The playoffs are a long-ago dream, but the Cardinals still can have a hand in it. This week, the Bears — reeling as they are — come to town losers of 5 of their last six after a 7-1 start. Once the playoffs seemed a foregone conclusion. But if Minnesota pulls off an upset in Houston in an early game Sunday, then the Cardinals would eliminate the Bears from the postseason if they can beat Jay Cutler’s crew.
“In order for us to be relevant, we have to win,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “This time of year everybody knows what has to happen for their football team. We are aware of the path we have to take.”
The Cards actually could be in position to do some damage in both the final two games. In the finale at San Francisco, the 49ers could have something on the line. If the Niners lose in Seattle this weekend, they could actually lose the division title the following week if the Cards won. Even if the Niners clinch this weekend by toppling the Seahawks, San Francisco will likely have a chance to clinch a first-round bye on the line in the final week.
What’s amazing is the difference a week makes. The Lions, playing poorly, came into University of Phoenix Stadium as the favorite last week because the Cardinals were on their nine-game losing streak. Now, it seems, many believe the Cardinals have a good shot to knock off the Bears and cripple their playoff chances. At this point, it’s what the Cards have to play for.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Lions, Lovie Smith, playoffs, Seahawks
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Hard to believe this Sunday will be the first time since 2006 that the Bears have visited University of Phoenix Stadium.
“You know, I’m getting up in age … it’s hard for me to remember some things,” Bears coach Lovie Smith deadpanned, “but I do remember we came back and were able to win a big game out there.”
We won’t go over every detail — especially since I’ve done it before — but needless to say, that evening lives in infamy, at least around here. The defense dominated, and while the offense made crucial turnovers, everything that could go exactly wrong did for the Cards on a night where that was the only way the Bears were going to win.
The team coming in this year is in a much different place. That 2006 Bears team was 5-0 and later appeared in the Super Bowl. This year’s squad was 7-1 and is now 8-6, scrambling to make the playoffs and possibly save Smith’s job. The Cards, meanwhile, have just three players left on the roster from that long-ago evening: Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson (pictured here emoting against the Bears during the better part of that night.)
UPDATE: Here’s some Fitz — who was inactive that night and didn’t play — on the subject: “I remember everything about it. That was a rough one. We had ‘em.” Someone said “Were they who you thought they were?” Fitz smiled. “I’m not going to touch that. You know I love Denny Green. I’m not going to touch that.”
(An aside — the Cards started in a four-receiver set that night: Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson, Troy Walters and Carlyle Holiday.)
Times change. The Cards are a lot different than even the last time these teams met, a 41-21 Cardinals’ thrashing of the Bears in Chicago in 2009 when Kurt Warner sliced-and-diced Smith’s Cover 2. Now, we’re talking about Wilson’s future now, and even if the Bears make the postseason I don’t think anyone is expecting them to topple the NFC’s best and make it to another Super Bowl.
And I’m guessing, regardless of what happens, we won’t see a Ken Whisenhunt version of this, either.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bears, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
What I remember most is that it seemed to come out of nowhere.
Before the tirade that let everyone remember Denny Green was who we thought he was, we had already gone through five or six minutes of his postgame press conference on that fateful Monday night. It had been an ugly ending, but Denny – who usually was grumpy with an edge after losses – seemed calm, almost shell shocked as the questions came.
Then came the query that set him off, a question that should have led Denny to a good place – one about what the Cards saw in the Bears’ offense that allowed the defense to dominate and forced QB Rex Grossman into six turnovers. Like a boulder rolling downhill, Green started slow and as the anger built, the response grew into its epic ending, when Green bellowed how the Cards “let ‘em off the hook!”
Quick side story – Denny had a similar moment in training camp that year. The day rookie holdout Matt Leinart finally signed, two weeks into camp, tension was building on when he would do so. I was told Green was going to go off on Leinart in his lunchtime presser, and lo and behold, that’s what happened. Denny was asked about how linebacker Karlos Dansby’s injury was doing. A five-minute monologue later, Green was talking about what a shame it was that Leinart wouldn’t play in New England that weekend for the preseason game, when Kurt Warner would and when Tom Brady would, and Green clearly was irritated Leinart wasn’t there. Wonder if Denny knew Leinart was about to sign? Regardless, I don’t see the Bears’ rant as that calculated.
But back to the crowning moment in Denny’s Arizona tenure. The roots of the speech came back in August – a week after that New England trip – when the Cards beat the Bears in the third preseason game in Chicago and both Warner and Leinart played well. Grossman was terrible against the Cards, so much so that the Chicago fans booed him relentlessly. That was what was rattling around Green’s mind less than two months later.
The Cards were already ornery because of how things were going. After winning the first regular-season game at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cards had lost four straight. Warner had been benched for Leinart. The Bears were coming to town with a 5-0 record. The big story during the week was actually Darnell Dockett signing a contract extension (although Leinart’s first start the previous week against the Chiefs caught everyone’s attention.)
Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked about Leinart’s good game in the preseason and talked about that game meaning nothing, as a “glorified practice.” Green, hearing this, clearly didn’t agree and said as much, although it wasn’t exactly “who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bull.” At least, not yet.
Then came the game. The Cards dominated, and they lost. Green calmly answered most of the questions and then the one hit him the wrong way, especially with the leftover irritation with Smith’s comments percolating all week and the frustration of the season building (for instance, kicker Neil Rackers missing what should have been a game-winning field goal that night).
While the world watched – over and over – Denny’s rant and it was repeated everywhere, the fallout was quick. Offensive coordinator Keith Rowen was demoted the next day. The Cards’ season ran off the rails, and by the time the Bears made it to the Super Bowl, Green was out and Ken Whisenhunt was the coach. Super week, Denny’s words continued to echo, as everyone kept saying, in some way shape or form, the Bears were who we thought they were.
Tags: Bears, Darnell Dockett, Dennis Green, Karlos Dansby, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Lovie Smith, Matt Leinart, Neil Rackers, Revisionist history, Rex Grossman, Tom Brady
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