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  • Sun., Nov. 30, 2014 2:05 PM MST Cardinals at Falcons Week 13 of the regular season at the Falcons
  • Sun., Dec. 07, 2014 2:05 PM MST Cardinals vs. Chiefs Week 14 of the regular season vs. the Chiefs
  • Thu., Dec. 11, 2014 6:25 PM MST Cardinals at Rams Week 15 of the regular season at the Rams
  • Sun., Dec. 21, 2014 6:30 PM MST Cardinals vs. Seahawks Week 16 of the regular season vs. the Seahawks
  • Sun., Dec. 28, 2014 2:25 PM MST Cardinals at 49ers Week 17 of the regular season at the 49ers

Blogs

Fitzgerald, now “limited,” is a game-day decision again

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2014 – 12:54 pm

Officially, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was able to practice on a limited basis Friday, and coach Bruce Arians said he was “progressing nicely” as he heads into Sunday’s game in Atlanta as a game-day decision. Arians did say Fitzgerald’s lack of practice time does impact the situation, noting that even when Fitz was dealing with the hamstring issue last season he was at least able to practice some. “This is a little bit more severe than that,” Arians said.

If Fitzgerald does play, Arians said, it won’t be just as a decoy or in a partial role. “If he goes, he goes,” Arians said. “That’s the only reason he would play, because he can play.”

- LB Kenny Demens (hamstring) is out for the game. DT Ed Stinson had a setback with the toe and “probably will not play,” Arians said, but it will be TBD.

FitzBlog1


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Fitzgerald remains DNP-wait-and-see

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2014 – 1:53 pm

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t practicing again today because of his knee sprain. He has made some progress, coach Bruce Arians said, and Fitzgerald did jog across the field when he came out this afternoon headed to the bikes and athletic trainers. But a sore knee is a sore knee, and there is artificial turf in Atlanta, and getting him back on the field again could be tough. We’ll see how the week plays out. Fitzgerald is wearing a brace (seen below, talking with assistant strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom, running back Michael Bush (29) and running back Andre Ellington (38).

Linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring) was the only other guy supposed to miss practice today. Defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) was going to try and work on a limited basis.

FitzBraceUSE


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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2014 – 10:17 pm

Drew Stanton said after Sunday’s game the Cardinals knew it would be difficult. I’m not sure it was supposed to be quite that difficult. The game played out as an ugly, smash-em-up affair, and that was OK. The Cards can do that. But the Cards can’t make mistakes while doing that, because those are the things that swing a close game. Whether it was the dropped TD pass or the punt block or just the inability of the offense to do anything of real substance save for the end-of-the-half drive (that closed with the TD drop), the Cardinals didn’t do the basic things. The Seahawks did.

Russell Wilson was special in the second half, escaping a few times when he really didn’t have the right to escape. But the Seahawks won because they patiently waited for the Cards to hand over field position, and simply kicked field goals when they did.

It has not been a particularly good offensive stretch to be sure. No touchdowns over the last seven quarters is not going to win any games, much less divisions or championships. These are the defenses you figure to see in the playoffs, too. It makes the game against the Falcons critical next week, especially for that side of the ball. Bruce Arians has to find something that works. Quickly.

– The Cards handled Marshawn Lynch. They couldn’t handle Wilson. In the second half especially, he made some magical plays. In an offense that really doesn’t have the right to be very effective, Wilson made it enough so on Sunday.

– Not having Larry Fitzgerald didn’t help. He couldn’t run, and the question is, how soon will he be able to run? Is another week off going to be enough? It might not be.

– More importantly, you’d think Michael Floyd would step to the forefront with Fitz down, but he was only targeted a couple of times and his one catch was negated by a penalty.

– Stanton hurt his left ankle late in the game, but he said was fine. He walked off the field without any issue and said he would’ve come back in the game. “It’s not anything major,” Stanton said.

– The Cardinals had eight sacks in the first eight games. After seven Sunday – including a career-best three from defensive end Calais Campbell – the Cards have 17 in their last three games. That thing when coaches are always saying sacks come in bunches? Yeah, that.

– It wasn’t the best special teams day for the Cardinals, but their field-goal block unit got another one thanks to Tommy Kelly (his second of the season) and Justin Bethel was irritated he didn’t get a piece of the first two Seattle field goals when he thought he had near misses.

– Arians gave Jaron Brown a pat on the back after his TD drop. Realistically, Arians said, the Cardinals at halftime were “where we’re at every week, within a score, up a score or down a score. We were right were we wanted to be.”

Then came the punt block, and the Cardinals never could get things right.

– The 204 yards of offense was the lowest total of the Arians era and the lowest amount of yards in a game since the Cards had 196 in a Ryan Lindley-started 38-10 win over the Lions Dec. 16, 2012.

– Newcomer Josh Mauro added some things on the defensive line at end, I thought. And further pushed the inactive-again Alameda Ta’amu down the depth chart.

– It was the best game of linebacker Kevin Minter’s year-plus: Five tackles, a first NFL sack, two tackles for loss.

– It’s about perspective. As someone mentioned on plane home, if someone would have said before the season the Cardinals were going to be 9-2 after the Seattle trip, no one would have turned it down. The Cards need to get it back quickly, though. Atlanta awaits.

Seablog1use


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Fitzgerald out, streak ends at 110

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2014 – 12:28 pm

It’s not a surprise since he didn’t practice all week, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is inactive today against the Seahawks, snapping his consecutive games played streak at 110. It is the first game Fitzgerald has missed since Dec. 2, 2007. Fitzgerald was still limping late in the week and with the depth the Cardinals have at receiver — and the need for him later in the season to be healthy — helped make the decision, I’d think, but the most important reason is that Fitz just wasn’t going to be able to help much if at all in his current state.

The full inactive list:

– WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee)

– DT Ed Stinson (toe)

– RB Kerwynn Williams

– LB Desmond Bishop

– LB Glenn Carson

– DT Alameda Ta’amu

– TE Matthew Mulligan


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Watching Wilson and Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2014 – 3:52 pm

When the Cardinals beat the Seahawks last season, they took a quarterback who at times had looked like an MVP candidate with his efficiency and made him look very, very bad. Russell Wilson’s stats that day: 11-for-27, 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception. More importantly, he had just two rushing attempts (for 32 yards, including one outlier 27-yard scramble).

There aren’t many quarterbacks who throw on the run as well as Wilson. Aaron Rodgers, maybe, but his is a different style. With Wilson there is the constant fear he will take off. And he’s done that a lot this season – already Wilson has rushed for at least 100 yards in three different games – or triple the amount he had in his first two seasons.

The Cardinals would love to make sure Wilson has the same kind of game Sunday as he had against the Cards last year, but “I don’t think there is a blueprint,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “It’s catch ’em if you can.”

The top priority will be to slow Marshawn Lynch, because it always is. The Seahawks, without any real dynamic receivers, don’t have a scary passing game. If there is a way to slow Lynch and not let Wilson go off on broken plays, the Cardinals will have gone a long way toward winning another one in the Pacific Northwest.

– A player to watch in this regard: Rookie Deone Bucannon, the safety who is playing linebacker in in nickel and who has essentially replaced Wilson antidote Daryl Washington this season.

– This game, even if the Cardinals win, does not clinch the NFC West. But it goes a long way in doing so, as long as there isn’t an epic collapse down the stretch. And teams that win in Seattle and are 9-1 before that don’t collapse. A loss, and things could get interesting, especially with another game left to play with the Seahawks. The tough games do not end yet.

– As I mentioned, my gut here on a Friday is that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t play, and as I mentioned, I’ve been wrong on Fitz before. It’s hard not to remember the obvious confidence OC Harold Goodwin showed in the rest of the receiving corps though. They want Fitz to play, of course. But if Jaron Brown and John Brown and Michael Floyd are the top three guys, the Cardinals can live with that. They are better suited to survive a short-term injury at receiver perhaps more than anywhere else.

– The Cards have to find a way to run the ball with some success, and it can’t be all Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall had 21 carries in the Seahawks game in Seattle last year, Ellington 15 as the Cards had the most rushing attempts in a game in more than a decade. Yes, it was Jamaal Charles, but the Chiefs were able to run a lot and well against the Seahawks last week. Ellington plus, Step Taylor? Marion Grice? They just need to give Drew Stanton a chance.

– Stanton needs to be smart, but the Cards can’t be too cautious either. So far, the Cardinals, with Stanton, have moved the ball immediately in all his starts. It speaks to the Arians/Goodwin plans, and how much Stanton understands the offense. They just have to have it carry through the game.

– Great note pointed out to me on Twitter by @DylanCarey11. Stanton will be the sixth different starter at quarterback the Cardinals have used in Seattle the last six trips there:

2014 – Stanton
2013 – Palmer
2012 – John Skelton
2011 – Kevin Kolb
2010 – Max Hall
2009 – Kurt Warner

– As an additional note to that, the Cardinals will have used eight QBs in those six games, because Ryan Lindley played in relief of Skelton in 2012 and Derek Anderson came in for Hall in 2010. Neither time it was injury related. Just bad football.

– If you haven’t seen it, Michael Silver did a great piece on Bruce Arians and his path to Cardinals’ head coach. Some of it goes over familiar territory, but there is some good stuff, like the just-fired Ken Whisenhunt telling Arians good things about the franchise and encouraging Arians to interview for the job.

– There is also this great story by David Fleming covering the family of the donor woman who gave Carson Palmer his original ACL replacement – and the feeling after it gave out against the Rams, sidelining Palmer.

– There is also this story on the rise to GM by Steve Keim. It happens to be my work, so if you haven’t read it, just sayin’ …

– Matt Shaughnessy was back on the field this week for practice for the first time since a knee injury forced him to the IR-designated to return list. He can’t play the next two games, but he will be back for the Dec. 7 game against the Chiefs. Arians wasn’t definitive in how Shaughnessy will fit in the lineup; Shaughnessy’s replacement, Alex Okafor, is playing the best of the outside linebackers. Could it be Shaughnessy and Okafor, with Sam Acho as a reserve? Possible. Arians said he wants to see where Shaughnessy is first; there’s going to be rust that must be knocked off.

– Last year at the end of the Seahawks’ upset, a handful of defensive linemen had a snack of Skittles on the sidelines in the waning moments. Skittles, for the uninitiated, are famously the favorite treat of Lynch. There won’t be any this year, alledgedly.

“Naw,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I got to cut back on calories.”

– Last year, the win in Seattle was the Cards’ 10th win of the season. Can they do that two years in a row?

BeforeSeahawksBlogUSE


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Fitzgerald to be game-day decision

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2014 – 1:32 pm

It was probably inevitable, but Bruce Arians made it official Friday: WR Larry Fitzgerald, who didn’t practice for a third straight day, will be a game-day decision for the Cardinals in Seattle. There is still 48 hours to get Fitz’s knee right (or at least right enough) and the Cards will take it to the last moment to see what they can do with Fitz. On a purely statistical level, Fitz’s 110-consecutive game streak is on the line. The Cards do not fear Fitz not playing; they are confident in what Jaron Brown can do (as well as Ted Ginn and maybe more Smokey Brown) in Fitzgerald’s absence. Maybe it will be smarter to keep Fitz out. Arians said missing practice is not a big deal for a vet like Fitzgerald, so the door is open there.

If I had to guess right now, I’d think Fitzgerald wouldn’t play, but with Fitz, I’ve been burned there before. He’s going to want to get out there even if he can’t do everything. Maybe the Cards will want him out there just so the Seahawks have to think about him. Maybe the next 36 hours does wonders and he’s better than anyone can anticipate. We’ll see.

Arians did rule defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) out. So there’s that.

FitzPrayUSE

 


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Fitzgerald MCL sprain, but still could play

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2014 – 1:27 pm

Bruce Arians is optimistic that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain Sunday on his left knee, will still be able to play Sunday. Fitzgerald hurt the knee near the end of the first half, but he came back in the second half to play and made the game-clinching first-down catch. He still played 56 of a possible 62 offensive snaps. Fitz is the type of guy who doesn’t miss — he’s played through knee injuries before. At the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season, Fitz was dealing with a sprain in his right knee. He hasn’t missed a game since Dec. 2, 2007. That’s 110 straight regular-season games.

The news wasn’t nearly as optimistic for tight end Troy Niklas. He had the same ankle that kept him out a few games earlier this season get rolled up again, and Arians said he’s doubtful for this week and that the team will monitor the injury. There is a possibility he could end up being done for the season. Darren Fells becomes the third tight end behind John Carlson and Rob Housler for now.

FitzMCLuse


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Keim: It’s about being proactive and aggressive

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2014 – 8:09 am

General Manager Steve Keim didn’t have a whole lot of newsy things to say during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, but that’s probably a good thing. He did talk a little bit about giving the contract extension to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — who just happened to have his unit play excellent in the first game since signing.

Keim said Bowles had obviously earned it. But bigger picture, Keim said the mindset he and the new football staff had when being hired was that with every decision “we wanted to be proactive and we wanted to be aggressive, to change the culture.” That means locking up quality assistants. Keim reiterated that it won’t (and can’t) stop Bowles from taking a head coaching job after the season. But, Keim added, in talking with Bowles on the subject, “I know it will take a special opportunity for him to leave us.”

Other quick hits from Keim:

– Asked to pick one player who stood out against the Lions, Keim didn’t hesitate in naming cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson’s play has no doubt jumped over the past three games. Now we get Richard Sherman week!

– Keim raved about the physical nature of safety Deone Bucannon’s play. I know there was one early running play, when the Cards were in nickel and Bucannon just shot the gap to make a tackle for loss. An excellent effort.

– With two more sacks, linebacker Alex Okafor has “brought a pass rush we’re desperately seeking,” Keim said. Keim added Okafor has “probably missed four or five” more sacks the last few games on technique errors that he should clean up.

– The pass protection was excellent, Keim said, and he praised the interior of the offensive line for their play against a stellar defensive front. That was a big deal after the microscope was on the interior for the last week.

– Keim noted Larry Fitzgerald was able to come back and play after his knee was “dinged up” and said overall injury-wise, “on the surface it seemed like we came out OK.”


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Getting defensive with Lions aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2014 – 8:30 pm

It could have been any other game, any other result. Todd Bowles isn’t getting too high, or too low. And the defensive coordinator isn’t going to overreach with his praise either. His unit simply shut down the Lions Sunday, but Bowles will be Bowles.

“I thought they played hard,” Bowles said. “We did good in the process of understanding about not giving up the big play. We missed quite a few tackles, but we played hard and we played together. Biggest thing we did was finish the ballgame. The last two weeks we kind of took the foot off the pedal.”

Forget for a moment the Cardinals closed with a nasty fourth quarter last week (two touchdowns against the Rams), or that the TD allowed late in Dallas was completely meaningless. That’s why Bowles will keep getting the best from his unit. All his players joked this week after Bowles signed his extension that it wasn’t a big deal because they all feel his days are numbered anyway, and it does seem likely he’ll have a shot at a head coaching job if he wants it.

But in the first game A.C. (after Carson), the Cardinals won they way they have won all season. They did enough on offense, and the defense was stout. And lookee here: They have a three-game lead in the NFC West with six to play.

– Drew Stanton, for the first two-and-most-of-a-third possessions, made the Cards’ offense look excellent. The Cards were moving toward a third TD in a row until Stanton threw his first interception (Stanton said he never saw the linebacker.) How about the offensive line making sure Stanton wasn’t sacked, especially against that defense? I do think this offense will be OK with Stanton. I want to see how they run next week in Seattle – the Chiefs made the Seahawks’ run D look very ordinary Sunday.

– It was the play of the game but it wasn’t. Drew Butler’s punt was about to be downed at the Detroit 1-yard line, but Justin Bethel tossed the ball back as he was falling into the end zone. Mike Leach and Rob Housler couldn’t grab it, but the Lions’ Jeremy Ross did. It’s one of those quirky NFL rules – once a punting team touches the ball, if it is not downed, the receiving team can pick it up and return it with no fear of turning it over. Once it is touched, even if it is subsequently fumbled, the receiving team keeps it. So Ross had nothing to lose and he took it back to the Arizona 46.

Detroit was only down eight at the time. Smartly, Bruce Arians challenged, saying Bethel had possession before he tossed it back and it should’ve been whistled dead. Lo and behold, the play was overturned. A huge moment.

“I was like, ‘No, I was in the end zone! This is a touchback!’ ” Bethel said. “Then I said, ‘Darn, my good feet.’ … It turned in our favor. We got the call.”

– Larry Fitzgerald will get an MRI after hurting his left knee but he returned to the game to make the game-clinching first-down catch and he was walking around in the locker room pretty well after the game.

– Andre Ellington also got up slowly a couple of times after carries, but he said he was fine. “It’s one of those things, guys fall on me,” Ellington said. “They try and find ways to slow me down. It was one of those late falldowns on the pile.”

– Welcome back, Michael Floyd.

– Four more sacks for the Cardinals after six last week. Alex Okafor had two and looks more and more like a guy who can help off the edge long-term. I think he’s played well and it will be interesting to see what the Cards do with the lineup when Matt Shaughnessy – who can return to practice this week – can play again in three weeks.

– You can live with interceptions from Stanton but watching him make the tackles on both is kind of scary.

– That last Drew Butler end-over-end punt that pinned the Lions on their own 11? He almost dropped the snap. Yeah, that would’ve been a mess. “I looked up and it slipped out of my hands,” Butler said. “I just let it out. In those situations, you just want to put them inside the 20.”

– Big one in Seattle next week. The Cardinals win, they would all but eliminate the Seahawks. Never thought I’d be saying that in November.

FooteForBLOG


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Friday before the Lions, Stanton leads the way

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2014 – 4:25 pm

Fitting, perhaps, that the first game of the defining portion of Drew Stanton’s career will be against the team he grew up watching and then playing for. Stanton moved to Michigan while in high school and later played at Michigan State, and then the Detroit Lions drafted him.

It never quite worked out with the Lions, and then Matthew Stafford showed up. He went to the Jets – briefly – until Tim Tebow showed up. He went to the Colts, and at least Andrew Luck was already on his way, and at least he met Bruce Arians. But then he came to the Cardinals, and while Arians warned him the Cards were likely going to bring in another veteran quarterback, none of the names Arians told Stanton at the time were Carson Palmer. So Palmer arrived, and Arians admitted Stanton was “pissed.”

Stanton is a pro, though. He’s been the model of a great backup, right down to his fill-in stint earlier this season when he won a pair of games. It’s Stanton’s team now. Not Stafford’s, or Luck’s, or Palmer’s. This is his chance. The Cardinals don’t have to win Sunday to make it to where they want to go, but it sure would help to take another one at home, especially in the first game without Palmer.

– Larry Fitzgerald has been a huge part of the offense of late. Michael Floyd has not. It’ll be interesting to see how the passing game unfolds. Don’t forget, Stanton’s last start – against a pretty good Denver pass rush – featured Stanton completing just 11 of 26 passes, so no one was really getting the ball. That, obviously, needs to change. (Although, as it has been pointed out to me, there were a bunch of drops that game too.)

– It’ll be very interesting to see how the interior of the Cards’ offensive line handles Ndamukong Suh after the tough game that group had last week against the Rams. The coaches have had their collective back all week, confident Paul Fanaika, Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen will bounce back.

– Fanaika was fined $8,268 for hitting a Rams player after the play during last week’s game, a penalty that cost the Cards 15 valuable yards. Speaking of 15 valuable yards, the illegal blindside block of tight end Lance Kendricks on Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson – the one that turned a Jared Cook 25-yard catch deep into Arizona territory into just 10 yards, eventually costing the Rams a scoring chance – cost Kendricks a whopping $22,050.

- The Cardinals should benefit from the return of running back Stepfan Taylor this week. Taylor isn’t going to come in and run for 100 yards, but he can handle some pass protection and give the Cards some flexibility in what they’re doing with Andre Ellington. Marion Grice seemed to struggle last week in both route-running and pass protection.

– Don’t forget to bring some canned food to the food drive being held prior to Sunday’s game.

– Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams, inducted into Canton in August, will receive his Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony.

– This is how to win games: No team in the league has been more proficient in scoring defensive touchdowns since the beginning of the 2008 season as the Cardinals have been. The Cardinals have eight defensive touchdowns in that span (six via interceptions, two via fumbles), tying them with the Kansas City Chiefs.

– If you are looking for some podcasting goodness and some perspective on Palmer’s absence, check out Cardinals Underground.

– Speaking of Palmer, his wired segment featuring last week’s game/press conference will air Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on ABC-15 (and will be posted to azcardinals.com sometime after that.)

– It’s not often that the defensive coordinators get a lot of ink before a game, even for teams with good defenses like the Cards and Lions. But Todd Bowles had his stellar year interrupted by the news of his new contract, and Lions DC Teryl Austin – who was on Whiz’s coaching staff for three years – gets to come home.

– Both these teams have been special in the fourth quarter. You know what the Cardinals have done. The Lions have won the last three games on scores inside the final two minutes (or overtime.)

“If the game is close, there is an honest-to-God belief we will win that ballgame somehow, some way,” Arians said, and it’s difficult to argue that.

– The Cards aren’t a favorite of many anymore, now that Palmer is out (and they weren’t necessarily before Palmer got hurt either). Arians doesn’t care. “No one outside of that locker room matters,” Arians said. “It’s us against the world and we love that part of it.”

Drew, you’re up.

DrewStantonBloguse


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