It was ugly yes, and whether Bruce Arians did indeed see it coming, I’m not sure there is a way to stem that mindset the Cardinals played with Sunday against the Seahawks. It wasn’t anything like the team had played like all season – not like the losses to the Rams and the Steelers, even though they were sluggish in those too.
Larry Fitzgerald said the game reminded him of the Packers finale at the end of the 2009 season, also a home game in which the Cards were hammered because there was nothing to play for, also as the Cards prepared to go into the playoffs (I tweeted the same during today’s game.)
But you know what game this really reminded me of, after it was over: The lost trip to New England in 2008. At least in 2009, coach Ken Whisenhunt had basically said the Cardinals were going to pull back if they had nothing to play for. But that trip to New England, it was messy because the players simply weren’t ready to play, didn’t want to play, didn’t want to be in the snow. They lost 47-7, and they were called the worst playoff team ever, and we know how that turned out.
I’m not saying that’s exactly what happened Sunday, because I believe this current team is stronger mentally than the 2008 squad. But the Cards didn’t show up against the Seahawks, like they didn’t against the Patriots, and it means, well, not a whole lot, really.
If the Cards were to be upset in their first playoff game, it won’t be because they lost against the Seahawks in the Week 17 game. This team has proven it is very good, and potentially great. For all the chest-pounding some of the Seahawks were doing after the game, they just lost to the Rams at home themselves.
Not the way you want to finish. But as Carson Palmer said, there is no panic, and talking with the veterans, it’s not just a brave face. This team understands they must do better. But they are not worried.
(UPDATE: Here’s the playoff info.)
— There were a couple of bright spots. OK, bright moments. Dwight Freeney got his eighth sack. The Cardinals finally had an opponent miss a field goal for the first time all season (which is unbelievable).
— And there were some record breakers. Smokey Brown surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, finishing with 1,003 on the season (although it was Smoke that was Richard Sherman’s target of his taunting penalty, which Sherman said was to mime Brown going to sit on the bench — not a faux pulling his pants down.) Fitzgerald broke his own team record for receptions in a season (he finished with 109 catches). Palmer broke the franchise record for passing yards in a season (4,671).
— Some other cool numbers took a beating – the point differential, the defensive rankings – but no one will care if the Cardinals go on to win a Super Bowl. No one will really care if they don’t, in the end.
— Special teams reared its ugly head, whether it was the punt coverage on Tyler Lockett or a fifth missed extra point by Chandler Catanzaro. Catanzaro missed a field goal as well.
— After all that, the Cardinals seemed to come out pretty healthy. Center Lyle Sendlein limped off late – Bruce Arians said it was a bone bruise of some kind – but Palmer is OK, as are the top guys. Plus there is two weeks to get ready.
— That’s all for now. There’s two weeks to talk about the next game. And not much to say about this one.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Dwight Freeney, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Richard Sherman, Seahawks
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As expected, wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) and center Lyle Sendlein (shoulder) both are active today for the Cardinals. (No, I don’t know how much Brown will play. I do expect him to play after essentially three weeks to get better.)
As a result, the inactive list is seven deep with healthy players — unbelievable in Week 10 of an NFL season.
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR J.J. Nelson (With Patrick Peterson returning punts and Brown healthy, Nelson is unneeded.)
— CB Robert Nelson, Jr.
— LB Shaq Riddick
— G Ted Larsen
— T D.J. Humphries
— NT Xavier Williams
For the Seahawks, running back Marshawn Lynch — who was added to the injury report Friday with an abdominal injury — is active.
Tags: inactives, John Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Seahawks
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By the time the Cardinals get to Seattle Saturday evening, it’ll be dark and probably rainy. By the time they play the Seahawks Sunday night, it’ll be dark and probably rainy. The crowd is going to be intense from the opening kick, and everyone knows the football world will be watching.
Bruce Arians knows his guys will be jacked up. He wants them jacked up. Except …
“Snotbubbles and tears don’t win s**t,” Arians said.
This is still about the execution. This is about being smart with the football and not turning it over. It’s about the Cardinals being able to run the ball with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. It’s about tackling Marshawn Lynch (sure, he’s questionable, but he’ll play) and containing Russell Wilson. I still think this game will be about the Cardinals scoring, because I believe the Cardinals’ defense can keep the Seahawks at bay.
The season won’t be decided Sunday but it’s impossible to get past the power of the swing it holds: The Cards lose, and they are just one game ahead of the Seahawks with seven to go and the Cards with a harder schedule. The Cards win, and the Seahawks are three games back, don’t have the tiebreaker and are under .500 – while the Cardinals get over the hurdle of winning against a “good” team (although the Cards still won’t have beat an above .500 team in that case.)
This one is going to be interesting, to say the least.
— If it is rainy as expected, I’m wondering what that will mean to a passing game that has been excellent. Will Arians dial it back a bit?
— I forgot that not only did the Cardinals not have Carson Palmer for their trip to Seattle last season, they didn’t have Larry Fitzgerald either. And now both aren’t only playing, but playing as well as they ever have.
— Lost in that win from 2013 was how stupendous the defense was that day. The Cardinals’ defense might have had – given the opponent and context – its finest day under Arians for sure. It ranked up there with the Jake Delhomme beat down in the 2008 playoffs. The Cardinals could sure use a similar showing.
— There is a concern about Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks’ other tight end, Luke Willson, has hurt the Cards before too. Something to remember.
Running backs coach Stump Mitchell, who can’t believe he remains the franchise’s second-leading rusher after all these years, said he wants Chris Johnson to win the NFL rushing title. Johnson is currently third behind Adrian Peterson and Devonta Freeman.
“To win, we have to have guys who have individual goals that are team-related,” Mitchell said. “Chris is too close to the top of the rushing title to not want to win it. And that’s his goal. I know it’s the offensive linemen’s goal. I’m not surprised. (CJ) loves the game, and we are running the runs he likes to run.”
— Lot of questions, since the Cardinals still have a Thursday night game left (at home against the Vikings Dec. 10), if the Cards will be a part of the uniform “Color Rush” happening on Thursdays. The answer is no, they are not part of that plan this season.
— Some good links if you missed them:
Also thought the Jimmy Fallon bit (to pub fellow NBC property “Sunday Night Football”) was funny. Lyle Sendlein said it was the second time Fallon had poked fun at him. “I guess it’s better (this time) than him calling me a Human Angry Bird – I think,” Sendlein said. (You can watch the video, but I’m not so sure about that).
— Arians said he expects linebacker Alex Okafor to get 30 to 35 snaps in his first game back from a calf injury. He also said he’s going to have a steady rotation at outside linebacker. How the playing time is divided between Okafor, Dwight Freeney, LaMarr Woodley and Markus Golden will be interesting.
— Also interesting will be who is made inactive with everybody healthy – assuming Sendlein (shoulder) and wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) are both good to go (which I will not be surprised if it happens.)
— I leave with this: This is being written and posted as the horrifying events in Paris, with shootings and explosions and hostages, are playing out. Honestly, it’s tough to get too deep into football knowing that such things are going on.
With that in mind, I just say this – the game Sunday is important in the context of this world I work within and we all follow. I know I’ll hear from many if the Cardinals lose, but I ask you to just remember – it is just a game. Please keep it in perspective.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Chris Johnson, Jake Delhomme, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Graham, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Patrick Peterson, Seahawks, Stump Mitchell
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We are still a couple of days away from knowing if starting center Lyle Sendlein, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, will be able to play against the Seahawks Sunday night. Bruce Arians said Sendlein missed practice Tuesday. The first injury report of the week comes out later today.
But if Sendlein can’t go, A.Q. Shipley would start at center. The question is what might that mean for an offensive line that has been solid. It’s true that Arians said he had been expecting more on the interior of the line at Cleveland, which includes Sendlein. But the veteran has something that Shipley does not — experience at CenturyLink Field.
Sendlein has started six games in Seattle during his career (and appeared in a seventh.) He knows what it’s like in that stadium, with that crowd, with that noise. Shipley has played in 51 games in his career, none at Seattle. A night game, with the knowledge that a national TV audience is watching, will boost the crowd intensity that much more. The center is the one who organizes the offensive line every play. In a season where everyone continues to say the offensive line communication is a developing work-in-progress, who starts at center — and how he handles the moment — will have an impact on how effective the Cardinals’ offense can be.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Lyle Sendlein, Seahawks
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With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.
CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley
WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson
(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)
Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.
As for the unrestricted guys …
It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Chris Johnson, Darren Fells, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Dwight Freeney, free agency, Ifeanyi Momah, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Jerraud Powers, Josh Mauro, Justin Bethel, Kenny Demens, LaMarr Woodley, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Sean Weatherspoon, Ted Larsen, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Before we get to GM Steve Keim on this Monday morning, this one is going to hurt. If there was a time you were going to win in Pittsburgh, it was Sunday, when Ben Roethlisberger is out and the left tackle gets hurt early in the game and the defense is missing a couple of starting linebackers and a starting cornerback. This might end up more painful than the Rams game (although in the end, that may not be true, since the Rams game was a) at home and b) within the division.) That’s two close games in which the Cardinals had the chance to pull out in the fourth quarter — games the Cards won all last year — and didn’t do enough on either side of the ball.
As for Keim during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7:
— The GM said he is happy with the Cardinals’ toughness. What he wants to see is “improved focus.”
“These guys are confident, they have some swagger, they play physical,” Keim said. “But when you lose focus, when you void run lanes or break down in coverage or you miss a protection, it can really change the outcome of the game. To me it’s the focus that needs to be improved.”
— Keim, like his players, lamented the Steelers game because he felt the Cardinals beat themselves. Keim deferred to Bruce Arians on why the Cards didn’t run more, but he said he thought Arians wanted to exploit mismatches against the Steelers’ secondary, which the Cards did a healthy part of the day — they just again bogged down in the red zone (and Carson Palmer made one very poor decision.)
— His offensive line assessment: The tackles did OK. Guard Mike Iupati was better than the previous weeks. Guard Jonathan Cooper and center Lyle Sendlein were up and down.
— Keim on the stay at The Greenbrier: “I think it was definitely a success.” He said the ability to adjust to the time change was a big deal. (As an aside, I will not be surprised if the Cardinals end up back in West Virginia at some point in the future. Not sure when, but someday.)
Tags: Carson Palmer, Greenbrier, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Iupati, offensive line, Steelers, Steve Keim
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Bruce Arians called the Cardinals’ pass protection “very iffy” against the Rams — not a total shock given the talent the Rams have up front — and said it extended to the tight ends and the running backs at various times.
“Our communication was terrible in this ball game,” Arians said. “With the three-man line and nickel blitzes, we did not do well.”
Center Lyle Sendlein acknowledged the need to communicate better. “There was a lot for us to talk about,” Sendlein said. “That’s a good defense. They did a good job disguising their blitzes, and they’ve always done a good job bringing their linebackers through if the back blocks. That’s something that lands on me, getting everyone on the same page.”
— Arians said again that running back Andre Ellington was close to playing against the Rams. It came down to having Ellington available in case versus having a healthy player active. I’d guess Ellington would be available against the Lions barring a setback this week.
— On the late TD pass to Tavon Austin surrendered by cornerback Jerraud Powers, Arians said it wasn’t Powers’ responsibility.
“Jerraud gave inside leverage to a guy who was supposed to be waiting for him,” Arians said. “Wasn’t there.”
— The holes for Todd Gurley came from various mistakes, almost all from trying to do to much. Arians said one example was rushing the passer instead of squeezing what turned into a cutback lane. In another case, linebacker Kevin Minter — who had taken much of the Gurley blame himself Sunday — tried to spin off a block and by doing so vacated his lane.
“Something as simple as that,” Arians said.
— Arians thought the Rams fumble-that-wasn’t was “obvious,” but he shrugged it off by noting the Rams fumbled moments before. “We should’ve recovered the fumble the play before and it would’ve never happened, when it was laying between our legs. We had our chances.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Jerraud Powers, Lyle Sendlein, Todd Gurley
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The Cardinals ran for 120 yards against the Saints, 115 against the Bears and 139 Sunday against the 49ers. It is the first time the Cardinals have rushed for at least 115 yards in each of the first three games of the season since 1988. The 374 rushing yards are the most for the franchise in the first three games of the season since the Cards had 416 in 2002. (That 2002 start was aided by Thomas Jones’ 173 yards in the first regular-season game ever at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, a Cardinals’ win, the second week of the season. The Cardinals had 249 yards rushing in that game alone.)
The Cardinals have done it with nearly equal contributions from Andre Ellington — who looked great against the Saints before he got hurt — and David Johnson and Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson had 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the 49ers, and showed plenty of burst just a couple of days after his 30th birthday. Better yet, after Bruce Arians said that generally Earl Watford was a better run blocker than Bobby Massie at right tackle, the Cards had their best rushing game against San Francisco with Massie in there. And this team hasn’t even gotten to see what guard Mike Iupati — arguably their best run blocker — has to offer yet.
“It’s just a start,” veteran center Lyle Sendlein said. “You can’t just show up and expect you’ll get that kind of yardage every week.
“Obviously it had a level of importance in the offseason that they had been working on, and when I got here (in training camp) it was pretty apparent we were going to commit to getting yardage in the run game.”
Under Arians, the Cardinals are 14-1 when rushing for at least 100 yards. That can be misleading; Arians always says being committed to balance only counts in the first three quarters and then the game itself dictates how the fourth quarter will be called. Against the 49ers, for instance, the Cardinals went into the fourth quarter with a 40-7 lead and 10 of 13 Arizona offensive plays were runs as they drove for one more touchdown. (The final “drive” was three Drew Stanton kneeldowns, which count as “runs” but also screw up the stats with minus-one yard on each kneel.)
Like everything else, Sendlein emphasized it’s only a start. But it’s a start. The Cardinals, since 1995, have ranked higher than 21st in the NFL just once — 15th in that 2002 season — and haven’t been higher than 23rd since 2004. Seven times they have been ranked 30th or lower. This year, the Cards are currently 11th in the NFL.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Bears, Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Lyle Sendlein, Saints
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Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin met with the media for the first time since the offensive line was set, and over the course of the press conference addressed four of his five offensive line starters (all except Jared Veldheer, and it’s safe to say Goodwin is more than happy with his left tackle.) A quick Goody rundown:
— C Lyle Sendlein: “Just a solid veteran. Smart, dependable. He has some limitations but he knows what they are. He just makes me feel comfortable as a coach having him in there. He can correct me when I’m wrong, but usually, for the most part, we’re on the same page.”
— RT Earl Watford: “You see a little bit more snap in his punch. Bradley (Sowell) does a good job athletically but sometimes you have to have a little power too. Earl is a little bit more powerful and little more assertive in pass protection. … Hopefully the butterflies don’t get to him early
— LG Ted Larsen: “Ted has actually gotten better. Coming out of last season, playing a lot of left guard for us, he has done a good job. I think he’s actually a better guard than he is a center. He’s more confident and comfortable at the guard position.”
— RG Jonathan Cooper: Goodwin was asked if it was a good thing that Cooper hasn’t been talked about much. “I’ve actually stopped cursing a lot, so things are getting better.” So, is Cooper back to the level where the Cardinals thought he was when he first was playing as a rookie? “My expectations are high, so I’d say no, not yet,” Goodwin said. “Never satisfied.” Goodwin chuckled after that last remark.
As for going into the regular season without left guard Mike Iupati (knee) and without the suspended Bobby Massie (who declined interview attempts Thursday), Goodwin said he wasn’t going to worry about it.
“I can’t ever remember having the same five guys the whole season, so it’s the nature of the beast for me,” Goodwin said. “Things happen, people get hurt, but you can’t pout because guess what? They’re still going to play the game on Sunday.”
Tags: Earl Watford, Harold Goodwin, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, offensive line, Ted Larsen
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The offensive line is set. Bruce Arians said Earl Watford will be the starting right tackle against the Saints and Lyle Sendlein will be the starting center, joining guards Jonathan Cooper and Ted Larsen and left tackle Jared Veldheer. What’s more, Arians said the plan is for Watford to remain the starting right tackle even after Bobby Massie returns from suspension. That doesn’t mean Watford can’t lose the job, but it’s a huge statement for Watford, who has been looking for a starting role.
As for Sendlein, I felt since he was signed he’d find his way into the starting lineup. A.Q. Shipley provides depth at center and guard, but he’s had a hard time holding on to starting jobs thus far in his career and Sendlein played well in the preseason. More on the offensive line later on the homepage.
— The Cardinals named their captains. Offensively, it’s Veldheer and Carson Palmer. Defensively it’s Patrick Peterson and Calais Campbell. On special teams, it’s Justin Bethel and Mike Leach. Arians said more than 20 players received more than three votes, which spoke to the depth of the candidates and leadership for the Cards.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Calais Campbell, captains, Carson Palmer, Earl Watford, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Justin Bethel, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Patrick Peterson, Ted Larsen
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »