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Blogs

Packers aftermath, heading to NFC title game

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2016 – 1:09 am

Where to begin.

Let’s start here: I can’t recall a crazier ending for the Cardinals. Ever. That playoff win against the Packers back in the 2009 season was back-and-forth too, wild swings of emotion, but that was simply offensive football played at an incredibly high level. I’m not sure exactly what Saturday night was.

There was one guy playing at a high level. It was Larry Fitzgerald, and that’s the best place to start. I think Fitz had already made a strong Hall of Fame case. But what he did Saturday, basically jump-starting a moribund Cardinals offense by himself, and then making that play in overtime to race 75 yards and set up the (well, his) game-winning touchdown. I know there isn’t much more to be said about Fitz that hasn’t already been said, but Saturday night? That’s how legends are made. They are made with epic playoff performances like Fitz had in the 2008 Super Bowl run, and they are made with 176 yards on eight catches in a dramatic overtime win against the Packers to put your team in the NFC Championship.

— Next, Carson Palmer. It wasn’t Palmer’s best game. During the game there were plenty in the Twitterverse that blamed Palmer’s issues with his Bengals background. There is no question Palmer was off at times and that end zone interception was, in a word, terrible. You can’t do that in that situation.

But Palmer bounced back as Bruce Arians always says he does. He was under more pressure than the Cardinals can afford to let him be under – the Packers had the better pass rush this time around. And the way Palmer miraculously spun out of what should have been a sack and somehow found Fitz on the 75-yard play was as critical and clutch as Fitzgerald’s effort on the other end.

— Palmer gets his first playoff win. It wasn’t perfect, but who cares? Not Palmer, that’s for sure.

— The first person in the end zone after Fitz’s TD to congratulate Fitz was former teammate-turned-scout Adrian Wilson. A great moment.

— Speaking of Wilson, he stood next to Justin Bethel tucked in Bethel’s locker after the game, quietly talking to the cornerback for a long time. I would guess it was words of encouragement after some tough moments for Bethel, not the least of which being Jeff Janis getting behind him to convert that fourth-and-20 play at the end of the game.

— The game was so nuts that the touchdown pass to Michael Floyd that was intended for Fitz, deflected high into the air and toward the back of the end zone, over the head of another Packer and Jaron Brown, is a footnote.

— Floyd, about that play: “I think God was on our side on that one.”

— Here’s a new one: Patrick Peterson was sitting on the floor in the locker room having athletic trainer Michael Blankenship remove tape off his ankle, when a reporter wandered over to ask him a question. Soon, Peterson was surrounded by media – so he sat on the floor, outstretched legs in front of him, propped up by his arms, doing his entire media session.

— Linebacker Kevin Minter, on watching Fitz tonight: “That’s that guy I watched growing up.”

— The Cardinals blitzed Aaron Rodgers on the Hail Mary. They did it from his right so he couldn’t roll into his power. And he still escaped and flung a great pass so his guy would have a chance. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap to the other guy. I’m guessing the Packers – after the hurt wears off – will do that with Fitz. And you have to do it to Rodgers.

— Sure, the Cardinals could have run the ball on second down, right before the two-minute warning and their final field goal. They could’ve burned up another 35 or 40 seconds. But Arians went for the kill. “I play to win,” Arians said. No risk it, no biscuit. I’m sure there are those who have issues with the call, but folks, if you are following/rooting for this team, this is what you signed up for.

— I could write more, but it’s time to go home. Got to get some sleep so that I’m up in time for Seattle-Carolina. It’s on to the NFC Championship.

FoitzBlog


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Honors begin for the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2016 – 10:34 am

The Cardinals are hoping they still have weeks left in their season, but with the regular season completed, the postseason awards are going to start — and with the year the Cards have, they will be mentioned often (like when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced.)

Wednesday, Pro Football Focus unveiled it’s all-pro team. Not only were the Cardinals well represented, but Carson Palmer was named the quarterback, a significant nod in a year where Cam Newton and Tom Brady were excellent. A look at those picked by PFF, and what was said about the Cards:

Palmer: “What a year for Palmer, who not only came back from what many presumed to be a career-defining injury, but did so by playing better than he ever has. What made Palmer so impressive was his ability to destroy defenses deep, with an impressive 34 deep completions (10 of which went for touchdowns).”

Larry Fitzgerald, slot receiver: “Reinvented as a slot threat, Fitzgerald rolled back the years to show how productive—and dangerous—of a receiver he still is.”

Patrick Peterson, cornerback (beating out Carolina’s Josh Norman, it should be noted): “It isn’t easy tracking the top receivers in this league. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be, but clearly Peterson didn’t get that memo, because he’s had no difficulty doing so. His consistent, shutdown play is something we don’t often witness.”

Tyrann Mathieu, slot cornerback: “It’s a real shame that Mathieu had his season cut short, but he still put enough on tape that his inclusion as our slot corner was never really in doubt. He does it all from the spot, and his ability to contribute is every phase of the game is something to behold.”

Justin Bethel was named second team special teams, and the PFF guys even said it “feels like heresy” to not name Bethel first team, but that Miami’s Michael Thomas was that good.

PFFBlog


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A lonely Patrick Peterson, and reasons why

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2015 – 11:40 am

Patrick Peterson has had some fun with the idea teams are throwing at him rarely this season. It’s popped up on the cornerback’s social media a few times, the most recent after he rendered Packers wideout Randall Cobb relatively useless last weekend.

Peterson isn’t going to have gaudy stats — he has two interceptions — because he hasn’t had a lot of chances to have the ball come his way. And while any analytics have to be seen with at least some caution (this is film breakdown without all the inside knowledge of what is going on each play), the folks at profootballfocus.com tally up the numbers of cornerbacks around the league, and with one game left, Peterson fares very well in any comparison.

There are, according to PFF, 49 cornerbacks this season that have played at least 75 percent of their team’s defensive snaps. (They include Tyrann Mathieu, for instance, because of how much nickel cornerback he played. Mathieu, in fact, earned PFF’s highest grade overall at CB by a large margin, and also the highest grade in coverage and as a blitzing CB. He was second in run defense.) Here is how Peterson stacks up:

— Fourth in lowest passer rating against (55.5)
— Second in lowest catch percentage allowed (46.8)
— Third in fewest times targeted (62)
— First (tied) for first in fewest receptions allowed (29)
— First in fewest reception yards allowed (335)

And that’s with the 48-yard touchdown scored by the Bears’ Josh Bellamy in Week 2, a play in which Bellamy ran down the field uncovered because Peterson got mixed up and didn’t realize he was supposed to cover Bellamy. That’s the only touchdown Peterson has allowed this season as well.

Again, the numbers might not be exact. Peterson himself noted on Twitter that he might have issue with a couple of catches PFF has put on him. Regardless, it puts something tangible toward the idea 1) Peterson deserves to be in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion and 2) this has unquestionably been Peterson’s finest season on defense. Of this there is no argument.

PPgoodblog


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For Christmas, Peterson and Fitz talk bikes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2015 – 7:00 pm

It was a tale of two Christmas experiences, all about the bike.

Both Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald said their favorite gifts growing up were bicycles. Their stories are slightly different.

“My favorite gift as a child definitely was a bike,” Fitzgerald said. “The only thing that sucked was, growing up in Minnesota, I couldn’t ride my bike until April. So it sat in the basement, and I would sit on it all the time. I’d set it up on the Yellow Pages so the back wheels could go but I wasn’t going anywhere. It was the best I could do in the basement.”

Fortunately for Peterson, he grew up in Florida.

“I was a bicycle guy,” Peterson said. “I used to get a Mongoose or a Huffy every other year. I loved being outdoors. I wasn’t really a gamer, so I always wanted a bike.”

Wait — a new bike every other year?

“My Grandma would spoil me,” Peterson said. If Peterson wanted a new bike, he got it, and the old one would either be donated to Goodwill or given to another kid in the neighborhood.

Of course, that was when they were kids. Now, Fitz said, he’s still getting great Christmas gifts.

“This is definitely the best gift my teammates could have ever given me,” Fitzgerald said. “To win 12 games in a season, that’s something money can’t buy.”

BikesBlog

 


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Eagles, and Honey Badger, aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2015 – 1:35 am

Sunday night was a good night for the Cardinals. They dominated. They won the NFC West. They had a rookie running back rush for 187 yards and look tremendous doing it. They were happy to win the division, but know they haven’t yet accomplished what they want, which is the right mindset to have.

“We want to put banners up,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. “We want to keep this thing rolling, and we’re on the right track.”

But it was hard not to see the stoic faces of both Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer after Tyrann Mathieu went down on a non-contact play late in the game, his knee buckling. Non-contact plays like that are a scary thing in this league, and when Palmer said he had already been praying for Mathieu, it shows where his head was at.

No, the Cardinals have not yet reached their goals. There are a lot of boxes left that need to be checked before/if the Cards can start thinking about a Super Bowl. It would really help if Mathieu is there to help. That answer isn’t out there yet as the Cards fly home from Philly in the middle of the night.

We’ll see.

— David Johnson was tremendous. He provided an injury scare himself late in the first half – after he had already surpassed 100 yards for the first time in his career – but came back. He said he knew he was fine, and he was. Johnson had 187 yards rushing and 229 total yards and is firmly entrenched as this team’s No. 1 running back.

— This nugget from longtime Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank: Two players have ever rushed for at least 185 yards and three touchdowns in a game against the Eagles. David Johnson Sunday night … and Jim Brown.

— What was it with the drops? From jump, when Smokey Brown dropped what should have been a 78-yard touchdown on the game’s first play, it was something that receiving group never does. Brown ended up with three drops – including one in the end zone – and Michael Floyd had a couple himself. Bruce Arians said it should’ve been a big game for Brown. (There were about three other deep shots to Brown that just didn’t connect.)

— The Cardinals wanted to get better in short yardage and self-scouted to do so. Sunday night, the Cardinals had third down/goal to go and either one or two yards to make nine times. They passed it four times and ran it five – and they converted all nine attempts.

— A.Q. Shipley did a nice job in replacing the gimpy Lyle Sendlein at center.

— Two hardest hits of the night: New safety D.J. Swearinger hammering tight end Zack Ertz to prevent a completion in the first quarter to force a field goal, and tight end Troy Niklas, who accidentally belted punt returner Patrick Peterson hard enough that Peterson fumbled. Niklas jumped on the ball to save the play.

— Well, it’s very late. The attention is starting to wane, so I’m going to cut this off. The Cardinals may be 12-2, but they haven’t wrapped up a bye yet, and the team chasing them comes to town this week. Packers-Cardinals is a pretty good game, no?

AriansLockerBlog


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Palmer leads Cards’ final Pro Bowl list

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2015 – 11:45 am

Quarterback Carson Palmer was the top vote-getter for the Cardinals now that the public part of Pro Bowl voting has ended. Palmer got the fourth most votes of any player — 514,967, to be specific — and was also fourth overall in the NFL, since QBs all finished ahead of him (Brady, Newton, Dalton).

Free safety Tyrann Mathieu dropped a spot to third at his position, but Frostee Rucker made a late surge to get into the top 10. In all, 11 Cardinals were ranked in the top 10 in votes at their respective positions. Players and coaches vote later this week league-wide to come up with the final Pro Bowl tallies/roster, and they get announced Dec. 22.

The full Cardinals’ list:

— QB Carson Palmer fourth

— RB Chris Johnson eighth

— WR Larry Fitzgerald fourth (with an impressive 410,095 votes)

— G Mike Iupati fifth

— DT Calais Campbell fifth, Frostee Rucker seventh

— CB Patrick Peterson fifth

— SS Rashad Johnson seventh, Deone Bucannon 10th

— FS Tyrann Mathieu third

— Special teams Justin Bethel fourth

ProBowlBLOG

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Peterson continues to be shutdown corner

Posted by Darren Urban on December 11, 2015 – 11:42 am

Stefon Diggs is having a pretty good rookie season for the Vikings. But he couldn’t do much of anything against Patrick Peterson Thursday night. Diggs finished with just two catches for a scant 12 yards with Peterson covering him most of the game. (Full disclosure — Peterson was flagged twice for defensive holding. Both were declined.)

Tyrann Mathieu has been fantastic this season, and he was again Thursday night. He deserves the national publicity he has received. But with the way Peterson has turned into the lockdown cornerback everyone had been waiting for since he was drafted — this is definitely is best season as a pro — and how much this team would be hurting if he wasn’t out there, Peterson would seem to have the edge as this team’s defensive MVP.

Profootballfocus.com has Peterson targeted just seven times against the Vikings, and he gave up one completion — and that was a seven-yard screen pass to Diggs. Given the play scheme, it would’ve been almost impossible for Peterson to stop the pass. For the season, PFF has Peterson targeted only 55 times in 13 games, and he’s only given up 24 catches. He’s only allowed 309 yards and one touchdown.

By comparison, (in one fewer game) Denver’s Chris Harris is at 53-37-338-0, Carolina’s Josh Norman is at 70-33-296-1, the Jets’ Darrelle Revis is 59-28-281-2 and Seattle’s Richard Sherman is at 51-26-346-1.

The debate of who the best cornerback in the league seems to have died down from where it once was, mostly because Peterson and Sherman have apparently decided not to talk about it as much anymore. Peterson is letting his play do the talking. He’s making a strong point.

PetersonGreatBlog


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Mathieu, Palmer lead way for Pro Bowl votes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2015 – 11:20 am

With the Pro Bowl fan voting winding down (it ends Dec. 15, and you can vote by going to azcardinals.com/probowl), seven Cardinals are in the top five in their position, led still by free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is second only to Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (although Coleman has him by 50,000 votes right now.)

Quarterback Carson Palmer remains among the top 10 in overall vote getters at seventh overall (although he’s behind Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman?) The MVP candidate is fifth among quarterbacks. Here’s the full list of the 11 Cardinals who are in the top 10 for Pro Bowl voting at their positions.

— QB Carson Palmer fifth

— RB Chris Johnson seventh

— WR Larry Fitzgerald fourth

— G Mike Iupati fifth

— DT Calais Campbell fifth

— CB Patrick Peterson fourth

— SS Rashad Johnson seventh and Deone Bucannon ninth

— FS Tyrann Mathieu second

— Kick returner David Johnson 10th

— Special teamer Justin Bethel fourth

ProBowlBlog


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QBs, bucket tosses and Gatorade chaps

Posted by Darren Urban on December 4, 2015 – 9:09 am

On Fridays, the Cardinals quarterbacks (and cornerback Patrick Peterson) take part in a bucket competition — heaving passes at a trash can from about 15 yards away. It’s a friendly way to battle. But there are very real consequences. Here, let’s let Carson Palmer explain.

“It depends,” Palmer said. “If it’s a home game, and you lose that Friday bucket competition, it’s pregame dress out on the field for warmups. If it’s an away game, it’s an outfit you have to wear from here to the state we’re going to play in.”

Wearing it on the road trip isn’t too rough, since the number of people outside the organization that see it is limited (although there is a chance social media will have it go viral.) Home games, during early warmups, there are some fans and definitely media who will take notice — which is what happened when third-stringer Matt Barkley had to run out to midfield wearing what Palmer called “Gatorade chaps” prior to the Cincinnati game.

“You never know what the guys are going to think of,” Barkley said of the Drew Stanton creation. “We’ve gone through almost every iteration that we can that’s legal. I feel like mine was almost illegal.”

Peterson was stuck wearing a kid’s cowboy hat once, and he had to parade out at University of Phoenix Stadium before the Monday night game. But Peterson, who asks for and receives no advantage despite the fact he isn’t a quarterback, proudly points out he has won the past two weeks (click here for video), and the week the team stayed in West Virginia.

As for the outfits, “often, it’s a collaborative effort, all of us pulling something off,” Palmer said.

“It’s all fun,” Barkley said. “As long as we are winning, I think these guys will wear whatever. I think we’ll have to tone it back, not be so racy.”

Palmer hasn’t lost yet — he warned reporters not to jinx him — and Barkley said however Palmer might have to dress, it wouldn’t be Gatorade chaps.

“He couldn’t pull that off the way I did anyway,” Barkley said with a smile.

LossOfBucketuse

 

 


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Keim: MRIs pending, but hoping RBs day-to-day

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2015 – 8:12 am

Nothing certain yet on the injuries to running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, but General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson (bone bruise on his left knee) and Ellington (toe on right foot) both are believed to be day-to-day for now. Both are awaiting MRI results.

As for Sunday’s win, Keim was, not surprisingly, filled with mixed emotions. He noted a phone call he got from close friend/former co-worker/current Bucaneers GM Jason Licht, who told him when watching film of a victory not to be mad just appreciative of a win. Keim said it was good advice. Nevertheless, after watching the 49ers game, Keim acknowledged he was “a little frustrated” and has a page full of notes that “aren’t very good.”

“But a win is a win,” Keim said. “Sometimes, there are letdowns, unfortunately.”

— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals got beat up physically up front by the 49ers defensive line. There were times when the Cards were physically beat for sure. Mostly though, Keim said the issues were fundamental, mistakes in passing off blocks on stunts and twists, getting the face across numbers, weakness in getting off combo blocks into the second level that often create the run lanes. It echoed Bruce Arians’ comments after the game that it was about mental lapses on the blocking more than physical.

— Asked about Patrick Peterson’s move to bring in the defense today for film work despite Arians giving the players a Victory Monday off, Keim noted how Peterson has grown into a leader. It doesn’t hurt that Peterson is playing (easily, in my opinion) the best football of his career. Keim: “I don’t know if there is a corner playing better football than Pat right now.”

— There were times when QB Carson Palmer looked a little rattled Sunday. Keim said Palmer can’t be expected to play perfect football every game. “I think Carson would tell you not one of his better games, but he made some huge plays,” Keim added.

— Not a great day for punter Drew Butler or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who for a second time missed a point-after that could have cost the Cardinals big. Keim noted that the Cards had already brought in other punters and kickers for workouts recently.

“Since then (Butler and Catanzaro) have kicked pretty well,” Keim said. “Sunday, no question that was a concern.”


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