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Peyton Manning — a near-Cardinal? — retires

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2016 – 11:00 am

Peyton Manning did the expected. He is retiring from the NFL after his walk-off Super Bowl win last month. (He isn’t officially announcing it until Monday, but everyone — including the Denver Broncos — are congratulating him on his career today, so ..)

Manning is in the conversation for greatest player in league history. Considering he played for so long, he really didn’t cross paths with the Cardinals much. A quick aside: Manning went No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft. No.3 overall was the Cards’ pick of defensive end Andre Wadsworth.

In 18 years — 17 years of playing, plus that 2011 season he missed with the neck injury — Manning only played against the Cards three times. He started against the Cards in Indy in the 2005 season finale, completing 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards before leaving after one series. The prepping-for-the-playoffs Colts won anyway, 17-13. In 2009 he brought the Colts to University of Phoenix Stadium for “Sunday Night Football” and picked the Cards apart in a 31-10 Indy win, completing 24-for-35 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. In 2014, now playing for Denver, he ripped up the Cards again as the Broncos ran away with a 41-20 win. In that game, Manning completed 31-of-47 passes for 479 yards, four touchdowns, a pair of picks and one memorable tackle of defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

In between there, he of course considered playing for the Cardinals after the Colts cut him early in 2012. He chose the Broncos, which worked out pretty well for Denver and probably worked out the best for the Cardinals too. We will never know how the Whisenhunt-Manning Cards would have changed history, but the Cardinals are in good shape these days with Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians.

Arians, of course, was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL.

“I called him the piranha,” Arians said in a statement Sunday morning. “I could never get him enough information, whether it was about the opponent or our game plan or anything else. We had him in for a pre-draft interview in’98 and he had a notebook full of questions for us, including one about the Indiana tax code. I remember thinking, ‘Who interviewed who here?’ He’s an absolutely tireless worker on the fundamentals and also one of the practical jokers in the world. I was proud to have him as a quarterback but I’m more proud to have him as a good friend. I wish him nothing but the best with whatever is ahead in the next chapters.”

Bruce Arians , Peyton Manning


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Peyton’s place wasn’t with Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on February 2, 2016 – 3:30 pm

Peyton Manning insists he hasn’t decided whether he will retire after the Super Bowl despite whatever he whispered to Bill Belichick. The Broncos quarterback doesn’t have the same arm he once did — he admitted it hasn’t been the same since his neck injury a few years ago — and to this, everybody nods their heads already having seen it on the field.

But Act II of Manning’s career has been fantastic even with his uneven end. No matter what the issues, he’s helped lead the Broncos to the Super BowlPeyton Manning twice, and it was just a couple of years ago Manning was flinging 55 touchdown passes (and he had 39 last year when everyone wondered if he was going south then.) Now he readies himself to take down the team that just sent the Cardinals to their unwanted end.

And for a moment, you think back to that few days in March of 2012 when Manning was released from the Colts and actually had the Cardinals on his short list of teams for which he wanted to play. So much would have been different.

There were logistical problems with Manning coming to the Cardinals from jump, not the least of which being a tight salary cap that could have been adjusted to get him on the roster but likely would have made it tough to put people around him. The offensive line at the time was not as good as now (although I maintained at the time and still believe that Manning alone makes any offensive line better with how quickly he delivers the ball and how he knows where to go with it every time.)

Manning liked then-coach Ken Whisenhunt. He insisted after he picked the Broncos that the notion he didn’t want to be in the NFC because of his brother being in the conference was incorrect. He did have Larry Fitzgerald, who was coming off a 1,400-yard season and, as you can see below when the two met after a preseason game, liked him some Peyton Manning.

Manning visited the Cards’ Tempe facility (pictured above right) and then in the next week chose the Broncos and the Cards stuck with Kevin Kolb. Whether it was ever serious or not, the decision changed a lot of things in Arizona. Whisenhunt’s team got off to a 4-0 start behind Kolb that season but lost 11 of their last 12 and the Cards changed both GM and coach. New GM Steve Keim traded for Carson Palmer, re-energizing both Palmer and the franchise. Bruce Arians, who was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL and remains close to Manning, likely would never had gotten his one and only chance to be a head coach if Manning had picked the Cardinals.

It’s worked out well for Manning in Denver (and better if he can win Sunday.) It’s turned out pretty good for the Cardinals in the long run, although it’s fair to wonder what would have happened if Manning had made a different decision.

Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald


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Mathieu done for season — but it happens

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2015 – 3:17 pm

It is unquestionably a harsh reality the Cardinals and Tyrann Mathieu were officially handed Monday, with the news Mathieu had torn his ACL and was done for the year. Mathieu has had a fantastic season. They will miss him on the field. But what struck me is how personal this is, for Bruce Arians and players. This cuts them, because Mathieu is such a great person. This is ground that has been covered many times, but it makes sense why people want to root for this guy. He has a charisma that few have. He is genuine. Add in the fact he can play football, and it resonates. I’m not afraid to say he’s one of my favorite guys to cover in my 16 years around this team.

This is why the news is extra painful.

“Luckily we have the next couple of days off to let this emotionally sink in,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “Not so much not having our guy to play in the playoffs, but our hearts go out to him because of everything he’s been through and how hard he has worked to get back to this point and having the season he’s having.”

As for on the field, the Cardinals have to find a way to make due defensively without Mathieu. You can’t replace the playmaking ability. That’s innate. You do have — assuming no more serious injuries — depth, however. Johnson should be back from his ankle injury. Jerraud Powers plays more slot. Justin Bethel gets on the field. And new safety D.J. Swearinger plays more with Tony Jefferson.

Also part of the equation: This happens. Take a look around the top teams. Almost all have lost at least one significant player, if not for the season, for an extended period of time.

— Seahawks: TE Jimmy Graham, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Thomas Rawls

— Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin

— Steelers: RB Le’Veon Bell

— Packers: WR Jordy Nelson

— Bengals: QB Andy Dalton

— Patriots: WR Julian Edelman, every decent running back they had

— Broncos: LT Ryan Clady, QB Peyton Manning (yes, I understand you can quibble with the Peyton pick.)

The point is it’s the living example of that well-worn quote coaches and some players have been saying for years: “The other team isn’t going to feel sorry for us.” The other teams have their own personnel losses. It’s the business.

Tyrann Mathieu, Nelson Agholor


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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 5, 2014 – 7:48 pm

In his last meeting with the media Friday before playing the Broncos, Bruce Arians talked about weathering the storm early. If his team could do that, they’d have a chance to win Sunday. The funny thing is, I think the Cardinals did weather the storm, and until Drew Stanton went out with a concussion, I think they would’ve been in the game.

But Arians apparently didn’t see the tornado coming that turned out to be Peyton Manning’s day, which hit the same time as the hurricane of injuries blowing through. (Yes, I’m mixing my weather metaphors. Work with me.)

There was a reason the Broncos’ game wasn’t an end-all, be-all to the Cards. With a struggling Washington team visiting Arizona next week and then a trip to Oakland, the Cardinals had the opportunity to take on some lesser teams. But now, the equation has changed, hasn’t it? It was bad enough to have lost Darnell Dockett for the season, but to have Calais Campbell sidelined with an MCL sprain/tear/TBD for maybe a month? That is a painful, painful loss to absorb.

And that doesn’t even touch on the quarterback situation, which as of right now could include all three QBs available next weekend or could be just one, and the one is the inexperienced Logan Thomas – who looked appropriately overwhelmed Sunday in his NFL debut.

The Cards were saying all the right things after the game, but this is going to be another major suck-it-up type of the season. Having a QB would help, but as I write this on the flight home, it’s impossible to know where  Palmer and Stanton might be Wednesday, much less for kickoff against the Redskins.

— Manning was fantastic. Again. He did throw two interceptions – and the duck Jerraud Powers picked off was a bad, bad pass – but to have a career-best in passing yards after a career like he has had, is just special. Peyton was Peyton. It doesn’t hurt to have all those crossing patterns that border on pick plays, but really, that wasn’t the story. Manning knew where he could exploit the Cardinals, and he commenced exploitation.

— Always impressed when a guy comes out and meets the media no problem after a bad game. Antonio Cromartie stood there and answered the questions. He played poorly and said so. But that’s also the reality of leaving those guys on an island, and Demaryious Thomas – despite a slow start – is one of the league’s better receivers. Painful to note – he would have given up an extra 77-yard TD pass to Thomas, except that was the play tight end Julius Thomas chopped blocked Campbell out of the game.

— Calais, how could you possibly let Peyton cost you a pick-6? “Don’t give me a full tackle for that,” Manning said. “Give me like a half. Barely grazed his leg.”

— I haven’t really looked closely at the Campbell hit. But I’m not sure how you legislate that short of suspending a guy. And I don’t know if that is the answer either.

— USA Today got Julius Thomas to talk about the Cards’ contention of it being a dirty play. “I guarantee you being dirty is not part of my game, and to intentionally hurt somebody is something I would never do,” Thomas said. Thomas said he had a miscommunication with tackle Ryan Clady on who was supposed to block Campbell on the play.

— The protection wasn’t quite as consistent as previous games, but I didn’t think the line played poorly. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are going to get to the quarterback. They are among the best in the league. There was more pressure after Logan Thomas came in, but that’s expected when the QB is inexperienced. The first sack, when Ware beat Jared Veldheer, it looked to me Thomas dropped a little too far back and never moved up into the pocket until it was too late.

— That was a pretty pass Thomas drilled in there to Andre Ellington for the 81-yard TD. You take whatever highlights you can if you are Thomas. Something to remember. Got to do better than 1-for-8, obviously.

— The craziness of the NFL’s passing rating though: Thomas, because of his long TD, had a passer rating of 108.9 despite going 1-for-8. Manning, 31-of-47 for 479 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs, had a passing rating of 110.2.

— Can’t kick field goals against the Broncos. Can miss wide-open TD passes like Stanton-to-Housler or Stanton-to-Smokey Brown. Can’t drop the ball, repeatedly, when a catch gives you a first down. And it was equal opportunity drops.

We’ll see how easily the Cards can put this in the rear view. And who, exactly, they have to use against the Redskins.

AfterBlogPicStantonUSE


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Friday before the Broncos (and Peyton)

Posted by Darren Urban on October 3, 2014 – 5:35 pm

Peyton Manning has been playing quarterback in the NFL since 1998, but the Cardinals have only truly played against him once — at least, until the Cards visit Denver Sunday. Sure, Manning started against the Cardinals in Indianapolis in 2005 in the regular-season finale, but he played only three plays before Tony Dungy yanked him in a game mostly remembered (?) as Cardinal Rolando Cantu becoming the first Mexican non-kicker to play in a game and for Neil Rackers breaking the NFL record for field goals in a season (and the Cards still losing).

Manning’s full game came at University of Phoenix Stadium under the lights of “Sunday Night Football” as Peyton dismantled the reigning NFC champions in a 31-10 rout as Manning had 379 yards passing and four touchdown passes.

What happens this time? The Cardinals have a better defense than at that point. Whether that means they can slow Manning down, well, that’s something else entirely, isn’t it? Bruce Arians said he expects the Broncos to go no-huddle early, like the 49ers did, and attack quickly. “If we can weather that storm,” Arians said, “I like where we’re at.”

Also in the Cardinals’ back pocket: The run defense. Even Manning can have a tough time if his team can’t run. “If we get in a one-dimensional game,” Arians said, “I like our chances.”

If the Cardinals can get to 4-0, with a win in Denver …

Drew Stanton starts again. It’s old hat by now, really, and given the improvement game over game, the hope is Stanton can make another step forward. It’s possible, because the Broncos are only OK against the pass. As long as the protection holds up. And Stanton doesn’t turn the ball over, which is what doomed the Cards the last time they played Peyton.

— The Cardinals have yet to throw an interception. “Man, why are you trying to jinx us?” Arians said, feigning disgust. “It’s like bringing up Cat Man.” Cat Man, or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, was a subject of a similar question earlier in the year when he hadn’t missed a field goal. Except Catanzaro still hasn’t missed (9 for 9). Maybe Stanton keeps it going too, although Arians correctly mentioned the Cardinals have “thrown some (interceptions) they’ve dropped. Luckily, we got those back.”

— Catanzaro could get a field goal try of 60 yards or more Sunday in the Mile High air, Arians said.

— Manning needs one touchdown pass to reach 500 in his career, and nine to tie Brett Favre for the most in NFL history. Arians was confused at first, thinking Manning needed nine to get to 500, when he was asked about possibly surrendering 500 this weekend.

“If he gets nine, I’m not getting on the plane,” Arians said. “I think he needs nine of them, doesn’t he?”

Arians was told it was just one. “ One? I thought it was nine. I’ll give him one.”

— Manning, not surprisingly, was downplaying the 500 angle. “If (running back) Montee (Ball) wants to run for five touchdowns and we don’t throw any and we win the game I can assure you I’m fine with that,” Manning said.

— I feel confident in saying Ball will not rush for five TDs. Not against this defense.

— Lot of talk about people on the Cardinals that “know” Manning. Arians and Tom Moore know his offense. Antonio Cromartie once had three interceptions in a game against Manning, in 2007. Jerraud Powers battled Manning every day in practice for a couple of years in Indy. I agree with Arians. It doesn’t really matter.

— That said, I like the idea that Todd Bowles has had two weeks to prepare a defense for this game.

— So much has been made about the stats of Larry Fitzgerald, who only has 10 catches for 107 yards in three games. Michael Floyd has a lot more yards (252) but he only has 11 catches himself to lead the team. And Smokey Brown nine. The receptions are spread out quite a bit thus far.

— Arians was asked about this being a big game Sunday, and he referenced having Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew on hand as a perk. “You want Joe Buck and Troy Aikman doing your games,” Arians said. “Nothing against David Diehl, he’s a hell of a kid, but you know?”

Diehl, the former player and new analyst, did the Cardinals’ game against San Francisco two weeks ago.

— The Cardinals-versus-Broncos, although a frequent preseason occurrence, is very rare in the regular season. The two teams have only met nine times ever, and the Cardinals have only won once – the most recent meeting in Arizona in 2010. (There was also a tie). The Cardinals are 0-4 in Denver, although they haven’t played there since 2002.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this turns out. As Arians said Friday, the season isn’t over with a loss. But a win certainly would help the cause.

B4BronbcosUSE

 


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A tenuous schedule, and the captains

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 9:34 am

The Wes Welker suspension bomb dropped yesterday, and that’s a great example of why all these game-by-game results guesses never made any sense to me. The Broncos wide receiver is gone for four games, and since the Broncos have a Week 4 bye (as do the Cardinals), the fourth and final game Welker will have to sit out will be the Cardinals’ visit to Denver. Will that impact the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t predict because this game doesn’t allow that. Last year, when the schedule game out, the Cardinals were facing two tough playoff teams coming to Arizona in Houston and Atlanta. By the time the Texans and Falcons arrived, injuries had shredded them and they were bad teams. This year, the Broncos won’t have Welker (or kicker Matt Prater, who has also been suspended the first four games), the 49ers won’t have linebacker Aldon Smith in the first meeting with the Cards, and again, you just don’t know how these things will play out.

Random aside: That Oct. 5 game will be only the second time in Payton Manning’s career he will play an entire game against the Cardinals. He did so in a Sunday night game in 2009, but he sat out virtually all off the 2005 season finale. That is, of course, assuming Manning is healthy by that point. Because you just don’t know what will happen.

— The Cardinals picked captains and the results weren’t really surprising when you think of it. The biggest one, noted by many fans, is that Larry Fitzgerald is not a captain. This year’s offensive captain is Carson Palmer. But this should not shock. Palmer has really been the biggest offensive leader since he arrived, although there is something to be said about taking a bit of a backseat in the first year. Palmer did that, and Fitz was a 2013 captain. But Palmer is unquestionably the guy out front. Fitz has always been more of a lead-by-example guy. It was interesting that Calais Campbell is the defensive captain, but then again, maybe that shouldn’t be that surprising either. It’s hard to think of Campbell as a veteran leader — sometimes, it still feels like he just got here, especially since Darnell Dockett’s experience always overshadowed him on the line. But he’s a guy the defense can get behind.

— The Cardinals finished off their 10-man practice squad today by signing cornerback Anthony Gaitor. The 5-foot-10 Gaitor was among the Bucs’ final cuts. He was a seventh-round pick of Tampa in 2011, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. He joins rookie Jimmy Legree as the defensive backs on the practice squad, which gives the Cards some in-house possibilities for help if there are injuries with the eight men on the active roster.


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Bright lights, big schedule for 2014

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2014 – 6:05 pm

The Cardinals know when they are playing their games and they know people will be watching. The 2014 schedule has been announced and it includes the prime-time games that the Cards have been pining for. Monday night to open the season at home? Bruce Arians couldn’t have drawn it up any better. And while the Dec. 11 Thursday night game in St. Louis is no picnic, at least the Cards are coming off a home game against Kansas City. Plus, it will give the Cards an extra few days before hosting Seattle in “Sunday Night Football” on Dec. 21.

There is little reason to completely analyze a schedule because, frankly, it can mean little when the games are played months from now. Still, there are takeaways to note (and here is a schedule you can print/download):

— Cool to open on Monday night in a home game. Last time the Cards opened on a Monday night, it was Ken Whisenhunt’s debut in 2007 in San Francisco. Could’ve been a win if Eric Green had just fallen on the ball.

— Strange, however, to open with a team you just closed the preseason with. My guess is that the starters might not even play in the preseason finale now, as opposed to their usual one series.

— Season closes with three straight division games. Given this era of the NFC Best, perhaps that’s only fitting.

— Bye week in Week 4. Early. Too early? Well, given that it is after what figures to be a rough-and-tumble 49ers game and gives the Cards two weeks to prep for Peyton Manning, maybe it’s just right.

— No more than two straight weeks either at home or on the road. Can’t complain there.

— It could be chilly in Seattle in late November. Maybe SF in late December too, although Santa Clara will be warmer than the ‘stick. But New York in September is perfect, Denver in early October … weather should not be a factor.

But now that the schedule is out, I guess it’s time for the draft. It’s always something, right?


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Peyton’s place in the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on February 4, 2014 – 11:57 am

The chances of Peyton Manning repeating his historic 2013 season are slim anyway. No one has ever thrown 55 touchdown passes in a season for a reason. But after watching the Broncos’ offense struggle in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks, you wonder what kind of season Manning can compile when a fourth of his games will be against the intense defenses of the NFC West.

It was a notion I pondered briefly on Twitter yesterday. One game is not nearly enough of a sample size, of course. But — depending on whatever turnover all the teams involved have — the physical nature of all the defenses in the division seems unlike most of the ones the Broncos play. It certainly seemed that way Sunday. Manning got his completions (34 for 49) but only had 280 yards and one touchdown. In fact the 280-1-2 INT line looked a lot like what a QB might put up in an NFC West game. Something Carson Palmer might do. But Palmer had a much better defense at his disposal.

The NFC West defenses were ranked first (Seattle), fifth (SF), sixth (Arizona) and 15th (St. Louis). Of the 13 teams the Broncos faced in the regular season, eight were ranked 20th or lower, and only two — the Giants and the Texans — were officially top 10 defenses, although both teams struggled all season.

(And before anyone gets it twisted, I am a Peyton believer. He didn’t play well Sunday but that doesn’t take away from him being one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time — which is always going to be a subjective title anyway. No one else has done what he has done in a season like 2013, regardless of the defenses faced. And before anyone in the NFC West can get too high and mighty, remember that the Rams were the only team in the division who didn’t try to sign Manning in 2011.)

We’ll see if the gaudy stats make a comeback. Interestingly enough, the Broncos did see the NFC West this season, kind of. The four-game preseason slate was against all four NFC West teams. But that’s preseason, and with all due respect to Denny Green, it was pretty meaningless, even that third game against the Rams.

In Manning’s long career, the Cardinals have only faced him — truly, without him sitting in a meaningless game — once. That was in a Sunday night game in 2009, when Manning tore them up and the Colts bombed the Cards. Manning is still pretty dang good. But the Cards’ defense is much, much better than that 2009 version. The Broncos do get to host the Cardinals next year (the 49ers also go to Denver; the Broncos visit St. Louis and Seattle.) Already, a subplot emerges for the 2014 season.

ManningCardsUSE


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Pressure wins championships

Posted by Darren Urban on February 3, 2014 – 3:22 pm

The Seahawks’ defense is being lauded today and rightfully so for their throttling of the Broncos’ record-setting offense in the Super Bowl. There are a bunch of breakdowns out there comparing Seattle’s defensive year to those of the best ever, and the Seahawks deserve to be in that conversation with teams like the 2000 Ravens and the 1985 Bears (I’d think some of those Steel Curtain teams should be in the discussion too, but I digress.)

Defense doesn’t necessarily win championships — I saw a stat that said the team with the higher-ranked defense actually has lost six of the last eight Super Bowls — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. But I believe pressure can help win a title, and that’s certainly what the Seahawks did to Peyton Manning and why the Cardinals had defensive success this season.

Profootballfocus.com charted that the Seahawks blitzed Manning on only six of 51 dropbacks in the Super Bowl, yet were in his face all game. That’s the kind of pressure the Giants put on Tom Brady in the last Super Bowl played in Arizona, the one in which New York placed the stunning upset on the previously undefeated Patriots. When you can pressure with four, everything changes.

The Cardinals had a lot of pressure success in part because defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was a genius with mixing up attack plans on the quarterback, and there was a lot of blitzing involved in that. They also benefited when linebacker John Abraham played like the John Abraham who had spent a career getting double-digit sacks every season. That kind of rusher is important. And going forward, it’s one of the reasons General Manager Steve Keim will lean toward not only the offensive but the defensive line in terms of trying to make the most improvement. It’s great to have one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Patrick Peterson, but without pressure, it doesn’t mean much. The same goes for Seattle’s Richard Sherman and the rest of that defensive backfield — they can afford to be aggressive, because they know the pressure will be coming sooner rather than later.

PressureblogUSE


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A way to beat the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on January 31, 2014 – 2:17 pm

The Seahawks have lost just three times this season in 18 games, including the postseason. The largest margin of those losses was the seven points that separated the Cardinals and Seahawks during the Cards’ 17-10 win in Seattle in December. The Cardinals did it with a stifling defense and a good enough running game — parts that don’t particularly run parallel to the Seahawks’ Super Bowl opponent, Denver. The Broncos have been able to run and their offense was much more productive than the Cardinals (much more productive than any other team, actually), with a defense that doesn’t compare to what the Cards have.

Nevertheless, how the Cardinals knocked off the Seahawks was a demonstration in basic football. On offense, the Cards played it safe– 43 run plays, 27 pass plays — and played keep-away — time of possession was more than 37 minutes for Arizona. When the Cards did run, they were fairly effective, with their running backs gaining 142 yards on 38 carries (a not-spectacular-but-good-enough 3.7 yards a try). They often ran into the heart of the Seattle defense, not allowing the Seahawks’ speed to help run down the ballcarrier for little gain and looking to wear on them as the game went along.

Carson Palmer was only sacked twice so the protection held up most of the day. The Broncos shouldn’t have an issue since Peyton Manning is the best ever at getting the ball out quickly and to the right place almost all of the time. Palmer tried a couple times to make quick choices, but there was a reason he had four interceptions that day. Those four picks, by the way, should have cost the Cardinals the game.

They didn’t. Why? Because the Cardinals’ defense was unreal and to me, that is the ultimate hinge of this Super Bowl — can the Broncos keep Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson in check long enough to allow Manning time to get done what he needs done. Lynch got off to a decent start against the Cards that day but his production quickly fizzled, highlighted by his inability to force his way into the end zone late in the first-half after a terrible Cardinals’ turnover. The Cards’ defense stoned Lynch then, the Seahawks missed the gimme field goal, and that was a turning point.

Lynch, as everyone knows, is a pain in the rear to bring down. The Broncos have to be able to swarm, even when it looks like the play might be over. Then there is Wilson, who had probably his worst day as a pro against the Cards: 11-for-27 for only 108 yards, a touchdown but also a pick, four sacks and only two rushing attempts (for 32 yards.) Wilson was inaccurate all day, and the Cards got pressure through a Seattle offensive line that isn’t very good.

Of course, for as well as the defense did, it took some luck for the Cardinals that day as well, for instance the third-and-3 scramble out of the pocket by Palmer that led to an improbable 17-yard pass play to tight end Jake Ballard on the game-winning drive. But that drive was mostly about the run before Palmer flung his touchdown toss to Michael Floyd. One thing about Peyton Manning — he’s never forced passes when he thinks the run can work. And if it means tiring the Seattle defense/keeping Wilson off the field, I could see Manning doing that.

What I don’t think the Broncos can overcome is turnovers. The Cardinals were lucky Palmer’s picks didn’t turn into disaster. Manning’s abilities aside, the Seahawks feed off of that. But if there is a way to slow Lynch, the Seahawks’ offense has been less than dynamic of late. That, even with a great defense available, would seem to call for a close game. And in a close game, anyone can win.


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