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#ThrowbackThursday – Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant in 2013

Posted by since1898 on October 30, 2014 – 10:49 am

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Congrats Larry Fitzgerald, NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Posted by since1898 on October 29, 2014 – 10:01 am

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What made Larry Fitzgerald sad on Sunday?

Posted by since1898 on October 27, 2014 – 11:11 am

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In the last-second, Eagles aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2014 – 8:31 pm

As the clock wound down and Nick Foles was trying to get the Eagles in for a touchdown and the Cardinals were trying to hang on to the lead and the University of Phoenix Stadium crowd was deafening, it was hard not to have a flashback standing on the sideline.

No, Sunday’s game in no way matches the Cards’ NFC championship win. But it was a big win, and it certainly caused a few heart palpitations of its own, given multiple throws into the end zone that ended up very close to game-winning scores. The heady play of Rashad Johnson to shove Jordan Matthews out on the final throw – Nate Poole would like to remind everyone the force-out rule was abandoned long ago – capped a win that frankly, seemed improbable the way it played out.

But the Cardinals weren’t getting too giddy after beating the Eagles. Which is a big reason they’ve gotten to 6-1 in the first place. Sure, they get a Victory Monday, but the focus won’t wane.

“You know what our reward for today’s win is?” Larry Fitzgerald said. “A road trip to Dallas to play against the NFC East-leading team.”

Still, you have to wonder, as the Cowboys prepare to play the Redskins Monday night, if those players noticed that they have to play the NFC West leaders next week. The Cardinals have holes, yes. And they seem to overcome them every single time.

– The defense will not get enough credit for Sunday. They gave up a ton of yards (521). Foles threw for a ton of yards (411 – yeah, that pass defense ranking isn’t helped). But yet again, the scoreboard read only 20 points allowed. They twice forced turnovers as the Eagles smelled their goal line and another time held them out of the end zone to force a field goal – a stand that proved to be the difference in the game.

– They did all of that without Patrick Peterson. That scene, where Peterson was face-down on the turf after the helmet-to-helmet-to-helmet collision he had with Jeremy Maclin via the Deone Bucannon hit, was frightening. Peterson tweeted he was OK after the game, and Bucannon said Peterson was OK – OK in the grand scheme of things – but a scary moment. It’ll be interesting to see if he can be ready for the Cowboys.

– Peterson goes out, and that’s when you are very happy to have an Antonio Cromartie. And a quickly-getting-better Tyrann Mathieu.

– I counted eight deep shots (including the 30-yard pass to Fitz and a 25-yarder to Smokey Brown) Sunday. Palmer connected on three, including Brown’s 75-yarder at the end. There was a flea-flicker to Michael Floyd in the first half that was out of Floyd’s reach, otherwise it too might’ve been a TD. It’s a reason why Palmer completed only 20 of 42 passes.

– But 20 of 42 can be overcome when you generate 329 yards. And when you take no sacks and throw no interceptions. Another amazing day taking care of the things that hurt an offense bad.

– Oh, and to think Palmer had a nerve problem that wasn’t even letting him throw much at all three weeks ago. Could he have made the throw to Smokey Brown two weeks ago, Palmer was asked? “I’ll say yeah,” Palmer deadpanned. “Because you can’t prove me wrong.”

– The Cardinals need better pressure on the quarterback, but Arians felt moving the QB “off his spot” meant something. Unfortunately, Foles is pretty good “off his spot” – like on his 50-yard bomb on the run to Riley Cooper – but they did what they could.

“We’d like to sack him, but if he’s off the spot …. He hurt us off the spot, and we lost containment once or twice, but just to get him off the spot and disrupt the play,” Arians said.

– The Cardinals live and die with the blitz. So do the Eagles. That’s what cost them on the Brown TD.

– Interesting Andre Ellington was the only Cardinal with a rushing attempt in the game. Although 23 carries for 71 yards won’t be the production the Cardinals want or need.

– This one was memorable, for sure.

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Friday before the Eagles – this time, with Andre

Posted by Darren Urban on October 24, 2014 – 3:47 pm

The last time the Cardinals played the Eagles, the game was in Philly a few days after Thanksgiving. And Andre Ellington was not part of it.

A lot has been said about the Cardinals’ near loss to the Eagles last year, about the penalty flags the Cards questioned and the big early deficit and the inability to stop the tight ends. Often lost in the conversation is that Ellington didn’t play. That was right when Ellington was emerging as a key piece of the offense; it was two weeks later when Ellington had what Bruce Arians felt was his best game, in Tennessee.

Ellington missed the Philly game after slipping on the grass during the Cardinals’ Thanksgiving practice. He later said that, at the time, he thought he had torn his ACL. That would have certainly changed the course of the Cards’ recent history. Instead, Ellington is coming off his heaviest workload ever, with 30 touches.

The Cardinals survived losing Carson Palmer for a few games. They would survive a wide receiver missing a couple of games, or one of the linemen. Losing Ellington, though? You’d try not to think about it. Last week, Bruce Arians said he thought Ellington wasn’t going to play the second half with a rib injury. I asked Ellington about it, and he acknowledged he knows how much he is needed on the field.

“There’s a little bit of pressure, I have to admit,” Ellington said. “There is a side of me that wants to be out there for every snap. But at the end of the day, that’s why we have depth on the team. When the starters can’t go, we have guys who can step in.”

– I will be fascinated to see how Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, no-huddle offense operates in an enclosed stadium that tends to get LOUD (underratedly so.) In case you hadn’t heard, there is no NFL home – not Seattle, not New Orleans, not Kansas City – that has generated as many false starts by the opposition since 2006 than the 119 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Getting Calais Campbell would be a massive addition to the defense. That goes without saying. But seeing that Carson Palmer was no longer even listed on the injury report this week also meant something. Palmer getting back to lifting weights with his upper body will help his strength, and while it came from a different direction than last year, it certainly seems the Cardinals are set up for a second-half improvement in the passing game. Again, not ideal. But as long as Palmer is healthy, the arrow should go up.

– On the other hand, the Eagles haven’t gotten the same play from QB Nick Foles they did a year ago. He does have 10 TD passes but he’s completing less than 60 percent of his passes and has thrown seven interceptions (five more than last year already.) First job Sunday is to slow LeSean McCoy. After that, maybe the Cards can force Foles into some bad choices.

– The inactive lists will be crucial Sunday. Campbell is questionable, even if I think he’ll play. For the Eagles, they had three guys I didn’t think would be able to go who suddenly practiced “full” Friday. So maybe they will. Center Jason Kelce, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and running back Darren Sproles, if they can go, change the dynamics of the game.

– B.A. keeps talking about how his team hasn’t accomplished anything yet, and linebacker Larry Foote noted there are still 10 games to go in the season. But the team is 5-1 and feeling pretty good. So, Foote was asked, how do you get the message across?

“It’s impossible for young guys to understand it,” Foote said. “You have to say it and then you have to go out there and show them. Just your effort and the way you carry yourself in practice, they can feel the environment, see how older guys are playing, how serious they are with communication and in meeting rooms.”

Certainly, the Cardinals don’t want this to get away from them. With a two-game edge in the loss column, that’s nice to have in the bank. The Cards aren’t going 15-1. But it wouldn’t be bad to emerge from these next two games with at least a 6-2 record. Might as well get the one at home.

– Larry Fitzgerald was full of great quotes this week – talking about his “champagne problems” – and he had a thoughtful answer of what was more important for a successful team: talent, or confidence?

“I think it’s a healthy combination of both,” Fitzgerald said. “You have to have the confidence in yourself that you can go out and make the play, the guy next to you can make the play, and having that trust level in your teammates. That’s huge. It’s exemplified in our defense. Everyone saw the injuries and suspensions and people wrote us off, ‘There’s no way they can play at the same level’ and all they have done is the same thing.”

It’s a great point. The Cards need talent, and I think it only underscores the job GM Steve Keim has done with the depth that the Cards have been able to deal with their injured personnel. But the confidence means something. It oozes from the head coach, and it permeates the locker room. The Cards are 5-1 in part because they believe they should be, everything else be damned.

See you Sunday.

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Passes for everyone because no INTs allowed

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2014 – 5:22 pm

Bruce Arians was blunt. He isn’t concerned about getting the ball to any particular receiver, nor is he concerned that any receiver would be looking for that out of Arians’ offense.

“Just come see me,” Arians said. “I’ll tell you your role.”

To be clear, no wideout has made a peep about receptions or targets. Arians said that, and so did quarterback Carson Palmer, who added that if the Cardinals were throwing a bunch of incompletions, it could be an issue. But that’s not the case.

“As long as that ball’s in somebody’s hands and the chains are moving, our guys are happy and they’re blocking for each other and being used as a decoy for each other to get each other open,” Palmer said. “They’ve been very unselfish.”

The Cardinals’ leading receiver in terms of catches after six games is not Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd. It’s running back Andre Ellington, who now has 25 receptions. Fitzgerald is next with 23, Floyd with 19. Floyd has been the one with big plays — he has 353 yards — but Fitzgerald has just 283 yards and no one is on pace to get 1,000 yards at this point. Fitzgerald in particular is far behind the totals to which he once was accustomed.

(Fitz, by the way, has never complained once publicly. I can’t believe he doesn’t want the ball more, but he knows the Cardinals are winning.)

But Palmer has been all about spreading the ball around. He threw completions to nine different players in Oakland. Both Arians and Palmer acknowledged that on Sunday’s TD pass to Floyd, Palmer could have hit John Brown or Fitz (although Fitz would have been well short of the first down.) Instead, Palmer decided to take the deep shot. On another play, Palmer had Fitz open in the end zone, but a low shotgun snap threw off the timing and Palmer instead dumped it over the blitz to running back Stepfan Taylor for the score.

Palmer, as he’s said many times, reiterated he wants to get the ball to Fitzgerald more often and knows Fitz needs his touches. But he doesn’t want to force it and he definitely doesn’t want to pass up another open receiver to do so.

“In this system, you’ve got running backs who can catch it and go the distance, you have receivers that can do that, tight ends that can do that, so there are a lot of guys you have to cover,” Palmer said.

Arians said the passing game is all very simple: “You have to check your ego at the door. It’s about eliminating interceptions and taking what defenses give you. When you have the number of tools we have, we put five guys out there who are more than capable of breaking a game open, don’t force feed anybody.”

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Fitz laughs off paying-for-Pro Bowl TD story

Posted by Darren Urban on October 18, 2014 – 11:17 am

Back in the 2012 Pro Bowl, Larry Fitzgerald — at the height of there-is-no-Pro-Bowl-defense-being-played — had three touchdown catches. The last was a 36-yarder in which Fitz easily beat Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown had somehow talked his way into playing cornerback in a game the AFC was dominating at the time. You can see the TD at about the 49-second mark of this video here.

In itself, a forgettable play in a meaningless Pro Bowl. But then this week, former NFL coach Wade Phillips was doing a radio interview in Houston. With the Steelers playing the Texans this week, Brown became a topic of conversation with Phillips. And Phillips happened to be one of the coaches for Brown in that 2012 Pro Bowl. Phillips noted Brown wasn’t a very good defensive back.

“The first pass, he breaks it up, you know, makes a great play,” Phillips told SportsRadio 610. I said, ‘Wow this guy is a pretty good corner.’ The next play the guy torches him for about 40 yards. He just stands there and watches the guy catch the ball for a 40-yard touchdown. He comes off the field and I said, ‘Antonio what are you doing?’ He said, ‘Coach, he gave me five hundred dollars if I let him catch one.’ ”

Phillips never mentions any names, but it isn’t hard to figure out Fitzgerald was the receiver on the play. Now, I find it hard to think Fitz would pay $500 to catch a Pro Bowl TD, because for all the millions he has made, Fitz and his cash do not part easily. But I asked Fitz. He had not heard that story was going around. And he laughed at the idea, saying it wasn’t true.

“It’d cost a lot more than $500 for a touchdown,” Fitzgerald said, chuckling.

Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown


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Extending Palmer and the 2015 offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 10:21 am

It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.

The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.

The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?

But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.)  That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.

If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.

Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.

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Larry Fitzgerald hosts football camp on Luke Air Force Base

Posted by since1898 on October 14, 2014 – 11:40 am

 

 

 

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Caption This – Larry Fitzgerald and Bruce Arians

Posted by since1898 on October 13, 2014 – 12:41 pm

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