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Fitzgerald: McCown cost me No. 1 overall spot

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2015 – 2:36 pm

Larry Fitzgerald held a grudge, at least for a little while, against Josh McCown.

“I got mad at him, him and Nate Poole, because I might’ve gone number one overall that year if you guys don’t beat my Vikings,” Fitzgerald said Thursday, with the Cardinals set to face the McCown-led Browns Sunday.

The faux anger had truth to it. Then-Cardinals coach Dennis Green loved Fitzgerald and there was a chance he would have been the Cards’ pick regardless of where they picked. (The McCown-to-Poole Hail Mary moved the Cards from No. 1 to No. 3 in the first round, where they took Fitz.) Plus, Fitzgerald was upset that his hometown team was knocked out of the playoffs.

“I was a ballboy,” Fitzgerald said. “I was going to be able to go to the game.”

(Yeah, probably not. Fitz was indeed a ballboy for the Vikings for a few years, but I feel confident in saying he no longer had any ballboy duties — playoffs or no — after his Heisman-finalist 2003 season at the University of Pittsburgh.)

Fitzgerald and McCown became teammates anyway. There was something to talk about when Fitz got to Arizona, for sure. McCown threw the pass that was Fitz’s first NFL reception (a 37-yard flea-flicker in St. Louis.) The two became friends, playing hoops together long after McCown left the Cardinals. Fitzgerald raved about McCown’s ability to dunk and do 36os in charity hoops games.

“This was six years ago,” Fitzgerald said with a smile. “I don’t know what he’s capable of doing now.”

McCown is 36, but Fitzgerald said he wasn’t surprised his old friend has stuck around the NFL. “All he ever needed was someone to believe in him.”



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Chunk plays for every pass catcher

Posted by Darren Urban on October 20, 2015 – 11:26 am

So looking over some statistics this morning while mining for information, I started looking at the receiving numbers for the Cardinals through six games. It’s amazing that both Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown are now on pace for more than 1,300 yards each. But that wasn’t the main thing that caught my eye.

Again, we’ve only played six games and this likely will change. But the Cardinals have had 10 players catch passes so far this season — and every single one of them is averaging at least 10 yards per reception (actually, at least 10.2, technically.) That’s crazy. There is no running back with a couple of dump-offs and that’s all. All the tight ends are gaining double-digits. For all the talk about Fitzgerald in the slot, not only is he putting up catches but he’s averaging 13.6 yards a catch, which is on par for the averages he used to have in his routes-outside-the-numbers days.

Here’s the full list:

  • Larry Fitzgerald 43-583-13.6
  • John Brown 33-497-15.1
  • Michael Floyd 13-154-11.8
  • David Johnson 10-145-14.5
  • Darren Fells 9-146-16.2
  • Chris Johnson 5-56-11.2
  • Jermaine Gresham 5-51-10.2
  • Jaron Brown 4-48-12.0
  • Andre Ellington 3-54-18.0
  • Troy Niklas 1-13-13.0

It says something about the yards the Cardinals have been able to generate through the air. It should’ve been more too, after some misses Sunday. (I finally watched a couple of replays; I can see why Bruce Arians was upset after an offensive pass interference flag thrown on Floyd negated a 14-yard TD pass. And the play before John Brown was wide-open for a 14-yard TD pass and Carson Palmer just missed him.)


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Steelers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 18, 2015 – 7:51 pm

It was tough not to get the feeling that, after a half in which it looked like the Cardinals would take control of their game against the Steelers but never did, the Cards missed their chance. That’s how it played out of course, with the hamstring injury of Mike Vick turning out to be the best thing to happen to the Steelers. Landry Jones looked OK, but the fact he was able to give Pittsburgh a semblance of a passing game made all the difference.

What it means now is that the Cardinals will again draw skeptics that they have lost to the only two decent teams on the schedule so far. That feeling probably won’t change in the next two weeks, with a Monday night game against the Ravens at home and then a trip to the feisty Browns. There was, not surprisingly, confidence in the locker room this will get fixed over the next week. It was, like the game itself, a lot like what happened after the Rams loss.

The Seahawks lost, at home to the Panthers, so the two-game division lead remains intact. The Cardinals play like they are capable, they win Sunday. But the math is simple in the NFL – everything else considered, when you’re minus-3 in turnovers, you’re almost always going to lose. If the Cards finish that next-to-last drive and Carson Palmer doesn’t throw a pick, well, again, we were saying the same thing after the near-game-saving drive against the Rams – you’re talking about a win regardless of the warts.

— It was a little surprising the Cardinals didn’t run it more. They gained only 55 yards on 20 carries, and the Steelers were stout on the day. But Andre Ellington only got one carry for seven yards, early, and then didn’t carry it again.

— Dwight Freeney got his first playing time as a pass rusher. I didn’t watch him a ton, but it seemed like he had a couple of pressures. That’ll be something to watch on the replay.

— The penalties just killed the Cardinals Sunday. Whether it was Michael Floyd’s offensive pass interference to negate a TD or Kevin Minter’s post-play push or the chop block, they didn’t help. There were definitely some questionable calls – the Markus Golden helmet-to-helmet hit wasn’t, as replays proved. But officials are calling that in real time and will always err on the side of caution.

Bruce Arians was blunt about how to fix the mistakes and penalties.

“Stop doing it,” Arians said. “Drag your foot closer and make a touchdown. Don’t give up an 80-yard touchdown.”

— He was talking about the Floyd-TD-that-wasn’t – a huge turn, and Floyd was a toe away from being in, it looked like – and then the final TD catch-and-run by Martavis Bryant. That may have been just as painful as the Palmer pick. A three-and-out there, and the Cards get the ball with about 1:50 left and one timeout. Instead, the game was over.

— So in the Cards’ two losses, they are 2-for-9 in the red zone. In their four wins, they are 16 for 17. The latter is an unrealistic pace to keep up, but still, it makes all the sense in the world to Larry Fitzgerald.

“Our issues on offense are pretty simple to me,” he said. “We are getting down there, we have a ton of offensive red zone snaps. We just have to execute them better. Point blank, that is where it stops. If we are scoring touchdowns and we put 30 points on the board we walk out of here with a win.”

This is true.

— Fitz did do one somewhat strange move late in the first half, during a timeout. He went over to the Steelers sideline to say hi to offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who used to be the Cardinals’ OC back in 2007 and 2008. He promptly dove at Haley’s legs and tackled him – relatively gently – to the ground. Fitz used to do it all the time to Haley at practice (he’s done it to many people over the years, including me), although I will admit to see it during a game was different.

— Safe to say Floyd is back in the mix. One touchdown, and he was targeted for three others, although in one way or another they weren’t completions.

— It’s been a long week. Time to get home.


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After Greenbrier, Friday before the Steelers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2015 – 2:00 pm

When the game was over in Detroit last Sunday, cornerback Jerraud Powers had taken part in, officially, 104 plays against the Lions. Ten on special teams, and 94 of the 95 snaps the Cardinals’ defense was on the field. He didn’t know the exact number but “I felt it. I feel it.”

“I knew we played a lot,” Powers said. “But when I saw the stat they threw 70 times, and I was like, ‘OK, I’m supposed to feel this way.’ In the secondary, we only have a limited number of guys. We’re each other’s subs, so you can’t really take us all out. It’s one of those things we just accept it. We don’t have much room to complain.”

It made this week in West Virginia even more important in prep for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Seven defenders played at least 72 snaps, four played at least 92.

“Coach did a good job of taking care of us earlier this week,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “We’re going to be fine.”

If there was a tangible reason for staying out at The Greenbrier instead of flying back to Arizona, the snap-happy secondary was it. No one could’ve predicted it when the plans were made, but that’s why you do this kind of thing – to have shorter flights (a little over an hour from Detroit to West Virginia, a little over a half-hour from here to Pittsburgh) so players don’t get dehydrated and swell, which happens on flights. Their bodies have been taken care of.

It doesn’t hurt the weather has been spectacular this week too, in complete contrast to the rainy swamps the Cards had to practice in in Florida in 2013.

It was still a tough week to rally from, but the Cardinals insist they are ready for the Steelers.

“Makes you want to go upstairs and be like, ‘Y’all should pay us more if we’re all going to play this much,’ ” Powers said with a grin. “But it’s something we all accept. We know what it is.”

— Mike Vick will be playing quarterback for the Steelers Sunday. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Cardinals will put their defensive focus on running back Le’Veon Bell – arguably the best back in the league these days. Bell’s ability to wait for the right time to hit a hole – and then shoot through it – is unparalleled.

“You have Bell, who is the most patient runner we have seen as a defense,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “He creates holes himself by how patient he is and how he jumps out and jumps back in to get guys out of their gap.”

— Larry Fitzgerald is one of the few guys who has been on all three of the Cardinals’ week-long, practice-away-from-home excursions. His power rankings: 1. Greenbrier. (now). 2. Bradenton, Fla. (2013). 3. Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (2008). Of course, Fitz noted that the Cards were 0-2 on the ends of the Virginia trip, and 1-1 on the ends of the Florida trip.

“Hopefully we can get to 2-0 on this trip,” Fitz said. “That’d be nice.”

Of course, the 2008 season ended not too bad, with a trip to the Super Bowl. Not that this will end that way, but you never know.

— Bruce Arians ended the week the way he began – downplaying his return to play the Steelers for the first time in a game that counts since he was let go by the organization. “It’s all about the players on the field,” he said Friday.

Still, he hasn’t convinced his own players he doesn’t want to, in the words of Steelers wideout Antonio Brown, “put on a show.” That’s another piece of motivation for this team this week.

— Todd Haley is the former Cardinals offensive coordinator who is now the Steelers offensive coordinator. James Harrison is the long-time Steelers linebacker who nearly became a Cardinal last August (he visited Tempe even) before declining and going back to Pittsburgh.

So, if you can handle it … there is this.

— Arians, who loves golf, spent Thursday evening talking with golfing greats Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player. All were here to talk Friday about a new golf course being built at The Greenbrier. Trevino is The Greenbrier’s club pro.

“It was on the bucket list for me to have a cocktail with Arnold Palmer,” Arians said, grinning about being able to talk about the sport with such luminaries.

Did he think about ordering an Arnold Palmer, he was asked? “Not without anything in it,” Arians said.

— The Cardinals are happy guard Mike Iupati will be healthy enough to play after his back tightened up Thursday. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin also said Iupati is getting better because he lost some weight. You figure Iupati was going to gain some because of his knee surgery and his limited work while he rehabbed. But also …

“Earlier in training camp I was harping on him,” Goodwin said. “He had Oreos hidden in his bag. We took his Oreos, whipped him into shape. Buddy (Morris, the strength coach) has done a good job with him. Lost a ton of weight.”

— Dwight Freeney will play Sunday. We’ll see what kind of impact he can make, but it was interesting to hear Arians when he was asked about Freeney and what the Cardinals got out of another veteran pass rusher, John Abraham.

“It’s very comparable,” Arians said.

If Freeney can come anywhere close to the 11½ sacks Abraham had that year – granted, Freeney already has missed five games – it’d be a big deal. If Freeney can be a five-sack man, I think it turns into a great pickup.

— Time to wrap this up from West Virginia. Almost time to fly to Pittsburgh. The Steelers await.



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A stretch relatively rare for Fitzgerald

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2015 – 12:42 pm

It took a little while for Larry Fitzgerald to be targeted against the Rams last week, but it eventually happened, and by the end of the game, Fitz’s numbers looked good once again — seven catches for 99 yards. It wasn’t a great game, not after a drop of a quick pass and his fumble (which, after watching on replay, I’m not sure you do much besides tip your cap to Rams safety Rodney McLeod for a great play to force it loose.)

Fitzgerald now has 432 yards on 30 catches this season. It’s been a good stretch. And looking back on Fitz’s career, it’s been among the best stretches of his illustrious career.

In his 12-plus NFL seasons, Fitzgerald has averaged 100 yards over a four-game stretch only a handful of times. His best stretch ever came when it counted — the four-game postseason run in 2008, when he totaled an astonishing 546 yards on 30 catches against Atlanta, Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (and he also finished the regular season with 100-yard games against New England (away) and Seattle).

The rest of the list:

468 yards in 2011: Weeks 14-17, versus the 49ers, Browns, at Bengals and Seahawks.
450 yards in 2007: The numbers fit in a couple of four-game stretches on either end, but his best was Weeks 4-7, versus Steelers, at Rams, Panthers and at Redskins.
436 yards in 2008 (prior to the end of the season noted above.): Weeks 2-5, versus Dolphins, at Redskins, at Jets, Bills.
415 yards in 2005: Weeks 10-13, at Lions, at Rams, Jaguars and at 49ers.

It’s not a very long list. The point is Fitzgerald really has found a groove, a groove he hasn’t been in too many times before.


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A quarter in, PFF gives props to top Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2015 – 12:56 pm

Four games into the season simply means there are 12 games left and an eternity for an NFL season — and a single team’s season — to roller-coaster to various places. But four games usually gives you an idea of how a player’s season is headed, and the fast start by the Cards (their loss to the Rams notwithstanding) gathered the attention of the folks at profootballfocus.com.

PFF decided to make a quarter-season all-pro team, and the Cardinals have four representatives, one of which — in a slight upset, given the competition — is quarterback Carson Palmer.

The other four are Larry Fitzgerald as the slot receiver, Tyrann Mathieu as the slot cornerback, and Justin Bethel as the special teamer.

Palmer beats out Tom Brady (who has only played three games because of the bye), and Aaron Rodgers, and the PFF guys note that Ben Roethlisberger’s injury probably cost him the spot. But Palmer has been great, save for a couple of errant throws Sunday. His passer rating is 106.4, he has completed better than 63 percent of his passes, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns compared to only three interceptions and he’s on pace to throw for more than 4,600 yards.

Mathieu has a couple of picks, and he’s been all over the field. Plus he tweets stuff like this, which lets you know he wants a little more:

Fitzgerald has 30 catches for 432 yards and five touchdowns already. He’s on pace to make 120 receptions, which would crush his career-high (I don’t expect this pace to continue on receptions as defenses wake up to Fitz’s play, but he’s going to have a big year barring injury.)

Bethel hasn’t played as much as he had hoped defensively, but he remains the “gold standard” for special teams play, PFF writes.


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Confidently, Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on October 2, 2015 – 4:23 pm

Carson Palmer was asked why the Cardinals are so confident right now.

“We are confident because we are good,” the quarterback said. “And we know it.”

It was a matter-of-fact statement. Palmer followed up by saying he didn’t think it was being cocky, or a false confidence. In this case, the Cardinals are simply a good football team. They’ve been building to this point for a couple of years, GM Steve Keim has filled in some of the weak spots, and this is the year to really push.

The Cards are only three games in, but they know that. They are playing the best defense they’ve seen to date on Sunday when the Rams visit, but they know that and are prepared. After Sunday, they have six of their next eight games on the road, so a 4-0 start would be, while not necessary, at least important. They know that too.

— If one of the big storylines for Sunday is how the Cardinals protect Palmer, it doesn’t sound like max protection – keeping everyone in to block save for a couple of receivers down the field – is a legit option.

“It’s not a lot of who we are,” Palmer said. “We get into big personnel groups to run the ball, not to try and fake you out and take shots with one or two receivers. We will take shots with five receivers in the game.”

— This is one of those games that feels like, as long as the Cardinals don’t hurt themselves with bad turnovers or bad blocking, they will be fine. Even last year, when the Rams had a great defense and Palmer was knocked from the game, the Cardinals still won because of defensive pressure and timely offense. Since Bruce Arians arrived, it’s hard to beat the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Mike Iupati is back. He’ll start Sunday, and Arians finally has the offensive line – although it’s funny, it wasn’t the original projected line. Remember, by the time Iupati signed, center Lyle Sendlein had been released. Still, it’ll be good to get the team’s premier free agent on the field, in a game you know the Cards want to run.

— The Cardinals’ five- and six-defensive back packages would seem to come in handy against an offense that struggles to run the ball yet whose passing game seems to rely more of short passes and runs.

— Through three games: Larry Fitzgerald, five touchdowns. St. Louis Rams offense, four touchdowns.

— This is the best three-game start of Fitzgerald’s distinguished career, by the way: 23 catches, 333 yards and those five scores. In all three categories.

— Left tackle Jared Veldheer committed three early penalties last week, including a hold that wiped out a 44-yard bomb to Michael Floyd.

“We can’t have penalties, especially Jared, that’s unlike him,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin admitted. “It’s just refreshing as a coach to be able to yell at him because other times you don’t get opportunities.”

— Anyone worried about punter Drew Butler? (That’s rhetorical, because I hear from plenty of you.) Guess who isn’t: Arians.

“He’s been kicking well,” Arians said. “Had the one bad kick but he’s been doing a good job kicking inside the 20, which is what we want him to do.”

— The lack of Rams’ offense would seem to bode well for the Cards in this regard: Under Arians, the Cardinals are 20-2 when the opponent scores 20 or fewer points.

— Although the Cardinals don’t officially announce sellouts anymore (no need, since the NFL no longer blacks out games locally), this will be 97-for-97 in terms of sellouts of Cardinals games at University of Phoenix Stadium.

— This will be a great test for the Cards’ huge red-zone start. So far, the Cards are 11-for-12 in the red zone, and the only “miss” was a field goal at the end of the first half last week in which the Cards had a first down at the San Francisco 4-yard line.

— The Cardinals will wear their black jerseys Sunday. And it’s their Breast Cancer Awareness game too, so black-and-white with pink accents. In case you need to color coordinate.

See you Sunday.


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Keim: Scouting success and fine wine

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2015 – 8:09 am

The Cardinals are 3-0, and without any significant injuries coming out of the dominant win over the 49ers (go ahead, you can knock on wood) the appearance of General Manager Steve Keim on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning was less about news and more about GM analysis. And, it is noted, also a shout-out from Keim to his scouting department, from vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough to director of college scouting Dru Grigson to director of pro scouting Quentin Harris and everyone down the line.

Keim noted the contributions the Cardinals are getting from college players found at Presbyterian (Justin Bethel), Deleware State (Rodney Gunter), Northern Iowa (David Johnson) and Pittsburg State (John Brown), and veteran free agents like Chris Johnson and Jermaine Gresham. “From top to bottom, (the scouting staff) is as good as anyone in the league,” Keim said.

— As if the statistics and score didn’t make the point, Keim liked his offensive line play. He said right tackle Bobby Massie played well, as did right guard Jonathan Cooper, and added that Gresham has made a big difference in the run game setting the edge as a blocker. Gresham, Keim said, has given the Cardinals something they haven’t had at tight end in while. (Side note: The Cardinals are hoping Troy Niklas develops into that kind of edge blocker.)

— The defensive line, with their major rotation, dominated on its end too. Keim specifically mentioned Gunter and defensive end Frostee Rucker.

— Not surprisingly, there was praise for the older guys like Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald and even Chris Johnson, who celebrated his 30th birthday Sunday with 110 yards on 22 carries. “Like fine wine they get better with age,” Keim said. “It’s fun to see.”

— Keim was asked about some of the grumbling around the league when the Cardinals gave Fitzgerald $22 million guaranteed in February for two years, considering Fitz was older and his production was on the decline. It’s not on the decline anymore. Not that it matters, Keim said, because the outside talk can’t matter to him.

“Internally you have to continue to trust in what you believe in,” Keim said.

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Domination, and 49ers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 27, 2015 – 7:27 pm

It had been 47-7, a dismantling of an NFC West rival, and Calais Campbell was happy. But not too happy.

“My message the whole time will be, ‘Keep putting work in, keep respecting the process,’ ” the defensive end said. “We have a long way to go. We haven’t accomplished anything yet.”

Those weren’t just words to Campbell. As he spoke, he used his hands to emphasize his point. There were some laughs last week about Bruce Arians telling his team they weren’t (insert bleep noise here), and more chuckles Sunday when Arians said his team now smells just a little bit better. But the idea that the Cardinals will keep their heads about them even though they have scored a ton – 126 points in three games, seven points better than the high-flying Patriots – and dominated two weeks in a row.

“The kind of guys we have on this team now, no one is going to get carried away,” said long snapper Mike Leach, who is playing in his 16th NFL season and has a good pulse on such things. Leach noted that the best part of the Cardinals is that even in spots where they are young, there are vets who have taken guys under their wing.

Plus they have a coach who, while he might smile a bit when he says it, is willing to say they ain’t (need that bleep again) and mean it.

That isn’t to say the Cardinals didn’t play really, really well Sunday.

— The Cardinals have 17 touchdowns in their first three games, only the fourth team in NFL history to do so. The last was the Cowboys, who had 18 touchdowns in the first three games of 1968. Kind of mind-boggling.

— Carson Palmer is now 16-2 in his last 18 starts with the Cardinals. He made one really bad decision – he said he was trying to throw his interception out of bounds but instead, the floater was not even close to anything but 49ers cornerback Kenneth Acker – but had a bunch of nice throws. Plus he had two dropped, including what would have been a 28-yard TD to Smokey Brown.

— Chris Johnson turned 30 Sunday and he averaged 5.0 yards a rush and gained 110 yards on the ground. And he’s the youngster in the offensive trio that lit up the 49ers, alongside Larry Fitzgerald (9 catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns) and Palmer (311 yards passing and the two TDs.)

— He’d never ever say it, but I can’t help but think Fitz is sitting back having “I told you so” thoughts to the NFL world.

— Tyrann Mathieu. “Savage season” indeed.

— Justin Bethel not only had his first interception of his career for a touchdown, but it came on his first defensive snap of the season. Plus he forced a fumble on a kick return (the 49ers kept it) and downed a punt. What a day.

— Drew Butler did not hit a great punt that ended up being returned inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard line and set up San Francisco’s only touchdown. But he did strike a good punt on the play where Bethel caught it cleanly at the S.F. 1, held for a beat, and then tossed it back so he wouldn’t take it in the end zone.

The officials first threw the beanbag around the 4 where the Cards ending up grabbing the ball, but Leach was there to help.

“They were just discussing it and I was just letting them know, reminding them what the rule was just in case,” Leach said.

The Cards had the same play last year with Bethel against the Lions. Leach wasn’t going to forget. And on the next play, the Cardinals swarmed Carlos Hyde for a safety.

— That punt-and-return by the Niners for their only score was the only time the 49ers crossed the 50 the whole game.

“The passion the defense plays with is … unbelievable,” Leach said.

— Colin Kaepernick was bad. The Cardinals made him look so with the four INTs. But Torrey Smith had no catches against cornerback Patrick Peterson. And Anquan Boldin was held to two catches for 16 yards.

— There were a ton of good performances, but linebacker Kevin Minter stood out again too. It felt like a make-or-break year for Minter. Three games in, it feels like he’s making it.

So … the last time the Cardinals put a defensive back in their Ring of Honor, it was at halftime of the game against the 49ers, which the Cardinals won. And then they later reached the Super Bowl. Just sayin’ …



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Bears aftermath, and Fitz’s legacy

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2015 – 6:14 pm

Larry Fitzgerald was walking on the sideline having just come off the field after scoring his third touchdown Sunday when he looked my way – I was down there, about 30 feet away – and yelled at me. I looked at him, and he yelled at me, “Working on my legacy.”

It was a reference to his comment he made to me a couple of weeks ago, when I talked to him right before the season for (yes, shameless plug – so click here!) a story about him and his legacy. Since then, Fitz has played two games, leads the Cardinals in catches (14) and yards (199) and now touchdowns (3, all coming against the Bears, and one more than he had all of last season.) The trust is there between he and Carson Palmer. It took a while to make it click, and there were some injuries that got in the way, but this is the kind of production he was having last season in that happy place he and Palmer found post-shoulder/pre-ACL problems.

— David Johnson is still a work in progress, but he looked excellent again Sunday, and not just because of the 108-yard kickoff return. His 13-yard touchdown run was nice as well, so patient before hitting the right hole. It’s hard not to see Johnson getting much more work sooner rather than later, although Chris Johnson was fine (20 carries, 72 yards.) David Johnson, with 42 yards on five carries, just looks like a star waiting to happen.

— Smokey Brown didn’t have gaudy numbers – five catches for 45 yards – but he had two other plays that generated 80 yards in pass interference penalties. Both were near catches. Palmer slightly underthrew one, when Brown had Kyle Fuller beat. But Brown has gotten better at coming back through the defender even if the play won’t be there, forcing the defender to interfere because he’s not looking back at the ball.

— The kings of efficiency: The Cardinals have made seven trips to the red zone this season. They have scored touchdowns on all seven.

— The Cardinals did not allow a sack against the Bears Sunday, after not allowing one against the Saints in the season opener. Since sacks were made an official stat in 1982, it marks only the fourth time the Cardinals have gone at least two games without a sack. The last time was the final two games of the 2007 season.

— Bruce Arians took the blame on the Palmer interception right before the half. It was an amazing play by linebacker Jared Allen, who leaped in the air on the quick wide receiver screen to bat the ball up and then pick it off.

“I got a little greedy,” Arians said. “We wanted to put a nail in that one. I jinxed him. I told him the screen is going to be wide open. Do not let them tip it.”

Allen tipped it. Arians said he called the same play for wide receiver Eric Moulds “32 years ago” and the same thing happened. “It was a flashback, ‘Oh (expletive).”

— An exhausted Frostee Rucker talked about the defense finding itself after a couple of leaky moments early. One couldn’t be avoided, the veteran defensive end said – the zone-read runs of quarterback Jay Cutler, before Cutler got hurt.

“If Jay Cutler is going to keep the ball, you can’t account for a guy like that,” Rucker said. “You don’t think the opposing team would risk getting their guy hurt. If those are going to be the plays to beat us, they’re going to get that.”

— The Cardinals again averaged more than four yards a carry. The running game wasn’t great, but it was enough.

— There were no sacks on Palmer, but he was hit more than the Cards would want, including the flag-inducing low hit by Pernell McPhee that always gives everyone pause. But Palmer is going to have to absorb some of that. That’s Arians’ offense, and that’s playing quarterback.

Signing off from 30,000 feet.



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