The message wasn’t a surprise. Calais Campbell has been calling every game a playoff game and none of the players in the locker room were confused at exactly what was at stake Sunday. Still, when Bruce Arians brought his team together after the rainy loss in Miami and said out loud that it likely doomed its playoff hopes, “it was terrible to hear,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “I don’t think that’s set in yet.”
Perhaps it was its downfall, but this team never really gave serious thought to the idea it wouldn’t make the playoffs. There are many reasons for that, one being that under Arians, this team has never been in this predicament. In his first season, the Cardinals won seven of eight down the stretch and went into the last weekend still with a slim chance to make the playoffs. The past two years, they had clinched playoff spots right around now.
No reason to belabor the point right now. The Cardinals do have three games left to play, and those last two – road trips to Seattle and Los Angeles – aren’t just any games. Those remain personal. Motivation is there.
But everyone knew the expectations of this season. Falling short of even making the playoffs wasn’t supposed to be part of the equation.
— We will see what the week brings, but left tackle D.J. Humphries left with a concussion and right tackle Ulrick John was injured on the Cards’ last offensive play. Not sure who might be left to play if both are too banged up to go. Earl Watford indeed was reinstalled as right guard in place of John Wetzel, but Wetzel ended up having to play anyway. Injuries have just torn up the offensive line.
Defensively, the Cardinals already were iffy on the return of Tyrann Mathieu and now Tyvon Branch may be down, and perhaps cornerback Marcus Cooper.
— The rain is not why the Cardinals lost, but it came down at times incredibly hard and it was weird how it did seem to kick up when the Cards had the ball.
“I swear to God it felt like every time we touched the ball it started raining,” wide receiver Brittan Golden said.
— Speaking of Golden, he got his first career TD reception, but he actually went in to the game for a play before that – at deep safety. Cooper and Branch were out and safety Tony Jefferson got banged up on a play and had to leave the field for a snap. Golden has practiced at times with the secondary, but this was the first time he actually went out there playing deep centerfield on a run play. And what went through his mind?
“Please don’t break that tackle,” Golden said with a grin.
— It was probably fitting that the loss that basically ended their hopes came in large part because of special teams woes. This week it was the kicker Chandler Catanzaro and long snapper Aaron Brewer. Couple of high snaps doomed two extra points, one of which was returned for two points. Add in the missed field goal of 41 yards, and that’s a seven-point swing in a three-point game. Killer.
Yet Cat Man mixed in a 56-yard field goal that I will admit I was shocked Arians called for, a boot that was the third-longest in franchise history – behind the 60-yarder he had in Buffalo earlier this season and the 61-yarder Jay Feely had against the Bills in Arizona in 2012.
— Sunday may be the first time in NFL history both teams faced a third-and-at-least-33.
— Larry Fitzgerald was targeted nine times Sunday but had only three catches for a scant 12 yards. He has 91 receptions this season but so many of late have been for so few yards that his per-catch average has sunk to less than 10 yards a reception – 9.8 to be exact.
— The rain made the downfield passing game terrible. Michael Floyd had 18 yards on two catches – and those were the most by any wide receiver. Fitz had his 12, Golden nine and J.J. Nelson eight. Smoke Brown played but wasn’t targeted.
— Kerwynn Williams did well in the wildcat. He took three snaps as a “quarterback,” running each time, gaining 34 yards. The Cardinals had 175 yards rushing as a team and averaged 6.5 yards a carry. But with the turnovers and the sideways special teams, it wasn’t enough.
— Three games left. We’ll see how the Cardinals play it out.
Tags: Aaron Brewer, Brittan Golden, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, D.J. Humphries, Dolphins, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Cooper, Michael Floyd, Tony Jefferson, Tyvon Branch, Ulrick John
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General Manager Steve Keim lamented Sunday’s loss, noting as many have the same issues the Cardinals have suffered through all season. He was asked during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 on Monday if he was now going to start working on 2017. Keim wants to see wins now, but the question was unnecessary, since Keim is always looking at the future. He was doing so back in training camp. Keim has long talked about taking a three-year view on the roster.
There are things now that impact later, however. In particular, Keim talked about wide receiver Michael Floyd, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Keim was asked if Floyd’s rough season made it more likely the Cards brought him back because his price may go down, or less likely because he has struggled so much.
“I know he’s disappointed and frustrated,” Keim said. “In the past, there’s been some inconsistencies, whether it was dropped balls or other things that came with his game. At the same time he made big plays to compensate for that. That’s the one area where, quite frankly, we haven’t seen this year.”
As for Floyd’s future with the team, Keim said those are discussions that will be made internally. But “whether a guy returns to your team or not, listen, we get emotionally attached to these guys. I want the best for all of them. He’s a guy I am rooting for and hopefully he can turn it around with five games left in the season and have some success for his livelihood. You never want to see a guy underachieve or have the misfortune of hitting the market and getting underpaid. I’m hoping all these guys have success. If they have success, we have success.”
— Keim was asked whether first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche should be playing late in the season.
“Until he earns it and learns how to be a true pro, he has to sit,” Keim said.
Keim compared it to the learning year for D.J. Humphries last season. “It’s on Robert,” Keim added. “He has all the skills, which is the good news, to be a great one. But until Robert understands what comes with being a great player, he’ll be on the bench. That’s the thing Coach and I have always been committed to. Regardless what your salary is, regardless of where you were drafted, you’re going to have to earn your spot on the field.”
— More generally for the future, “we have some plans and ideas in place we think will strengthen this team going forward,” Keim said. He added that as disappointing as the season has been, he believes there are enough core pieces in place — both in age and contractually — that whatever happens after the season with player movement “I don’t think it’s a complete revamp of this team to make it better.”
— Humphries at left tackle was a bright spot, Keim said. The GM said Humphries looks natural at left tackle (which makes sense, since that is Humphries’ natural spot.) As for Ulrick John, Keim said he thought he did a “nice job” until late in the game, when some twists and stunts got to him and right guard John Wetzel.
— Keim lamented the lack of a big play when needed. He was particularly disappointed with the Calais Campbell offsides on the punt late in the game — a play in which the Cards weren’t even rushing the punter — which kept an eventual TD drive alive.
— He was asked about a possible problem with chemistry. “That’s a good question,” Keim said. “In my position, when you put together a team and you look at it on your board … and we’re potentially more talented than we have been the past three years when we had success, but at the same time these guys have to come together.
“I don’t think it’s any secret we haven’t done that yet. It’s the little things, the accountability. That’s a great question and it’s hard for me to answer. Only the 53 guys in that locker room can answer that.”
Tags: Calais Campbell, D.J. Humphries, Michael Floyd, Robert Nkemdiche, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals will have both wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) on the field today against the Falcons. The Mathieu news wasn’t unexpected. Floyd worked out for head athletic trainer Tom Reed before the game and looked OK. It makes the inactive list one devoid of big names, unless you want to count first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche, who has been there more often than not this season.
One other player active today is guard Earl Watford, among reports there could be changes on the offensive line today. We’ll see of D.J. Humphries gets a chance to play left tackle and/or Ulrick John plays right tackle. If there are changes now, it would seem to be production-based, since everyone is active. UPDATE: And the changes have been implemented, based on pre-game warmup. Humphries is the left tackle, Mike Iupati the left guard, A.Q. Shipley still at center, John Wetzel at right guard and John at right tackle.
The full inactive list:
— WR Marquis Bundy
— S Christian Bryant
— LB Sio Moore
— G Cole Toner
— DT Olsen Pierre
— DT Robert Nkemdiche
— DT Ed Stinson
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Falcons, inactives, Michael Floyd, offensive line, Tyrann Mathieu, Ulrick John
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Steve Keim has looked at his offensive line since the day he started. He signed Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati as his most high-profile free-agent additions. He drafted D.J. Humphries with the idea he could eventually upgrade at tackle over Bobby Massie. He signed Evan Mathis as a veteran to be the other guard this season.
We know how it’s turned out so far.
Veldheer and Mathis are done for the season with injuries. Humphries has gone through growing pains this year after sitting all of last year. Iupati, banged up himself, has struggled of late. Fellow guard Earl Watford, Mathis’ replacement, has also been banged up this week. The players off the bench are inexperienced.
As Carson Palmer said this week, continuity is ideal along the line — and the Cardinals have not had continuity. Not anymore. That isn’t to say there weren’t issues anyway, but juggling up front is not what you want. The Cardinals will likely need to score Sunday in Atlanta, since the Falcons are the league’s top scoring team. We might see a steady diet of David Johnson running, but it’s not like the Falcons don’t know that either. In a season of up-and-down offensive production, the tenuous nature of the offensive line has not helped.
“We’ll have five of them out there, for sure,” coach Bruce Arians said.
— Michael Floyd might yet play Sunday even after hurting his hamstring and missing Thursday and Friday on the practice field. But it seems like anything that could go wrong for the free-agent-to-be wide receiver this season has.
— Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will have Patrick Peterson on him most of the game Sunday. Teams have sometimes had a cornerback “travel” to cover Jones, but Jones said it usually comes with a caveat.
“Teams have been trying to do that, but they’ve been playing a lot of two-man while they were doing it,” Jones said. “They’ll take their ‘OK’ corner and put him over me and then just have safety help, and try to put the better corner on the other side, try to let him lock that side down. Pat P, it’s just usually one-on-one.”
— So it turns out neither Peterson — for his unnecessary roughness call for knocking down QB-turned-WR Sam Bradford — or Tony Jefferson — for his hit on the still-trying-to-go-forward Stefon Diggs — were fined for their play. It’s fair to wonder if that means the league disagreed with the calls. Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson was fined $18,231 for his fourth-down hit on Palmer that extended the Cards’ final drive.
— The Vikings offensive linemen weren’t happy with Peterson about the hit. But Arians defended his player, not surprisingly, starting with the fact Bradford was lined up as a wide receiver and no longer had quarterback protections.
“That’s my understanding, and he just threw a flea-flicker on the exact same play, so don’t let it happen,” Arians said. “(Peterson) did what he was coached to do.”
As for the Vikings offensive linemen being upset, “Well, they shouldn’t have threw the flea-flicker the first time then,” Arians said. “He ain’t going to let it happen a second time.”
— The Cardinals are trying to get past an interception drought. They have now gone four games without one, the last time picking off an opposing QB coming way back on Oct. 17 when they nailed Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. Matt Ryan has just five interceptions this season (compared to 24 touchdown passes) but the Cardinals have gotten to Ryan in the past. He threw four interceptions against the Cardinals in Arizona in a 2013 game, and five picks in a game against the Cards in Atlanta in 2012. (Alas, the Cards still lost that 2012 matchup.)
— If Carson Palmer throws two touchdown passes, he’ll surpass Joe Montana on the all-time TD passes list. Palmer sits at 272, Montana 273.
When Palmer was asked about it, his response just reinforced to me my thought Palmer has every plan to play in 2017, regardless of how this season has gone/will go.
“What excites me about the game is the anticipation for Sunday, the process, going through and getting mentally prepared and physically prepared, obviously,” Palmer said. “There is no doubt that it would be an honor to do that, but I love playing the game because I love Sundays.”
— So atlantafalcons.com apparently does weekly simulations about the game ahead, and this week, they had the Cardinals winning the game, 21-19, behind David Johnson’s two touchdowns. So there’s that.
Tags: Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Evan Mathis, fines, Jared Veldheer, Julio Jones, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Keim, Tom Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Vikings
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Steve Keim (like Kevin Minter Sunday) said it right away Monday, about how he sounded like a broken record. The stats were better than the opponent, the score was not. The Cardinals’ General Manager, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, was also blunt about the hole the team is in after 10 games and a disappointing 4-5-1 record.
“We’ve let our fans down, especially when expectations were so high,” Keim said.
That was the theme of Keim’s thoughts. “There’s nothing I care about more with in this organization than winning and putting a product on the field for our fans can be proud of,” he said. And this: “The season is not over, and I know that’s not what the fans and the people supporting us want to hear. But we’re certainly not going to quit.”
— Asked specifically about special teams and special teams coaching, Keim said there will be discussions about that and everything else after the season. He said the reoccurring theme not only for special teams but also the offense and defense was inconsistency. Keim is at practice daily, and he has seen and heard the coaching, not only on special teams but team-wide, and he noted that the players have to get better as well. “At some point and time, it comes down to those guys executing,”
— Along those lines, Keim said he takes ownership in the problems on special teams (and elsewhere) because he’s the one who supplied the players. “It’s something where we all have to look in the mirror, and that starts with me.”
— That was reflected on the long kickoff return. One issue Keim noted, sometimes it’s about “guys running downfield and having the will to make a play.” That’s about fighting through blocks and having a want-to he’s not seeing.
— Taylor Boggs was in the game late Sunday at right guard because Earl Watford was suffering from stingers, Keim said. He added he did not know if that might impact Watford’s availability for Sunday’s game in Atlanta. “We were down to our third guard,” Keim said. “(The Vikings) were running a lot of games and stunts (up front) and we had trouble picking those up.”
— Keim said he wasn’t sure if safety Tyrann Mathieu would be back this week to play, but said he was close in Minnesota and felt there was a good chance Mathieu would be available.
— He said, knowing how sick Michael Floyd was — Floyd was apparently up most of Saturday night ill — that he was willing to give him a pass on the deep pass where Floyd looked to slow up on what turned into a Carson Palmer interception.
— Palmer was impacted by receivers not getting open and protection that wasn’t very good. But “he made some critical mistakes as well,” Keim said.
— Keim said he doesn’t have a problem with the effort this season. But he also said, with limited things he can do to impact the current situation, he will continue to look hard at the back end of the roster and see if he can find players that can help, particularly on special teams.
Otherwise, he said he’ll continue to work by the motto he said he’s followed in his 19 years with the organization. “Be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Keim said. “I have to be a positive leader.”
Tags: Earl Watford, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim, Taylor Boggs, Tyrann Mathieu
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The very first game Larry Fitzgerald played in the NFL was in Minnesota. That’s where the Cardinals opened the preseason in 2004. (He was targeted twice, making one catch for five yards.)
The first game Fitzgerald played that counted in Minnesota was in 2006, and that’s the game he set his regular-season best in yards, with 172 on 11 catches. (He had 176 yards against the Packers in the playoffs in 2015.)
Fitz insists this is just a business trip, and truth be told, he spends enough summer time in Minnesota where I could see how he would be able to separate. Shameless plug: Here’s the story I did after going to Minnesota in 2012 and talking to him at his house on the lake.
(By the way, one part of the interview burned into my brain from that Minny visit: Did you know Fitz wants to go into space?)
Besides, Fitzgerald has big enough reasons to want to get this one aside from his 0-4 record against the Vikings in Minnesota (The Fitz-era Cardinals are 2-1 against the Vikings in Arizona.) It’s not the fact the franchise hasn’t won there since a 1977 game, with an eight-game losing streak. It’s the fact the Cardinals need the win basically to stay in the playoff race. Mathematically they won’t be eliminated, but with a game coming in Atlanta and the Vikings struggling like they are, this one is crucial. No way to argue otherwise.
— It’s easy to wonder about the Cardinals’ offensive line, and John Wetzel and D.J. Humphries will be tested (yes, that is an understatement) against this front in this building. The Cards have to run the ball better than they did last week, you’d think.
But the Vikings are facing the same issues, if not moreso. With no Adrian Peterson and line injuries, the Vikings have one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. QB Sam Bradford has been solid when he has time – he’s only thrown two picks – but he can be sacked. For the noticeable hiccups the Cardinals have had on defense, and some blown coverages, the Cardinals have allowed a league-low 4.7 yards per play this season and their pass defense has nine interceptions and has allowed only six passing touchdowns.
— Along those lines, the Patrick Peterson-covering-Stefon Diggs matchup is incredibly intriguing. Diggs has made 26 catches total the last two games. That’s a huge number. By comparison, Pro Football Focus has Peterson allowing just 20 receptions all season.
— The Vikings have 38-year-old cornerback Terence Newman, who has played a significant role. Peterson shook his head at such longevity. Peterson, at age 26 in his sixth year, said he wants to make double-digits for a career before he thinks beyond that.
“My mindset is I want to go as long as my body will let me go,” Peterson said.
— Michael Floyd is also going home this weekend. He’s from St. Paul. He was asked if he looked forward to seeing some snow, since it’s supposed to snow tonight. “I’m glad they have a roof,” he said with a smile, referencing the new stadium.
— We’ll see on Tyrann Mathieu playing. It felt like a red flag when Bruce Arians said he was sore on Friday. It’s hard to tell if the safety will be playing Sunday. It could be a true game-day decision.
— You feel better about Deone Bucannon playing, despite only one day of limited work. Arians said he was “fine.” He’d be an option on tight end Kyle Rudolph. The good thing for the Cardinals is that this is the first time in a while they aren’t dealing with a mobile QB (Wilson, albeit gimpy; Newton; Kaepernick).
— Fitz, by the way, had ditched the knee brace for Friday’s practice after wearing one Thursday (and in the second half of the 49ers game.)
— Will be cool to see the new building. Everything I have heard (and seen on TV) makes U.S. Bank Stadium the jewel it was supposed to be. We’ll see if the Cardinals can find a way to break their losing streak now that they’re in a new place.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, John Wetzel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs, Terence Newman, Tyrann Mathieu, Vikings
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Wide receiver Jaron Brown, out for the season with an ACL tear, was supposed to be a free agent in the spring. Instead, the Cardinals have signed him to a one-year contract extension that will help with the clarity of the wide receiver corps for 2017.
We’ve written multiple times about the many free agents the Cardinals will have after this season. The Cardinals have pecked away at the list — Tyrann Mathieu and Larry Fitzgerald signed extensions during training camp; GM Steve Keim continues to say dialogue is ongoing with linebacker Chandler Jones — but there are still a lot of players with which to deal.
Brown had been one of them. Wide receiver is an interesting position for next season. Michael Floyd is scheduled to be a free agent, and with his ups and downs and because of the money he could command, his return is anything but certain. Fitzgerald did sign an extension, but he hasn’t come out and say he will definitely play next season (and not retire) — although his play this season is anything but a player who is fading. Smokey Brown and J.J. Nelson are under contract next season, but neither are the big body that Fitz or Floyd or Jaron Brown are.
Jaron Brown was having a solid season this year before his knee injury. He had 11 catches for 187 yards in just seven games, on his way to setting career highs in both categories. Plus he’s proven his worth on special teams. Brown finds himself in a prove-it situation given his knee injury, but assuming he can come back healthy, it makes sense to bring Brown back.
Tags: free agency, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Steve Keim was blunt.
“I don’t think there are any disappointing wins,” the Cardinals GM said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “The one thing I’ve learned in this position is to respect and appreciate every win.”
The Cardinals are back to .500 after beating the 49ers. They have huge games coming up, on the road, with playoff contenders Minnesota and Atlanta. The good news is that Keim said the Cards came out of the game “relatively healthy” — Keim was not asked about the status of Larry Fitzgerald — and in keeping with the theme of respecting every victory, he found the positives from his team’s first game of the second half of the season.
— Keim said he was encouraged by the play of two players who struggled in the first half of the season: wide receiver Michael Floyd and kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Both continued to work every day despite their issues, Keim said. Especially for Floyd, “to see a smile on his face in the locker room was exciting for all of us,” Keim said.
— The offensive line did OK. Keim said new left tackle John Wetzel “played good” although Keim acknowledged the 49ers don’t have much of an edge rush (Wetzel will most certainly face a harder test against the Vikings.) The 49ers came in with a plan to jam up the run, so even going against the NFL’s worst run defense, “do you want to run into a wall?” Keim asked rhetorically. Instead, the Cardinals threw the ball. It led to turnovers, all on passing plays — two interceptions, a fumble by Palmer trying to buy time to throw a pass, a fumble by J.J. Nelson after a catch. The turnovers are what made the game close, Keim said.
— He praised Fitzgerald. “Fitz continues to be a warrior, making plays in critical situations,” Keim said. Again, no comment (or question) about Fitz’s health.
— The big picture says the Cardinals “have opportunities ahead of us.” And the Cards did finish in a close game, something they didn’t do against New England or Seattle (or Los Angeles, for that matter.”
— Keim said there was a chance safety Tyrann Mathieu will be able to return either against the Vikings or the following week against the Falcons.
— Keim still doesn’t give much vibe one way or the other about the possibility of a Chandler Jones contract extension. “Without getting into the dialogue of negotiations, when you make a trade you’re not sure how its going to go,” Keim said. “But he’s been a great teammate, fantastic in locker room, he works hard on and off on field. He’s been great fit for us, and hopefully we can iron out something long term.”
Tags: 49ers, Chandler Catanzaro, Chandler Jones, contract, John Wetzel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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No one ever talks about “must-win” before a game, not players or coaches. But after Sunday’s nail-biting-when-you-hoped-there-be-no-nails-bitten win for the Cardinals, Bruce Arians acknowledged that the victory over the 49ers was not just vital, but that if the Cards couldn’t win that game at home, “it’s over.”
Safety Tony Jefferson paused a bit when that info was relayed to him. “I don’t know how that works,” Jefferson said. “I barely just found out who’s in the AFC and all that.” Jefferson chuckled. “I just go out there and play and try and get a ‘W.'”
The Cardinals did that. There was hope there might be some style points this week if for no other reason to build confidence. Instead, the Cardinals will have to take what they can — their field-goal unit came up with a kick it had to have. The passing game got some chunks. Michael Floyd emerged with a 100-yard game. Larry Fitzgerald was pretty awesome.
— It did not help that the Seahawks hung on in New England.
— Something to watch is Fitzgerald’s health. He had a big knee brace he was playing with by the end of the game. He landed awkwardly after one tackle by 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward. “He ended up telling me that he ended up tearing something,” Ward said of Fitz. Which is probably not good — although Fitz played the whole game.
Afterward, Fitzgerald said he’s “been better” but said he’d be ready for this week. It would stun me if he wasn’t available — the last game Fitzgerald would ever want to miss is one in his home state of Minnesota. If he’s injured he’s injured, but I’d guess Fitz makes it work.
— I’ve covered Fitzgerald his whole career and he’s always been a great player. But one thing that’s really come into focus the last couple of seasons is how tough he is. He’s been tough blocking (doing something he still will say he doesn’t like to do) and he’s been tough playing through injuries — even if he won’t come out and call them injuries. If he did tear something, anything and still had a 12-catch game, most of them in traffic, it just underscores the thought.
— Chandler Jones two more sacks. Again, he’s been good.
— That’s the Floyd the Cardinals want and need. Great catches battling for the ball. The one he made on the final field-goal drive — after Carson Palmer bought some time and threw on the run, a nice play by him as well — was stellar and vintage Floyd. “Mentally I had to tell myself this is like playing in the sixth grade — going out and making plays,” Floyd said. Postgame was the first time Floyd really talked about making drops. The Cards hope it’s behind him.
— That last Palmer interception was straight out of first-half-of-2013 Palmer. He took way too long on the play he was stripped and lost the fumble too. Those are plays the Cardinals can’t afford to have Palmer make.
— Niners coach Chip Kelly said he didn’t really think about going for two with 1:55 left, instead kicking the extra point for the tie. His thoughts — which I agree with — is that a field goal still beats you and there was time for the Cards to get that field goal. “I didn’t want to lose it for them because I wanted to be a gunslinger and end up 20-19,” Kelly said.
— That 16-yard scramble Palmer had in the first half? Longest run of his career, which started in 2003.
— I thought David Johnson was going to have a huge game. And it’s funny, he still had 100 yards rushing + receiving and scored two touchdowns. Most guys would take that as a huge game. But we all know, against the league’s worst run defense, more was expected. It was a combination of things, I think. The blocking wasn’t great, no. Johnson could’ve avoided a loss a couple of times. But also, the Niners have heard for a minute now about giving up 100-yard rushers seven straight games. At some point, you gotta think there’s a little “no more” of a vibe.
That said, the Cardinals still have too many hiccups in getting yards — Sunday, it was in the air — but not enough touchdowns.
— A win is a win. It wasn’t the one everyone wanted, but I know this — it’s not a loss. I agree with Arians, it would’ve been over. But it isn’t.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Tony Jefferson
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OK, maybe it’s a little strong to say this is the John Wetzel game, but it’s definitely the beginning of the John Wetzel-half season. Wetzel is the guy who is replacing left tackle Jared Veldheer (torn triceps) for the rest of the season. He isn’t the only variable over which the Cardinals may or may not make the run they need to make, but he is definitely one of the biggest.
“The thing about Wetzel that you have to get over is every time you look at him, he looks freaking miserable,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “Just miserable. Makes you upset to your core too, like ‘What’s the problem?’ As long as he’s got that miserable look on his face, that means he’s ready to go, ready to play.”
Wetzel has apparently looked absolutely down in the dumps this week, so optimism reigns.
His appearance, however, is the perfect proof of how this season is different than the fun run of 2015. Somebody as crucial as Veldheer didn’t get hurt this early last season (Tyrann Mathieu’s injury came as the Cards were wrapping up the division.) All the key guys were basically healthy. The offense had no question marks. Not like now. The Cards should get better offensively Sunday, because the 49ers defense is simply bad. Can they keep up something consistent through the rest of the schedule? Through the rest of a five-road-games-in-the-final-seven-weeks schedule?
— Underscoring the injuries. The Cardinals have had 58 different players appear in at least one game this season. The Cards had only 56 players appear in at least one game all of last season.
— David Johnson ran for a season-high 157 yards against the 49ers. The Niners have allowed a 100-yard rusher in seven straight games, a ignominious NFL record. Everything points to a lot of Johnson this week.
“If you’re getting 5-to-10 (yards a try), you keep it up, but it’s hard to get 5-to-10,” coach Bruce Arians said. “If you’re giving up five, you’re not very good. Sooner or later, you’re not going to get five and your quarterback’s not in any kind of a rhythm to get a first down on third down. So, you’ve got to mix it up.”
— Granted, it’s because questions are asked, but there has been a lot of positive things spoken about both Smokey Brown and about Michael Floyd this week. The Niners aren’t exactly great against the pass either. Would it shock me to use Johnson sometimes as the decoy to open up the passing game? No.
— The Cardinals are No. 1 in the NFL in total defense. It’d be nice to stay there against this opponent.
— What’s missing on offense, according to Goodwin? (Hint: It’s no surprise): “Getting those explosive plays, which we have a number we want to hit, is key to our offense,” Goodwin said. “As far as getting enthusiasm going, getting excitement going, getting chunk plays. We have to get back to that.”
Goodwin said he wouldn’t say how many the Cards want to hit per game, but it was more than five. Let’s say an explosive play is at least 20 yards — the Cardinals have 31 such plays this season in eight games. That’s less than four per game.
— No Tyrann Mathieu and no Tharold Simon mean a pretty big opportunity for either Brandon Williams or Justin Bethel. The season hasn’t gone the way either of them have wanted, not at cornerback. This is an important moment for at least one to make a mark.
— While I hope everyone got a chance to see the recent Pat Tillman “A Football Life” episode, I hope you also check out our most recent Zoom episode on Tillman. That’s the full interview that Tillman gave in the summer of 2001 that gives an insight into Tillman the person. It’s fascinating, especially in hindsight.
— In each of his three previous Cardinals seasons, Arians has had his team with a winning streak of four games, six games and
eight nine games. The Cardinals have only a two-game winning streak this season so far.
— Don’t forget the annual food drive before Sunday’s game. Volunteers from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and Cardinals Cheerleaders will be at collection points outside of all five stadium gates and the Great Lawn. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or money for donation.
— The second half has arrived. The Cardinals need it to be so much better than the first.
Tags: 49ers, Brandon Williams, Bruce Arians, David Johnson, Harold Goodwin, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Michael Floyd, Pat Tillman
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