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Temper flashes hot for Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2016 – 12:18 am

Bruce Arians still has his fire. It’s been there a few times on the sideline this season — for those asking where it went — and it most certainly was there in Carolina last weekend during halftime.

Arians, during his weekly coach’s show “Cardinals Flight Plan” late Saturday night, Arians said what he said in the locker room, he “couldn’t repeat it.”

“There were a lot of things thrown, and my temper was … I haven’t done that since I was 33 years old  with Temple, at Deleware,” Arians said. “I don’t really think anything gets done that way, but it was just ridiculous the way we were playing offensively.”

The Cards played better on offense in the second half, but that isn’t necessarily the point. I think it says something that Arians, who has had plenty of heated moments in games and in practices since he arrived in Arizona, got into his team harder in his mind than any time in the last 30 years. Arians is right, I think — on the NFL level, anger doesn’t help a lot, not with pro athletes — but clearly, Arians hasn’t lost his ability to lose it on his team. It also shows where his frustration level was before the bye.

ariansyell


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Mathieu “pretty good” after shoulder injury

Posted by Darren Urban on November 1, 2016 – 3:08 pm

Safety Tyrann Mathieu is going to miss some time with his shoulder injury, but he was in good spirits Tuesday after the Cardinals had meetings and their annual team photo. Mathieu hung out with some teammates in the locker room for more than an hour after the photo and said his mindset was “pretty good” even though he got hurt.

“It’s not something that’s going to keep me out for the rest of the season,” Mathieu said, echoing Bruce Arians’ thoughts previous.

Mathieu said he was in on a tackle trying to pull a Panther down and in the course of trying to brace himself, both his weight and the Panthers player’s weight fell on his arm.

“I kind of popped it back in, and then it felt like I lost some strength in it,” Mathieu said. “I played one more play and then I was like, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’ ”

Mathieu left after playing 16 defensive snaps. He was originally listed as probable to return, but he did not. Arians said Mathieu could miss up to 3-to-6 weeks, but Mathieu said he was hopeful it would more like 2-to-3. Arians seemed certain Mathieu would miss the Cardinals’ next game Nov. 13 at home against the 49ers, but there is a chance Mathieu could be back for the Nov. 20 road game in Minnesota. Mathieu will have to play with a harness once he returns.

“Once my shoulder gets stable, I’ll be good to go,” Mathieu said.

Tyrann Mathieu

 


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Panthers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2016 – 8:02 pm

At one point – and it was very ugly for a while Sunday – someone said to me on Twitter that Sunday’s showing by the Cardinals in Carolina was worse than the one in January by the Cardinals in Carolina. Uh, no. It wasn’t at its lowest point Sunday, and then the Cardinals started to rally.

Late rallies after early bad deficits are what they are. It shows a little something, but it doesn’t wipe out what you did to tumble into the hole in the first place. There were legitimate questions of why it turned out this way – hangover from the nasty five quarters against the Seahawks, an early kickoff – but it’s really all moot.

Now the Cardinals reach the halfway point and their bye with a chance to regroup. Get a little more healthy. And try and make sure the gains they had made over the previous three games don’t go to waste.

“We’re not going to coward away,” quarterback Carson Palmer said.

They shouldn’t. The math says they are still in control of their own destiny. The Seahawks lost and aren’t looking all that powerful themselves. The problem is that the Cardinals have to pile up wins – on the road – in the second half of the season to get there. Doable, but they will have to play much more consistently from here on out.

— About the two replays. The first is simple. It was a turnover and a score. The booth was going to look at it. Both Bruce Arians and Palmer lobbied that it was a pass and not a fumble, but that’s as much as they can do. No, Arians can’t call a timeout to argue more. The booth – rightly or wrongly – decided quickly that there was no reason to look at it closely. I was stunned, and so were the Cardinals, but that was that.

— As for the Greg Olsen catch on the sideline that by TV replay looked incomplete (and ultimately cost the Cards four points, because the Panthers ended up getting a touchdown instead of a field goal), Arians said the Cardinals did not get a replay that showed something to be challenged. It doesn’t sound like they necessarily get the TV replay.

— The bye comes at a good time, because the Cardinals are hurting. It’s never good when your starting left tackle leaves the game, and Jared Veldheer has been so tough since he showed up you have to figure something really had to be wrong with his right arm to come out. That’s one that bears watching. If Veldheer was hurting long-term, D.J. Humphries may slide over to the left side and John Wetzel – who replaced Veldheer Sunday – could be on the right side.

— The Cards also have to see how safety Tyrann Mathieu is with his shoulder and if whatever that sent Larry Fitzgerald to the sideline hobbling (he came back in) is something that lingers.

Yes, a bye is a good thing for a wounded team.

— Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was not happy earlier in the season by some hits he was taking and said something about it, wasn’t happy after the game again. At one point after a run he had words with linebacker Kevin Minter and safety D.J. Swearinger, and then he was very upset after defensive tackle Calais Campbell got him between the knees and ankles on a pass attempt, pulling Newton down in an attempted sack. No flag was thrown.

Campbell had stumbled through the blocking – it did not look like he intentionally dove at Newton’s knees – and he tried to say something that looked conciliatory after the play.

“I could have torn my ACL,” Newton said. “That’s the breaking point.”

Newton added, “It’s really taken the fun out of the game for me, honestly. It really is because at times, I don’t even feel safe. Right? And enough is enough. I plan on talking to Commissioner Roger Goodell about this.”

— Michael Floyd played, but he didn’t have a catch (save for one wiped out by penalty). We’ll see where he is with his hamstring, but he looked OK running around. John Brown got his first touchdown of the season but Arians said he’s still not playing like Smoke. J.J. Nelson, however, played very well, and Arians said someone is going to have to take Nelson’s playing time away at this point.

— An early hole made it harder to stick with the run, but what really made it hard was that the Panthers’ run defense swarmed David Johnson Sunday. Between that and the eight sacks, it was not a good day for the offense line. To their collective credit, they owned up to it.

— Cards are down 16, but there is still a quarter to go and they have momentum. So:

1) Earl Watford is called for holding on a no-yard run on first-and-10;
2) Veldheer is called for illegal formation on first-and-20;
3) Palmer gains six yards on a pass to make it second-and-19 and then drills Andre Ellington for a 27-yard gain but D.J. Humphries is called for hands-to-the-face and Palmer pops off (pretty mildly, though – “Another freaking flag”? draws a flag?) and suddenly, the Cards aren’t inside the Carolina 30 but at their own 20 on second-and-44.

— Sure the Cards had their chance late after the Jefferson fumble and before the Palmer tipped interception, but that penalty sequence really undercut the comeback. You can be upset with the flags being thrown, but ultimately, you have to avoid them in the first place. Usually the Cards are good at that.

— I’ve rambled long enough. Eight games to go. We’ll see if the Cardinals can find a way to be playing beyond New Year’s Day.

Carson Palmer, Kawann Short


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Going deep, Friday before the Panthers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2016 – 3:22 pm

It’s a weekly occurrence, the concern about the Cardinals’ deep ball that just isn’t there anymore. Is there anything that can be done about it? Maybe not. It’s a simple equation for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin of why they’ve dried up.

“Because no one is giving them to us,” Goodwin said. “People are playing deep coverage on us, and forcing us to make intermediate and underneath throws. That’s one reason the running game is a little bit better too.

“People know we live for the shot and people aren’t going to give it it up anymore. We respect that. We just have to beat them in different ways.”

The Panthers are a team that’s had problems on the back end and would seem to be susceptible down the field. Then again, the same things were said about the game against the Jets and the Jets played off and the Cardinals bludgeoned them to death with David Johnson. The Panthers are stout against the run, but the Cards aren’t giving up that part of the game.

But Bruce Arians continues to say — with a stronger nod to running the ball these days — that there will be times to take shots and some are still open. Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer definitely lamented the J.J. Nelson bomb against the Seahawks that Palmer simply threw too far out of bounds.

“I missed a couple,” Palmer said. “I had J.J. on a couple the other night. I’ve taken shots that I shouldn’t have in certain situations. I think one thing I need to do is be a little bit more picky – when to take them, when not to take them. That’s something I’ve really been trying to work on.”

— I didn’t think the Panthers were going to be 15-1 again this season. But they shouldn’t be 1-5. I thought Kelvin Benjamin was going to be a huge upgrade in helping their passing game. In all honesty, I didn’t think Josh Norman — or a lack thereof — would have this sort of an impact.

— Larry Fitzgerald had a tough flight home the last time the Cardinals were in Carolina. Bruce Arians, not so much. “Steve (Keim) and I were working on next year already.”

— The Cardinals need better special teams. And not just Chandler Catanzaro kicking field goals. Protections have to be cleaned up. Last week, the Cards were hurt when Jaron Brown went down, forcing Kerwynn Williams in as a wing protector on the punt team. Williams is the one who surrendered the blocked punt. There’s no question injuries have taken a toll on special team — Four guys on IR, Tyvon Branch, Jaron Brown, Alani Fua and Troy Niklas, were all key special teams pieces to begin the year.

“You always have to be ready,” special teamer Stepfan Taylor said. “It’s kind of a want-to and a technique kind of deal. We do a good job of everybody ready, but you can only suit up 46 people in the game. It becomes limited. You have people who have never played it before having to be in-game ready and jump in.”

— We’ll see if the 10 a.m. kickoff Arizona time impacts anything. The Cardinals didn’t play well in the 10 a.m. kickoff in Buffalo, although I’m not sure that was time-related. It would’ve been better to have the 1:25 p.m. Az time kick as originally scheduled (TV moved it because both teams aren’t playing well), but it’s not like they haven’t done it before. The team is in the air right now flying out to Carolina.

At least I’ll get home at a reasonable time. Hey, I’m looking at the silver lining.

— Injuries will play a big role in how the pass rushes for both teams might look. When the Cardinals are on offense, how does left tackle Jared Veldheer hold up with a cast on his right hand against the formidable Carolina defensive line? On the other side, not having starting left tackle Michael Oher (concussion) could make things interesting against edge rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.

— One last word on the two field goal block/miss in Seattle. The NFL explains why both were legal in this video.

— There’s been a lot of talk about the tie the Panthers had in 2014, allowing them to win the NFC South at 7-8-1 over the 7-9 Saints. In context, of course, it was a point made after the Cardinals had their own tie last weekend. There’s only one problem — while the tie made the final standings cleaner in terms of seeing who won, the Panthers were going to win the division anyway. The Panthers and Saints split their two games, and the Panthers had a better division record. So even if the Panthers had lost and not tied the Bengals, they would’ve won the South.

— Don’t forget the Pat Tillman “A Football Life” tonight at 6 p.m. on NFL Network (and probably replaying a time or two. Check your local listing.)

— The Cardinals get the bye next week. There’s a pretty big difference between 4-3-1 and 3-4-1. At least in the chase to make the postseason.

beforepanthersblog


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Cardinals getting stingy on defense

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2016 – 10:06 am

The Cardinals’ defense has become very stingy. Hasn’t allowed a touchdown in nine quarters and two games. The franchise hasn’t had a stretch where it didn’t allow a touchdown in two straight games since 1970. That’s a long time ago (and when the NFL game was a completely different animal.) The Cardinals are now fifth in the NFL in scoring defense at 15.7 points a game and second (behind Minnesota) in total defense.

The current stretch, however, has come against clearly lesser offenses. The Panthers, who the Cards visit this weekend, are fifth in the NFL in scoring at nearly 27 points a game. Carolina is not playing well enough to win, but it is scoring well enough to win (which tells you something about the Panthers’ leaky defense.)

Many teams have quarterbacks that can move a little bit. The Cards benefited from the fact Russell Wilson, with a knee and an ankle banged up, clearly can’t run around as well as he normally can. Now comes Cam Newton, who can definitely run around and has the giant frame to boot. Newton has taken a lot of punishment this season as he’s run around, so maybe that impacts the Carolina game plan, but it would be foolish to think Newton carrying the ball — either by design or scrambling — won’t be a concern.

Still, the Panthers are facing a different defense than the one they saw in the NFC Championship. The effective four-man pass rush, and the way Chandler Jones is playing, changes the dynamic. Tyrann Mathieu isn’t quite himself — Bruce Arians said on Sirius XM radio Tuesday Mathieu was about 85 percent, in his estimation, and will be better once the knee brace can come off — but at least he is on the field, unlike January. The odds aren’t with the Cards to keep the Panthers out of the end zone — although when the Panthers met the Vikings earlier this season in Carolina, the Panthers only scored 10 points.

defensestingyblog


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Slow starts cost Cardinals later Carolina time

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2016 – 1:22 pm

It wasn’t — somewhat surprisingly — made a primetime matchup, given the fact that the Cardinals and Panthers met in the NFC Championship game. But the Oct. 30 game in Carolina was given the late kickoff — 1:25 p.m. Arizona time, 4:25 p.m. in North Carolina — ostensibly so it could be showcased on Fox.

Then the Cardinals had their issues with a 2-3 start and the Panthers have struggled mightily, falling to 1-4 after a “Monday Night Football” loss at home against the Buccaneers. So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Wednesday the NFL officially moved the Cards-Panthers kickoff, up to 10 a.m Arizona time. The Falcons (who are playing well and lead the NFC South) host the Packers that day in a game that was originally at 10 a.m. Arizona time and now gets that open 1:25 p.m. slot on Fox.

What it means is a much earlier start for the western team, and the one game the Cardinals had with such a time this season didn’t go so well (an ugly loss in Buffalo.) The Cards will leave on Friday that weekend to try and get acclimated, but it is an early start.

(Then again, the Cards got a night start in Carolina in January, and that didn’t turn out well either. So …)

timechangecar


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“Best thing” for Cards now — turnover margin

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2016 – 11:33 am

Bruce Arians may have been a little salty about how the offense played in the Cardinals’ win Sunday, but he has left no doubt how he feels about the team’s turnover margin. “That’s probably the best thing we’re doing right now,” Arians said. Then again, how could he not see it that way?

Yes, there have been a couple of near-picks for quarterback Carson Palmer, but they have not been picks. So after two games, the Cardinals have yet to turn it over, and have amassed seven turnovers themselves — four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. Math and the law of averages says the fumbles won’t always bounce the Cards way, but they aren’t putting the ball on the ground themselves.

Right now, they lead the league in takeaways (Carolina, Minnesota and San Francisco each have six) and lead in turnover differential (two ahead of the Vikings’ plus-5.) Oakland and Philadelphia are the other two teams without a turnover yet.

The Cardinals were second in the league in takeaways last season with 33, and they are doing it right now without one of their dynamic back-end players playing at full Honey Badger. That’s a good sign. Another good sign? The only other time the Cards went the first two games without turning the ball in the first two games of the season since 1940 was 2008 — the year the franchise reached the Super Bowl.

(OK, as coincidences go, it’s a stretch. But we’ll see.)

turnoversplusesblog

 

 


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First home game usually means victory

Posted by Darren Urban on September 7, 2016 – 10:34 am

The Cardinals never played at home in Week 1 of the NFL season during their 18 seasons at Sun Devil Stadium. Sunday night will be the seventh time in 11 seasons at University of Phoenix Stadium that the Cardinals have hosted a Week 1 game. With the Patriots coming to town for “Sunday Night Football,” it makes a difference.

The Cards have won six straight home openers and have won 10 straight home games in September. It’s interesting to note that the last time the Cardinals lost at home in September was back in 2009, when the reigning NFC Champions lost not once but twice.

You remember that season, right? The Cards lost their opener, at home, to a lesser 49ers team. A couple of weeks later, Peyton Manning and the Colts blew them out of the building. The Cardinals were 1-2, everyone asked “What’s wrong?” — and then they got to 10-5 before shutting it down in the regular-season finale against the Packers.

Since then, the Cards’ home opener has been in Week 1 four times (wins over Carolina in Cam’s first start in 2011, Seattle in Russell Wilson’s first start in 2012, San Diego on “Monday Night Football” in 2014 and New Orleans last year), Week 2 once (beating Detroit in 2013) and Week 3 once (beating Oakland in 2010.)

You can argue, easily, that the Patriots represent the best team the Cardinals have hosted in the home opener in that span (although the 2012 Seahawks turned out to be pretty good). But the Cardinals have made that first home game advantageous.

homeplayblog


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No Norman when Cardinals visit Carolina

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2016 – 3:43 pm

As if the Eagles-Browns trade wasn’t big enough news for the NFL Wednesday, this afternoon the Panthers in a stunning move rescinded the franchise tag from all-pro cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is now free to sign anywhere, and while in theory that includes back with the Panthers, it’s hard to see a scenario where that happens.

Norman had not signed his tender offer — worth nearly $14 million — and was in a position where he and Carolina had until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Reportedly, Norman, 28, was looking for around $16M a year. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said today it had become clear to him the team and Norman would never reach a long-term contract. Still, it’s odd the team would just let him go. Norman might have threatened to sit out (without signing the tender, he wasn’t obligated to show up, even to training camp) but he wouldn’t be the first, and he just said last month he was willing to play under the tag this season.

How does this impact the Cardinals? Not directly. Norman is a free agent, but the Cards a) only have about $6.5 million of cap space, b) are already paying a cornerback a ton of money (Patrick Peterson)and c) are on deck to pay another secondary member (Tyrann Mathieu) a lot of money. Norman isn’t coming here. But the Cardinals do visit the Panthers in 2016, so no Norman figures to help the Cards’ deep receiving corps.

That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Norman. Both the 49ers and Rams had been trying to sign premier cornerbacks in free agency, and the 49ers especially ($52 million in cap space) would seem to have the resources to give Norman what he wants.

NormanOut


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A return for Gresham

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2016 – 2:07 pm

Tight end Jermaine Gresham, a free agent, had been looking around. He talked to the Bears, he talked to the Jets. But multiple reports have Gresham choosing to stick with the Cardinals, at least for another season. More interestingly, Adam Schefter reported that Gresham passed up a four-year deal with $12 million in guaranteed money to return the the Cards for less.

Gresham’s return would seem to solidify the tight end position if the Cardinals decide not to draft one. Already back after signing their tender offers were Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah, while Gerald Christian is coming off a knee injury and former second-round pick Troy Niklas heads into his third season. Gresham did have a career-low of 18 catches last season, although a career-best 12.4 yards per reception. The Cardinals liked the job he did blocking as well.

Schefter is also reporting that the Cardinals are getting a visit from Panthers free-agent guard Amini Silatolu. Silatolu played in only nine games, starting three, in 2015. He is coming off an ACL tear in his left knee suffered in November, and would be depth potential on an offensive line that is likely to lose Ted Larsen in free agency.

Jermaine Gresham


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