It’s been all over social media today, but the Cardinals have made it back on to a Sports Illustrated (regional) cover this week by highlighting Smokey Brown’s fantastic touchdown catch against the Rams in a story titled — fittingly, “Next Man Up.”
But the Cardinals have been there before in recent times. Larry Fitzgerald was the poster boy for SI as the NFL players were set to come back from the lockout in 2011, with a shot of him sitting in a locker room all serious-like. And then there were the back-to-back-to-back covers during the 2008 season playoff run, with Fitz and Kurt Warner. (Yes, technically, DBs DRC, Aaron Francisco and Ralph Brown had a cameo on the SI cover the next week, but surprisingly I don’t have a picture of the Santonio Holmes cover).
And please, no one talk about jinxes to me. I don’t buy into them. Never have. Just enjoy the picture.
Tags: John Brown, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Sports Illustrated
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I remember, when Calais Campbell got hurt in Denver – at the same time Matt Shaughnessy got hurt – and Campbell said something along the lines that he’d eventually be back, Shaughnessy would eventually be back, Carson Palmer (who still wasn’t back) would eventually be back, and it would all be part of this amazing story of the 2014 Cardinals when they made their playoff run.
The Cards can stop adding hurdles they need to overcome.
Carson Palmer will have an MRI Monday on his left knee. We’ll see what happens, but while you hope for the best, you prepare for the worst, and the worst would be losing Palmer for the season. When your team is 8-1 and talking – legitimately – about a possible playoff run, losing a starting quarterback is vicious.
The positive is that Drew Stanton has played well when he’s had to play. He did it again Sunday. But the last time, it was as a placeholder until Palmer came back. What happens if there is no coming back for Palmer?
Lost in it all was the fact Palmer just signed his contract extension Friday, which obviously is seen in a much different light with an injury. That said, all those wondering if the Cardinals re-signed Palmer too quickly? No. Not in my opinion, not unless you are now predicting serious injuries.
The Cardinals made the right move. They were just hit with bad, bad luck.
– Arians had this to say about Palmer’s new contract: “He’s the leader of our franchise right now and it will stay that way.”
– On a short-term note, it’s too bad Palmer got hurt because it overshadowed the job the defense did against the Rams. I keep going back to the thought the Rams had 40 yards rushing on their first-quarter touchdown drive – and just 70 rushing yards total for the game. The defense simply clamped down, and since the Rams had a rookie QB, St. Louis had no chance.
– Yes, Patrick Peterson has figured it out. That pick-6 was unreal – watch carefully how he tipped it to himself, an amazingly athletic play. “For the first time in a long time I felt 100 percent,” Peterson said. “I just got tired of hearing all the criticism, people not knowing the situation.”
– Calais Campbell was a monster Sunday. As well as Peterson played, Campbell was the best guy on defense.
– Campbell had two sacks of the Cardinals’ six in the game. The Cards had just eight sacks in the first eight games.
– The Rams have not had a very good run defense. So it’s a concern the Cardinals could not run against the Rams. At all. The Cardinals had only 28 yards on the ground, and Andre Ellington got a mere 23 yards on 18 carries. That won’t work for many wins going forward, especially if the Cards have to turn to Stanton.
– Larry Fitzgerald was the backbone of the receiving corps, Yes, Smokey Brown made a beautiful TD catch, but it was Fitz making multiple crucial catches through the first part of the game, and he’s on a solid path for 1,000 yards now.
– Brown probably shouldn’t have been able to catch that TD. A fantastic individual effort. That kid catches key touchdowns, whether it was the game-winner against the Chargers, 49ers, Eagles and now Rams.
– Michael Floyd got off to a good start this season. But man, he has become MIA. He made a nice catch Sunday for a first down and took a hellacious hit. After that, though, he wasn’t involved.
– Ed Stinson is dinged up, with a groin issue and a toe issue, but he dropped an interception with three minutes left that was right in his hands.
– As I wrap this up, I’m watching Tom Jackson and Cris Carter on ESPN talk about the Cardinals. They are talking about the team under the assumption Palmer is lost and Stanton will be the starter from here on. And both said they can still see this team with the ability to make a playoff run.
It says a lot about this team and the impression it has left nine games into the season.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Ed Stinson, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rams
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Against the Cowboys, the Cardinals shouldn’t have even been in a third down situation at one point. Quarterback Carson Palmer found Michael Floyd about eight yards downfield on a pass and it looked like Floyd just had to turn upfield and he’d get the two remaining yards needed for a first. Instead he ran back a few yards, and then he fumbled, forcing the Cards into a third down. No matter. Palmer hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 20-yard gain the next play.
The Cardinals’ offense hasn’t been as consistent as Bruce Arians would like, but one area the quarterback has excelled within is third-down passing. The Cardinals converted 9 of 15 third downs in Dallas, and Palmer’s improvement on third downs is Exhibit A why. Palmer currently is the highest rated quarterback on third downs this season, with a passer rating of 129.5, well above that of No. 2 Tony Romo at 122.5. (Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers round out the top five.)
Palmer — who has missed three of the Cards’ eight games with his shoulder problem — has completed 42-of-64 third-down passes for 609 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception.
It’s those last two stats that capture the most attention, and underscore the improvement Palmer has made since last season. In 2013, playing every snap for the Cards, Palmer ended up only 29th in the league in third-down passing, with a passer rating of 77.1. He completed 94-of-163 passes for 1,233 yards, but the other numbers are notable. Last year, Palmer only threw nine touchdowns on third down in 16 games. He also threw nine interceptions.
Obviously, with half a season to go, Palmer can’t afford to slide backward, but he’s been excellent up until this point. The Cardinals were four-of-four in the red zone against the Cowboys, and all four touchdowns came on third down plays. Three were Palmer touchdown passes — only the second time Palmer has thrown three TD passes in a game since coming to Arizona. And his pair of second-quarter TDs showed both sides of Palmer’s abilities on third down.
On a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Carlson, the Cowboys only rushed three and Palmer calmly waited in the pocket until Carlson was able to find a void in the zone coverage. On a 11-yard TD to Jaron Brown, a four-man rush pushed the pocket but Palmer rifled the ball to Brown in between three defenders on a perfectly timed throw. In was third-and-long for both (six needed on the Carlson play, 10 on the Brown play). Palmer made it happen. It’s the kind of third-down production that teams need to win.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown, John Carlson, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Larry Fitzgerald caught the pass just about at the first down marker up the middle on third-and-5 against the Cowboys, stiff-armed safety Barry Church to the ground and then crashed into safety J.J. Wilcox. Wilcox went down in a heap. Fitz, who was tackled moments later for a 20-yard gain, jumped up and swung his arms at his bench, looking to send his emotion toward his teammates.
“That safety came up and almost looked like (Larry) put him to sleep,” General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. After the Cardinals beat the Cowboys, Keim found Fitz on the bus as the Cards were leaving AT&T Stadium to tell him so. ” ‘Larry, you’re starting to look like a tight end out there,’ ” Keim said with a chuckle. “I don’t think he took that as a compliment.”
But it was. Keim loves Fitzgerald’s emotion, and his physical play. The GM complimented all the receivers and their ability to block — also crediting receivers coach Darryl Drake — but the continued reinvention of Fitzgerald is hard not to notice. Fitz always has had his moments of emotion over the years, but it used to come just after big plays. Now, it seems, Fitz goes looking for contact if he’s in close quarters, dishes out some punishment, and then gets visibly psyched for all to see. Keim said he can tell it affecting the Cards, and you can tell.
Fitz also had another solid game, with five catches for 70 yards. Maybe he and Carson Palmer are finally finding a groove.
Other Keim notes:
– Nose tackle Dan Williams played his best game as a pro (which was easy to see.)
– He called out the defensive line as a whole and Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Antonio Cromartie in particular for having good games, but added that the whole defense impressed.
– He liked Palmer’s ability to have a short memory, allowing the QB to come back strong after his early interception.
– Overall, Keim admitted there was some frustration with the offense’s “self-inflicted issues.” The drops were one thing. Key penalties. And he said the interior of the offensive line struggled with the stunts and twists of the Cowboys’ defensive line.
Tags: Dan Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Keim
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If the fact that fullback Ron Wolfley got a carry for the Cardinals the last time the franchise had gone to Dallas and won a regular-season game doesn’t grab you, the fact 22 players on the current roster weren’t even born the last time the Cards won there catches the attention.
Of course, all those “last times” don’t mean much right now, since this current Cardinals team took care of the Cowboys at Jerry’s World and don’t care about much of anything except what’s right in front of them. Again, Sunday’s game wasn’t one you’d bronze. There were a lot of good things, but some divots, especially offensively. But it doesn’t matter after yet another win, and a 7-1 record that stands as the best of not only the NFC but the NFL after the Broncos were knocked around in New England.
No, Tony Romo didn’t play. To that, the Cardinals basically said, so? “We don’t really want to hear the excuses right now,” locker-room sage Frostee Rucker said. (The Cardinals have done the play-with-the-backup-quarterbacks thing. They made it work.)
– The Cardinals stopped DeMarco Murray from reaching 100 yards, the first team to do so this season. It wasn’t as if Murray was ineffective, with 79 yards on 19 carries. But it was a goal to end his streak, and certainly, that fourth-down stand was the game in a microcosm – stop Murray, and you stop the Cowboys. Especially with Brandon Weeden as QB.
– Meanwhile, Andre Ellington outplayed Murray. If it wasn’t for the goal of getting Marion Grice some work, Ellington (95 yards on 21 carries) would have had his first 100-yard game. I thought Ellington battled for extra yards even better Sunday as well. He’s having an excellent season.
– Ellington did get his eyes checked during the game. Bruce Arians said he feared Ellington might be out with a concussion, but Ellington said his helmet came down over his eyes and blurred his vision for a moment.
– Red-zone troubles? No red-zone troubles here. When the Cardinals got there Sunday, they cashed in. Four trips inside the Dallas 20, and Chandler Catanzaro only came on the field for extra points. Even better, all four scores – three of them on Carson Palmer passes – were converted on third down.
– The Cardinals swept the NFC East. After sweeping the AFC South last year.
– Frostee was a little frosty on the sideline at the end of the game, hacked off that he and his teammates couldn’t stop the final Dez Bryant touchdown. It was meaningless, except it wasn’t.
“Me and (Darnell) Dockett were just talking about it, that’s the stuff you look back when the season is over and that’s the difference in being number one in something or being number three,” Rucker said. “Don’t give that up. Don’t give them anything.
“But I’m happy with the performance of all the guys. The team won this game today.”
– With John Carlson, Jaron Brown and Marion Grice all scoring Sunday, the Cardinals have had 12 different players score for them already this season though eight games.
– It was not a good day for the AT&T Stadium press box announcer. The Honey Badger as “Tyson Mathersly”? But it was worse for Cantanzaro, who was a couple of things – “Chancer Catanzaria” for one – before the guy gave up and just said, “Number 7 on to try the extra point.”
– Mathieu gets his first interception. He is certainly doing Honey Badger things again.
– Nose tackle Dan Williams was excellent, beyond his first sack of the season. “I would probably say it’s my best game,” Williams said. “I think I’ve been playing well thus far, doing the things coaches ask of me and make sure we get upfield. I think I actually played like I do each week, it’s just that the guys were cutting back into me, I made a few tackles. Today, I was pretty much just the clean-up man.”
– Larry Fitzgerald with another quietly solid game, with five catches for 70 yards. He fell short of surpassing Michael Irvin on the all-time yardage list, but more important was the touchdowns and a step toward better offensive production.
“We were able to score a little more consistent today,” Fitzgerald said. “But we are still finding out what we are capable of. We took a little bit of a step today. We pride ourselves on being a very smart, intelligent football team.”
– Not great were the five drops, three coming from tight end John Carlson. Carlson did have a touchdown catch, but combined with a holding penalty, it wasn’t his best game.
– This time, all the players earned a Victory Monday. Even the young guys.
– Your walk-off quote, courtesy of Arians: “Having been 1-7 before, 7-1 feels a lot better.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Cowboys, Dan Williams, DeMarco Murray, Frostee Rucker, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals used to go to Dallas every year when they shared a division address. But it’s been almost a decade since the Cardinals visited the Cowboys – all the way back to 2005, when only two current Cardinals were on the team: Larry Fitzgerald and the sidelined Darnell Dockett.
“That was a long time ago,” Fitzgerald said.
Indeed. Those were the days of Marcel Shipp and Josh McCown and Leonard Davis, the Arizona version. Those were the Dallas days of Keyshawn Johnson and Drew Bledsoe and Marion Barber. (The Cards, by the way, were drilled, 34-13, that day.)
Much has changed, not the least of which the venue, gaudy AT&T Stadium with its gigantic videoboard and 100,000-plus seats. “You can watch it from the sidelines,” Fitz said. “It’ll be fun to watch our defense flying around out there.”
That figures to be the key, doesn’t it? No, not the videoboard but the Cards’ defense. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is questionable after skipping practice all week and you’d have to think that makes it unlikely he’d play. But whether it’s a less-than-mobile Romo or a been-sitting-around-and-not-as-good Brandon Weeden, the Cardinals should be able to generate some opportunities. It’ll start by how they handle DeMarco Murray, of course. If Murray dominates, Dez Bryant might be able to be the QB and the Cowboys would be OK. But if the Cards can have some kind of Murray control and force it back into the QB’s hands, then the Cards will be in the game they wanted to dictate.
– Fitzgerald, on following up his stellar seven-reception, 160-yard performance against the Eagles: “A repeat performance all around wouldn’t be a bad thing on the road against the Cowboys,” Fitz said. “I know that much.”
I have a feeling the Cardinals know it too. It feels like Fitzgerald could have another nice outing.
– Fitz needs only 95 yards to surpass Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin in career receiving yards. It’d be kind of sweet to do it in Dallas.
– The Cowboys’ defense isn’t great. It has been good enough. It definitely took a hit with the season-ending biceps injury to linebacker Justin Durant, though. Durant was the Cowboys’ leading tackler.
– The last three times the Cardinals have played the Cowboys, the Cardinals have won on the final play of the game. In 2008, it was Sean Morey’s blocked punt recovered by Monty Beisel in the end zone in OT. In 2010, it was Jay Feely’s 48-yard field goal as the clock ran out. In 2011, it was a 52-yard screen pass to the Hyphen – LaRod Stephens-Howling – from quarterback Kevin Kolb for a touchdown.
– For those asking – for a road game, even! – the Cardinals are wearing red Sunday. The Cowboys almost always wear white at home.
– I’d expect Marion Grice to get at least a carry or two Sunday now that Stepfan Taylor is sidelined. Bruce Arians said Grice was ready, although he said Friday he was happy with Grice “until he dropped that handoff today.”
– Safety Deone Bucannon was not fined for the helmet-to-helmet hit on Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, the one that caused the Patrick Peterson concussion. Cornerback Jerraud Powers was fined, $16,537 for his horse collar tackle in the same game. Eagles defensive lineman Trent Cole was dinged $22,050 for hitting Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in the helmet.
– Arians said Peterson will cover Dez Bryant some of the time Sunday, but Peterson will not exclusively be on the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
– Punter Drew Butler has played at “JerryWorld” before, having punted for the Steelers in a 2012 overtime loss to the Cowboys. Did he hit the videoboard with any punts?
“Of course you try in pregame,” Butler said. “It’s a little ego boost there. I hit it a few times.”
Butler said hitting it in-game isn’t an issue because it’s inside the hashmarks and kicks are almost always angled outside the hashmarks. A bigger issue, he said, is because it gets dark higher up, sometimes the gunners have a hard time picking up the ball as it drops from the sky.
– Arians had his own description on playing in the Cowboys’ Dallas palace.
“It’s different,” Arians said. “It’s all those fans when you come in, like you’re walking out of a nightclub. It’s got an unbelievable gladiator feeling to it because you’re walking through the fans and they’re throwing (expletive) at you.”
On to Dallas.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Cowboys, Deone Bucannon, Drew Butler, Jerraud Powers, Larry Fitzgerald, Marion Grice, Patrick Peterson
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL, Throwback Thursday
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— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) October 27, 2014
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Boardwalk Empire, HBO, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL
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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.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Deone Bucannon, Eagles, Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Poole, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu
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