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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A decade ago this weekend (on Dec. 28 to be exact), the Cardinals knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs with a dramatic Hail Mary touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Nate Poole that thrust the Packers into an improbable postseason berth. Ten years later, McCown is a backup Bear, hoping his own team can get into the playoffs. Larry Fitzgerald, the guy the Cards drafted because they went from the No. 1 to No. 3 overall pick that day, is the face of the franchise. And the Cardinals are hoping Mike Glennon can be their Josh McCown.
Like the Packers that day, who still needed to beat the Broncos to have a Vikings loss mean anything, the Cardinals must knock off the 49ers to have a shot at the playoffs. But if they do, they must count on the Buccaneers – playing the role of the 2003 Cardinals – to knock off, in New Orleans, the heavily favored Saints – playing the role of the 2003 Vikings. It’s unlikely, yes. But so too were the Cards, McCown and Poole.
“Anybody can beat anybody in the National Football League,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s a tough place to play but they play them every year in that division.”
Then again, Arians has stressed to his team all week they should only be paying attention to the 49ers and not the scoreboard. It’s simple, really. If the Cards blow the game against San Francisco (and it will be anything but easy), the Saints-Bucs game means nothing anyway.
“If we don’t win, that would really be a crying shame,” Arians said.
— One last note on the missed chance the Falcons had to knock off the 49ers. Arians cracked he was asleep when the final interception happened to cost Atlanta at least a chance to tie. He watched it later on video. “I like the fact Smitty was playing for the win,” Arians said of Falcons coach Mike Smith and the pass play at the end.
— The Cardinals had their last practice of the season Friday. Maybe. “I’ve been in a bunch of these, where the last one counts,” Arians said. “You don’t know what is going to happen Sunday. This team has a chance to make history and that’s all we have talked about all week.”
— The local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association handed out its two annual awards Friday. Center Lyle Sendlein was given the Steve Schoenfeld “Good Guy” award for being always accessible and insightful with the media regardless of the situation. Linebacker Karlos Dansby received the Lloyd Herberg MVP award. Both awards are named after former Arizona Republic Cardinals writers whose lives were tragically cut short.
— A reminder: Cards are wearing red-on-red Sunday.
— The roof will be open for the game.
— In the weekly video about officiating that the league sends out, VP of officiating Dean Blandino explained the confusing first-and-20 situation in Seattle after an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Cardinals. A flag was thrown on defensive end Frostee Rucker. The penalty was for verbal abuse of an official. A normal unsportsmanlike penalty would be marked off and then the first-and-10 chains set – normally making it first-and-10 at the Arizona 10-yard line. When the penalty is against an official, however, the chains are set and then the penalty is marked off. So the Cards had a first-and-20 at their 10.
— In their last nine meetings against the 49ers, the Cardinals have a whopping 28 turnovers and have never won the turnover battle. That’s why they have lost eight of them (and the one win, the Cards had three turnovers, the Niners zero.) The Cards must take better care of the ball.
— The Cardinals did not play great that day in San Francisco back in October, but were left with the feeling of a missed opportunity. That’s been an underlying theme this week.
— Here’s hoping the Cards have found out how to quell tight end Vernon Davis, who beat them up pretty well the first time around (8-180-2). ”
— I am interested to see what it is like in University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday. This game has been sold out for a while. The Cards have a chance to win 11 for the first time in Arizona, playoffs or no playoffs. This is a rivalry. “If we could only win two games the whole season, I would pick both to be the 49ers,” Fitz said this week, and this is a chance to get one.
Until Sunday …
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Dean Blandino, Falcons, Josh McCown, Nate Poole, Saints, University of Phoenix stadium, Vernon Davis
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In 2002, the Cardinals signed tight end Freddie Jones as a free agent. He had a good start to his NFL career while in San Diego, and he was an upgrade at the position. Turns out he was necessary that season too, because starting receivers Frank Sanders and David Boston each suffered injuries (as did MarTay Jenkins and Bryan Gilmore, the No. 3 and 4 guys) and with green wideouts like Jason McAddley and Nate Poole forced to play, a tight end was incredibly important.
So, for the one and only time since the Cardinals moved to Arizona, a tight end – Jones – was the team’s leading pass catcher in a season. Jones had 44 receptions for 358 yards and one touchdown that season. Jones was even better the next season, with 55 receptions for 517 yards (that was Anquan Boldin’s rookie year, though, with 101 catches). And in 2004, Jones had 45 receptions for 426 yards.
By 2005, though, Jones was gone. And the Cards have been searching for a tight end since.
As of now, that hope rests with third-round pick Rob Housler out of Florida Atlantic, a speedy 6-foot-5 H-back type who should be able to stretch the field. His blocking needs work, something he admitted already, but it would help to have a quality receiving option in that spot.
Since Jones left, it’s been a lot about hope unfulfilled. The undrafted tandem of Eric Edwards and Troy Bienemann was the first attempt. Then Leonard Pope was drafted, and while he flashed a couple of times, it was clear after 2007 and coach Ken Whisenhunt’s first season he wouldn’t be the answer. Ben Patrick – whose contract is expiring — also flashed a few times as a seventh-rounder (especially with his TD catch in the Super Bowl) but he never has made a huge impact and never had more than 15 catches in a season.
Granted, in the Warner years, using three- and four-wideouts made more sense, especially when the wideouts had the talent that the Cardinals did. Whisenhunt made clear Housler could be split wide at times and create mismatches, however. And, as many fans have pointed out, when you are breaking in a younger quarterback, the safety valve of a quality tight end can help with the learning curve.
Housler will get a chance to show what he has, and there is a chance the Cards also look in free agency. Jim Dray should be back, and Stephen Spach could be too; Patrick may be more iffy depending on who else is signed. The Cards will have at least four tight ends in training camp.
We’ll see if any of them can, at the very least, echo Freddie Jones.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Ben Patrick, Bryan Gilmore, David Boston, Eric Edwards, Frank Sanders, Freddie Jones, Jason McAddley, Jim Dray, Ken Whisenhunt, Leonard Pope, MarTay Jenkins, Nate Poole, Rob Housler, Stephen Spach, Troy Bienemann
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