special teams clearly took a hit last weekend when Bethel went out of the game. Even Arians acknowledged no Bethel isn’t a good thing.
– At least the NFL recognized the problem with the play. Jaguars defensive back Will Blackmon, the player who hit Bethel with the illegal blindside block that caused the concussion, was hit with a $21,000 fine for the play.
– Don’t forget the Cardinals are going to wear red-on-red Sunday. Here are some images from past red-on-red games. And, against my better judgment, because I have zero belief in correlation of such things, note the Cards are 12-3 wearing red-on-red since 2005. That stat is courtesy of Cardinals’ VP of media relations Mark Dalton.
– If you are coming to the game Sunday, the annual holiday food drive to benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank is taking place. Please bring non-perishable food items to drop off at the gate so those less fortunate can be helped. (You can donate money if you want).
– No Reggie Wayne for the Colts. “It’s like taking out the heartbeat,” Arians said. But they do have tight end Coby Fleener, who has taken a bit to get rolling in the NFL but who is coming off his best game. And we know how the Cards have been with tight ends. Stop T.Y. Hilton first, of course, but they better watch Fleener.
Between the background between Arians and the Colts, the teams’ records, the Cards’ three-game winning streak, this is going to have a playoff feel to it Sunday.
But before that, we walk off with Carson Palmer’s Chronicles video: “My mustache is ginger, but very Tom Selleck.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Colts, Jerheme Urban, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Will Blackmon
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In the week of Arians vs. His Former Team (that story coming later on the homepage), here’s a few non-that-story notes from Wednesday:
– Running back Andre Ellington talked about Dreadsgate a final time. The most interesting part? Being asked if he was upset some people did not believe his hair was real but instead extensions. Ellington had said after the game it was real, but many (and I heard from some) did not buy it. “I knew it was real,” Ellington said. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I took me five years to grow it.”
Ellington reiterated he wasn’t hurt on the play. As for going forward, he said he hasn’t given any thought to cutting his hair. “They are probably going to start targeting it now,” Ellington said. “Just means I have to run a little faster.”
Certainly, the Cards need more than the three yards on eight carries Ellington provided in the game.
– Bruce Arians had a fantastic press conference today. Among the highlights: Andrew Luck, on his own conference call, said Arians had an “incredibly young soul.” Told this, Arians smiled. “I don’t feel like I’m 62. I feel like I’m 22.” (Of course, Arians is only 61, but who’s counting?)
– Second Arians highlight: Asked how improbable the last two years had been, which began when Arians was no longer the offensive coordinator for the Steelers to NFL coach of the year of the Colts to now his permanent job with the Cards: “From refired — excuse me, retired — to this, I don’t think anyone would have dreamed this.” If you remember, the Steelers had announced Arians had retired. Clearly, Arians did not see it the same way.
– Arians said Patrick Peterson will remain the punt returner this week, after saying they might consider something else.
– CB Justin Bethel has been cleared through concussion protocol, but is limited right now. The Cards re-signed CB Bryan McCann yesterday and Arians said McCann almost made the team out of training camp because of his special teams work. You’d think that’d put McCann in good shape to take over for the injured Teddy Williams across from Bethel on punt coverage.
– Still not certain of WR Brittan Golden returning. Arians said the problem with Golden’s hamstrings are more about scar tissue right now.
– Arians appeared on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week, if you want to take a listen.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andrew Luck, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Bryan McCann, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson
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It may have been the timeout that save the game (although the way the Cardinals were playing defense, it might not have been that dire). Still, Arians called timeout right before Carson Palmer threw his interception and wiped out the QB’s lone turnover. The official simply couldn’t find his whistle, Arians said, and that’s why the glitch in the snap still being made, and not because Arians called it late.
Arians said he made a bad play-call and instead of going with, he realized discretion was the better part of valor.
“It was a play with Andre Ellington in the backfield,” Arians said. “I was tired of being stuck down there (deep in the Cards’ own territory) and I wanted to try and take a shot and flip field position. It was a bad time. So I called timeout. … It was one of those gut feelings it was going to be the wrong play for that time.”
It was the wrong personnel, Arians said, the wrong time to call it on second-and-long (instead of first down) and just nothing was right no matter how badly Arians wanted to make something happen.
“At times it gets frustrating,” Arians said. “But you have to be careful (as a play-caller) and not lose your patience and lose the football game.”
– The availability of special teams ace Justin Bethel is up in the air after he suffered a concussion Sunday. He will go through concussion protocol and the Cards will see where he is at the end of the week. Fellow special teamer Teddy Williams, who tore his Achilles, will be placed on injured reserve.
– Arians talked about facing the Colts this week (and this won’t be the last time you hear about this storyline). “The prep will be easy,” he said. “It’s seeing them that will be emotionally involved because it was such an emotional year last year. You’ll get through that hopefully in warmups.”
“I was hoping this would never be on the schedule. Because there are too many emotional ties to what happened last year.”
– Arians said the coaching staff for two weeks has been talking about the possibility of using Tyrann Mathieu as punt returner instead of Patrick Peterson. Those discussions will continue, Arians said. One concern is the amount of snaps Mathieu is already playing as a rookie. Clearly, though, Peterson hasn’t been his rookie self when returning punts.
– There was talk of the Cardinals-Eagles game being flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” That was officially put to rest Monday when the league announced the Sunday night game that weekend will remain Giants-Redskins.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Colts, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Sunday Night Football, Teddy Williams, Tyrann Mathieu
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That’s five years worth of hair growing on the head of Andre Ellington, so he doesn’t want to lose it. He especially doesn’t want to lose it on the football field, but he lost
some of his beloved dreadlocks Sunday, which might have been the strangest part of a strange game. The rookie running back was tackled, Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin ended up with a handful of it (right) and it ended up on the ground, only to have Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker rescue and return it.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it back,” Ellington said. “I was talking to (Jaguars defensive end) Andre Branch, we are pretty good friends, I told him, ‘I’m gonna get your boys, they pulled my hair out.’ But it’s all good.”
Amazingly, Ellington said he didn’t feel it, although “you don’t feel it when you are being tackled by 300-pounders.” He didn’t even realize it had happened until he saw Babin holding it up. “I was like, ‘Oh man.’ He was like, ‘It’s part of the uniform.’ I was like, ‘Alright. I’ll remember that.’ ”
Ellington later tweeted out he’d just stich back in the loose part. I didn’t really know you could do that, but hey, Rucker is a hero, apparently. Ellington did say he was just happy with the win, which is good, because not only did he have hairs yanked out (ouch, by the way) but he was held to three yards on eight carries (ouch again.)
This game had a little of everything. Big plays, bad officiating, crazy calls, a few turnovers and yet another dominant defensive showing after not exactly a bad but more of a weird start. But lookie here: The Cardinals are 6-4, reeling off three wins in a month after that Seattle loss. The schedule gets tougher, with division leaders Indy and Philly next. But the Cards are where they want to be.
– The Newark Star-Ledger reported the Cardinals game in Philly will be flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” Not a surprise. It is supposed to be Giants-Redskins, and with all the Thanksgiving games (and with Chiefs-Broncos Part II unavailable after Part I was on SNF tonight) there aren’t a ton of choices better than two potential playoff teams. It would be the Cards’ first Sunday night appearance since the Vikings game in Arizona was flexed into the spot in 2009. UPDATE: Here’s an opposing report saying it won’t happen. We’ll see this week. UPDATE II: Monday morning the NFL announced that “Sunday Night Football” was going to stay Giants-Redskins, and the Eagles-Cardinals game is staying as a 1 p.m. kickoff in Philly.
– Michael Floyd was spectacular Sunday. Forget the 91-yard play for a moment, he made a catch on the sideline for 22 yards that was incredible. He made a nice play on the long TD, too. His 193 yards are a career-high, and that threat means a lot for the Cards going down the stretch.
– Carson Palmer did not throw an interception Sunday. (OK, he did, but it didn’t count.) First time that’s happened this season.
– Palmer looked good. He said afterward he had a clean pocket, and again, that’s the book on Carson – if you give him a comfortable place within which to throw, he will do well. That’s exactly what happened.
– The Cardinals didn’t have a turnover for the first time since the third week of last season.
– The lopsided way the Cards had their offense today – 419 yards passing, 14 yards rushing – reminded me of the 2006 game in Minnesota when Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards but the Cards just ran the ball five times. The Cards lost that game. It’s not like the Cards didn’t try Sunday, with 24 attempts, but against the worst rushing defense in the league? It was surprising, to say the least.
– Special teams did not have a good day at all. The Cards allowed 36 yards a kickoff return, Dave Zastudil looked like he didn’t hit some punts as solidly as usual and more importantly – much more importantly – there were injuries. Justin Bethel went out of the game early after an illegal blindside block left him with a possible concussion, while fellow gunner Teddy Williams was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles. It hurts to lose Williams. Bethel’s status is up in the air, but it was clear how much the special teams need him after he left the game. That’s what happens when a Pro Bowl-caliber player goes down.
– Among the special teams problems, Patrick Peterson muffed a fair catch. He got it back somehow, but punt returning has turned into such tough sledding for him.
– One of the reasons the Cards had a tough time putting the game away? Field position was rarely in their favor, at least until late. The Cards started possessions on their own 3, 16, 9, 10, 2 and 10.
– There wasn’t a big crowd. It was kind of sad. “It’s like a morgue,” Cardinals tackle Eric Winston said. “It makes a three-point lead seem like 20.”
That’s good for now. Lot of flight left, but I have some other stuff I need to get to. Tomorrow, it’s Colts week, Arians against his ex-team week. It will be fun.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Jaguars, Justin Bethel, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Sunday Night Football, Teddy Williams
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It’s strange, and maybe because it’s because the Cardinals face the Jaguars so rarely, but each of the last three meetings between the teams – dating back to 2000, my first full year covering this team – is burned into my brain for a particular reason.
2000 – The Cardinals were manhandled in Jacksonville. The Jaguars scored on eight of 10 possessions and the final possession ate up the last 9-plus minutes of the clock (as the Jags traveled all of 31 yards. Hard to believe). Afterward, though, it was classic Pat Tillman, raging against a team that had folded in a season that featured the firing of Vince Tobin.
“In this league, you have to overcome injuries, problems, coaches getting fired,” Tillman spouted. “Nobody cares (about excuses). Don’t tell me about the pain, show me the baby. We’re not showing the baby right now, we’re just bitching about the pain.”
2005 – It was a nondescript game at Sun Devil Stadium later in the year – a seven-point loss when Kurt Warner was sacked and fumbled late – except for an angry Anquan Boldin, who had 10 catches and more than 100 yards but got so ticked at what he perceived as dirty play that he got two personal foul calls fighting cornerback Terry Cousin. That wasn’t the memorable part. The memorable part was Boldin writing a letter to the editor of both local newspapers apologizing for the penalties.
2009 – The NFC champion Cards were coming off a home upset loss to the Niners when they had to travel cross country in Week 2. The Cards blasted the Jaguars, in a game marked by Warner’s amazing NFL record, completing 92.3 percent of his passes (24 of 26) to earn another slot in the Hall of Fame.
We’ll see if this game ends up providing some kind of memory.
– Don’t talk trap game with the Cardinals. “No, no, no,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “This is a playoff game. There is no such thing as a trap game in the NFL.” As you might expect, the Cardinals were handing out plenty of compliments to the Jaguars this week. The hope is that they play with that focus.
– Then again, there is this analysis of the Jaguars.
– It’s not often when the “Friday before” post is actually posted from the flight out, but it is today (and will be again in a couple weeks, when the Cards go out on Friday before the Philly game.) Coach Bruce Arians, coaching out West for the first time in his career, said he talked to many people in the offseason about setting a schedule. The Cards don’t get in to the hotel until about 10 p.m., but Arians said he didn’t want to move up the schedule.
“We’ve been down this road with Tampa,” Arians said. “There are no excuses not to come out and play well.”
– How red-hot is Justin Bethel on special teams? Profootballfocus.com, which grades special teamers (among others), has never had a guy grade out the highest in two weeks of the same season, and Bethel has done it three times – including against Houston last week, in which Bethel had PFF’s highest special teams grade ever.
– The Jaguars, which won their first game of the season last week, hasn’t won back-to-back games since 2010.
– Going against the worst rushing defense in the league – in part there, I am sure, because so many teams have blown the Jags out and have run a lot to grind second-half clock – the Cards should run the ball effectively. They need to run it effectively.
– John Abraham seemed confident he wouldn’t be hampered much by his bad hamstring. He’s playing so well, the Cards have to hope he isn’t.
– There isn’t much to analyze about this game. The Cards have put themselves in good position to be 6-4. Now they just have to play like it.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Bruce Arians, Jaguars, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Pat Tillman
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2014 Pro Bowl balloting is now open! For the first time, the Pro Bowl will be unconferenced. You vote for the best players regardless of conference. Then, the stars will be realigned through a fantasy draft format with Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders serving as alumni captains. Vote now for your favorite Cardinals at AZCardinals.com/probowl
Tags: 2014 Pro Bowl, Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL, Patrick Peterson
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The Cardinals were down 17-14 at halftime Sunday, thanks to the blocked field goal of Justin Bethel on the final play of the second quarter. At that point, linebacker Daryl Washington said, the defense as a unit committed to the idea 17 points was the most it could allow. A lofty goal. But if Rashard Mendenhall doesn’t fumble the ball away late inside the 10 — and if Andre Johnson doesn’t make yet another spectacular toe-tapping touchdown on fourth down for the Texans — the Cardinals’ defense would have pulled it off.
The Texans gained just 41 net yards in the second half and had zero net yards in the third quarter. In the second half, Houston had just three plays of at least 10 yards — two 11-yard passes and an 11-yard run. And in their five wins, the Cardinals — who were down at halftime in four of those games — have allowed just 21 points in the second half. They have 20 turnovers, which is tied for fifth in the league (and it should be higher if Karlos Dansby could hang on to the ball — more on that later today.)
– As of now, Elias is checking out whether John Abraham and not Frostee Rucker should get the late 23-yard sack of Case Keenum. It’s tough to tell on replay if Keenum lost his balance because of Rucker or because he was trying to dive out of the way of Abraham. Even if Abraham “only” ends up with two sacks yesterday, he’s one of only seven players this season with five sacks and three forced fumbles — nice production and exactly what the Cards were hoping for.
– Bethel’s block was the Cards’ 16th blocked field-goal attempt since 2008, by far the best in the NFL. Seattle is second with 10.
– Carson Palmer’s TD pass to Rob Housler was Palmer’s 200th in his career.
– RB Andre Ellington and his 7.19-per-carry rush average remains second in the league behind Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor (7.41) and by far the best running back with at least 50 rushing attempts.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Rashard Mendenhall, Texans
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Patrick Peterson was shaking his head, unable to fathom even after Sunday’s game how Andre Johnson had made his two touchdown catches. Both were against Peterson but neither were Peterson’s fault as much as Johnson – the Texans’ star receiver – making unreal plays to get a second foot down on the edge of the end zone.
“I thought I played pretty well today,” Peterson said. “I held him to 37 yards, I believe. Just those two touchdowns. He’s an all-pro. He gets paid the big bucks.”
Ultimately, that was the story of Sunday in a nutshell. The Texans got some good plays from their stars. J.J. Watt had a couple of impressive forced fumbles too. But in the end, the Cardinals got more from more people. Bruce Arians called it a “team” win – and most coaches do, and there were parts from everyone. It looked a lot like the other wins the Cards have had, with a defensive bent, no question, but the offense did enough.
And, of course, the Cardinals are 5-4 and going to play Jacksonville on the road.
– There was no way to start the game better than the John Abraham strip-sack that Matt Shaughnessy returned for a touchdown. It didn’t lead to a blowout or anything, but it did underscore what a good signing Abraham is turning out to be. He now has five sacks (and he was pretty close to a few before he got his first three games ago) and is exactly as advertised as a pass rusher.
– There will be much talk – again – about Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington. But guess what? Arians wasn’t down on Mendenhall at all afterward, so there are going to be no changes. He said he thought Mendenhall was down before he fumbled, so the fumble isn’t going to be a black mark. He said he thought Ellington’s work was just fine, and that was after 13 touches (although two more passes were thrown incomplete to Ellington.) Mendenhall had 14 touches for the game.
– It was interesting for a coach like Arians, who said in training camp he didn’t like the wildcat, to use Ellington in the wildcat. Arians said after the game he doesn’t like the wildcat with the QB on the field, and Carson Palmer wasn’t. Ellington was QB for three straight plays. Ran it for five. Ran it for seven. Handed off to Patrick Peterson for a four-yard loss.
– Karlos, Karlos, Karlos. You might be headed to your first Pro Bowl if you could hang on to those near interceptions. There were two more today. Feels like Dansby should have six interceptions already instead of just one.
– Arians said he expected Michael Floyd back next week after he sprained his shoulder, but I want to see that first. With Andre Roberts available, the Cards may not want to push it. It’s too bad, because Floyd was off to a good start Sunday.
– Fitz had three catches for 23 yards on six targets, and it really didn’t mean anything. Don’t know if that’s a good sign or bad.
– Palmer, on the two big plays by Watt: “There are a handful of players you’re not going to stop,” Palmer said. “They’re going to make their plays. It’s inevitable.”
– The Cards got three false starts in the first half. That’s what happens when Watt and company are ready to come. “Guys like (Antonio) Smith and Watt can come off the ball and you are primed up and ready to go,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “Carson is trying to hold (the snap) to help us as safeties are rolling down but we’re primed to go and he’s late in his cadence. There was a perfect storm. We probably could have had more than that. I think pretty much every offensive linemen at some point is pretty much just holding on to the grass.”
– Justin Bethel should be in the Pro Bowl. And that field-goal block was a life saver.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Johnson, Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Daryn Colledge, JJ Watt, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Texans
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