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.
Tags: John Abraham, Patrick Peterson, Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman, Seahawks, Steve Keim, Super Bowl, Todd Bowles
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Under the new collective bargaining agreement put together in 2011, draft picks must be in the league three years before they can negotiate a contract extension. That means that 2011 class — which features Patrick Peterson, Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J.Green, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn, among others — are all now eligible for new contracts, and the assumption has long been that many of those will happen. Certainly that has been a subject of speculation with Peterson. The Cardinals want to keep Peterson long term (of course) and it was not a coincidence that Peterson recently changed agents with that opportunity now looming.
But, as usual when it comes to big-money deals, none of this is a simple process. Jason Cole wrote an interesting piece about the situation of the 2011 draft class (he never touched on Peterson, specifically). In it, he talked to 10 GMs and/or cap specialists, and all expected that instead of a long-term extension this year that teams will opt to invoke the fifth-year option on each contract. Every first-round contract now as a fifth-year team option that, inevitably, will be a more affordable (and non-guaranteed) salary. In the case of 2011 picks, all are locked up through 2014 and then the team can invoke a 2015 year. This doesn’t even include the option to franchise tag a player for 2016.
(Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick are in similar situations as a fifth- and second-round picks in 2011, except as non-first-rounders, teams do not have a fifth-year option on those players. It actually gives non-first-rounders more leverage this offseason.)
In short, there isn’t an incredible urgency to extend one of those 2011 contracts now, other than the fact some of those 2011 draft picks probably won’t be thrilled they wouldn’t be extended right away given the level of play many of them have reached already. It will make for an interesting offseason when it comes to those players — including Peterson.
Tags: A.J. Green, Cam Newton, CBA, Colin Kaepernick, contracts, JJ Watt, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Robert Quinn, Von Miller
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If you pay attention to the NFL at all, you know how Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went off on 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree both on national TV and again in the post-game press conference. This was after Sherman taunted Crabtree right after making the play that led to the NFC Championship-clinching interception on a pass to Crabtree. Seems that the Cardinals — or at least Larry Fitzgerald — have a role in all of this. As you can see in the video below from NFL Network, the genesis of the bad blood between Sherman and Crabtree came when the two were part of the celebrities in town to play at Fitz’s annual charity softball game, which includes a dinner where they all get together. Sherman and Crabtree apparently had words then.
So, if I am understanding correctly, that means without Fitz, this whole thing — which, for now, has totally overshadowed the Seahawks making the Super Bowl — might not have happened? Fitz, bringing people together.
Actually, it’s interesting, because Fitzgerald is the absolute last guy that is going to engage in that stuff. Earlier this year, in fact, Sherman was kind of complaining that Fitz wouldn’t trade barbs and it made it hard to not like him. There is a reason Fitz can get these guys to attend his charity events and why Fitz keeps getting voted to the Pro Bowl. (Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of trash-talking myself. If you are good, it seems to me your play does the talking. If you are not good, why, exactly, would you be talking?)
Meanwhile, these are all components of the Cardinals’ universe. It’s not like Crabtree doesn’t have history with the Cardinals too, and going up against the Cards’ own star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who also (kind of) weighed in when all of this Sherman/Crabtree/best cornerback stuff started happening.
Ahh, the NFC West. It’s quite the universe within which to live these days.
Tags: 49ers, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Seahawks
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Patrick Peterson’s big year just got a little better Friday, when he was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. The AP All-Pro team has generally been accepted as the “the” All-Pro team of the NFL. It encompasses the entire NFL, not a conference. Peterson joined Seattle’s Richard Sherman as the cornerback choice. And there is some good news for linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was a Pro Bowl snub. Dansby ended up making second-team All-Pro along with Bengals star and former ASU Sun Devil Vontaze Burfict. The first team inside linebackers were Luke Kuechly of Carolina and NaVorro Bowman of San Francisco.
— Patrick Peterson (@RealPeterson21) January 3, 2014
It was interesting that there is no second-team All-Pro quarterback — which can only mean that Denver’s Peyton Manning received all 50 of the votes from the AP selection committee.
I know a lot of people, for some reason, had issues with Peterson’s play this season. I get the frustration as punt returner but I thought Peterson was very good most of the time at cornerback. I believe he is deserving of an All-Pro slot. I guess I wasn’t the only one. It was nice to see Dansby recognized after he did not get named to the Pro Bowl list nor rank high enough on the alternate list to be so named. There are some great inside linebackers in the NFL right now, though. Patrick Willis, for instance, is not on the All-Pro list.
Tags: All-Pro, Karlos Dansby, Luke Kuechly, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Peterson, Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman, Vontaze Burfict
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Considering Larry Fitzgerald’s concussion-fueled plight this week — the wide receiver is expected to play Sunday, although coach Bruce Arians said he still had to go through his official final step of the concussion protocol later Friday and he will officially be questionable — how players hit each other during a game might mean a little more to Fitz.
(And as a quick aside, watching replays of the onside kick hit Fitz took from Tennessee’s Jackie Battle, I didn’t think it was bad at all. It was helmet to helmet out of circumstance more than anything as Fitz curled to protect the ball and Battle’s helmet happened to be in the wrong place. I actually am surprised Battle didn’t try to get him harder. Fitzgerald said he didn’t consider the hit excessive either. UPDATE: And Battle was not fined on the play, FYI.)
With all this talk about defenseless players and the like, it’s surprised me a little that players themselves don’t take it upon themselves to not crush each other in every circumstance. That’s what happened the first time the Cardinals and Seahawks met. Fitzgerald twice delivered blindside blocks on Seattle defensive backs. They were powerful, sure, but they could have absolutely laid the Seahawk out and Fitz clearly didn’t do that. He made the block necessary but wasn’t looking to hurt the guy.
It was so noticeable that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll even said something: “With an iconic guy like that, I just thought it was really powerful. … It’s still a big hit. But it could have been a colossal collision had he taken full advantage of the opportunity, and he didn’t. His poise and his character demonstrated that he understands. That’s really cool stuff and that’s where the league is going. We can do this.”
Fitzgerald was asked about the hits on the now-suspended Walter Thurmond and Richard Sherman. With Fitz, it wasn’t about being nice but instead understanding what big hits can do these days the way officials are calling games.
“There are many ways to skin a cat,” Fitzgerald said. “In that particular position, on both hits, one was third-and-7, Mike (Floyd) was catching the shallow route. I could’ve knocked him out if I wanted to. Possibly we could have gotten a 15-yard penalty and I would have been fined. I don’t want to set my team back. It would have been third-and-20. We were driving. I didn’t want to hurt my team. That’s my first thinking. I can’t speak for anybody else. I just want to make sure I do everything I can to help my team and not hurt it.”
Tags: Jackie Battle, Larry Fitzgerald, Pete Carroll, Richard Sherman
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL, Richard Sherman, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Throwback Thursday
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Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t practicing today because of his concussion but coach Bruce Arians continues to say he expects Fitz to be able to play Sunday, and quarterback Carson Palmer said the same. Palmer, in fact, said he thinks Fitzgerald will be able to practice Thursday. Fitzgerald has historically had good games against the Seahawks and his battles with cornerback Richard Sherman are always fun to watch. Going without Fitz in such an important game isn’t what the Cardinals want to do.
– It doesn’t look as good for safety Rashad Johnson (ankle), and everyone is talking about Tony Jefferson as if Jefferson will be starting. Tight end Rob Housler (groin) is also sitting out.
– Quote of the day from Arians, when asked if he will show the team video of last year’s 58-0 loss in Seattle. “No. It’s not our offense or our defense. Who gives a s***?”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Rashad Johnson, Richard Sherman, Tony Jefferson
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What is it about Ryan Williams and his story that is so intriguing? The Cardinals go into an important game against the Falcons Sunday, and even if Williams – because of the toe injury of Rashard Mendenhall – is active, he might not even play much. Yet many are waiting to see if Williams is active and what he would do if he played, and I am one of them.
Williams (smartly) hasn’t said much about his situation, but you can tell he’s frustrated. “I’m probably the freshest guy on the team right now,” Williams said. “I’m ready to play. I’m just waiting.” Practices are closed so it’s impossible to know exactly what Williams has done, and since he is so far down the depth chart, he’s likely getting what work he is getting on scout team and not the regular offense. But Bruce Arians has said a couple of times he has been happy with the work Williams has done. Now Sunday, if the Cards, for instance, are going to have newcomer Teddy Williams active to play special teams, who sits instead? Would that be Ryan Williams’ potential spot?
In a lot of ways, Williams might be in a type of limbo. Clearly he isn’t ahead of the others on the depth chart. But Mendenhall’s injury potential is high enough that the Cards might not want to let him go. If Mendenhall goes down with a major injury, do the Cards really want to lean just on two rookies in Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor? (There is still a chance I suppose he could be dealt before Tuesday’s deadline, but I don’t expect it.)
I guess I’m looking forward to seeing that inactive list at 11:55 a.m. Sunday.
– Lot of talk about Ellington, and people keep trying to send me comparative measurements between the 5-foot-9, 199-pound Ellington and other backs, like Jamaal Charles, etc. Look, I can’t speak to those guys. And I don’t know if Ellington could absorb more. But I think what Bruce Arians is thinking about limited reps is the idea that a lot of punishment would take away the best thing about Ellington — his explosion and ability to get outside. I’m sure he’ll touch the ball plenty Sunday.
– The Falcons were a Super Bowl favorite coming into the season. Now, the defense is much more leaky, the offense doesn’t have Julio Jones and Roddy White has been hurt so much he’s a non-factor. Steven Jackson has barely played. Now, it’s not like Atlanta hasn’t been close – their four losses have been by a total of 19 points – but they aren’t as daunting of an opponent as they once might have been.
– Matt Ryan was miserable in last year’s meeting. Ray Horton’s defense made him look terrible. Horton isn’t here anymore, obviously, but Todd Bowles is, and the Cards got after Russell Wilson pretty good. I wouldn’t expect five interceptions again, but the Cards are going to pressure him. “We got in his face early, rattled him up a little bit,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “This is a new team. With them not necessarily having their top guys … we can’t fall into that they aren’t 100 percent. They still have guys who can get the ball in the end zone. But I believe if we do the same recipe as last year, we will have good success.”
– Profootballfocus.com noted that there have been two receivers targeted a league-high six times when an interception has been thrown. One was Giants wideout Reuben Randle. The other? Larry Fitzgerald. Something to consider when Carson Palmer talks about being leery when forcing the ball to Fitz.
– Speaking of Fitz, he hammered Walter Thurmond on a blind-side block last week against Seattle and did it again later to Richard Sherman. They were blows – but they could have been much harder and destructive. Fitz downplayed them, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll came out and praised Fitzgerald for playing football the “new” way – those Seahawks still got hit pretty good, but it didn’t go over the top. You can say what you want about what that means for football, but I have to admit I agree with Carroll. You can walk that line.
– Be sure to welcome our new writer at azcardinals.com when he starts next week: Kyle Odegard. I think you’ll find him a quality addition.
– Arians talks about starting fast and you wonder about the coin flip. Arians has said he will always take the ball if he is given the choice, so the Cards end up with the ball first almost every time. That makes getting off to a quick start even more important in my eyes.
– Arians reiterated what offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said yesterday, that the Cardinals are “hoping” to play Bobby Massie some at right tackle. It will depend on how the game plays out, Arians said, but it would be for a series or two.
– Defensive end Calais Campbell took left tackle Bradley Sowell aside earlier this week to try and give him some advice. “I felt like the offensive linemen, the younger ones, they need to learn what we are trying to do to beat them,” Campbell said on the Big Red Rage radio show. “We just went over how I play the game and what I’m looking for. I gave him my advice. I think he has potential and we need him to win.”
– The Cards do need better play from Sowell at left tackle. And from the offense in general.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Falcons, Kyle Odegard, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ryan, Patrick Peterson, Pete Carroll, Pro Football Focus, Rashard Mendenhall, Richard Sherman, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Walter Thurmond
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, NFL, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks
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The Cardinals were hoping to at least get a split in this five-game stretch against the elite of the NFC West. That didn’t happen, clearly. So the Cards move on, with an extra couple of days to prep for a flailing Atlanta team that will come into Arizona a week from Sunday. The next three games are home against the Falcons and Texans – neither of which have played very well and have been punished with injuries – and then a road trip to Jacksonville. The season could turn quickly. But the Cards better figure out what ails them, especially offensively.
It’s late. This won’t be long. But in light of a rough game against the Seahawks Thursday night:
– Bruce Arians said he didn’t consider a quarterback change. What would go into the process, he was asked. It’s not just interceptions themselves.
“It’s the reasons for the interceptions,” Arians said. “Is it his decision-making? If it’s his decision-making, then we will make the change. The first (interception) to me was obvious pass interference (on Larry Fitzgerald), and the safety makes a great play. The second one was just a poor decision. Those are the ones we have to look at.”
– No surprise defensive end Calais Campbell played. He said there was a doubt coming into the day, but once he ran around he felt ready. He had a team-high eight tackles. Campbell also warmed up in an old-school Bryan Cox neck-brace/extension (google the image) but apparently discarded it before coming out for kickoff.
– I haven’t seen Andrew Luck play yet, but my vote right now for the best QB out of the current young bunch is Russell Wilson. He is so impressive on so many levels.
– The slow start was on both the offense and defense Thursday. Veteran safety Yeremiah Bell lamented too many busted coverages early — something that shouldn’t be happening — and Daryl Washington complained about the shoddy tackling. The offense needs to be much, much better but that’s 66 points allowed in the two games this week.
– So in the last two Thursday games the Cards have played, they have allowed a total of 16 sacks. That’s a tough way to live on national TV.
– Not the way I’m sure Machine wanted his send-off. Regardless, good luck in retirement.
– Larry Fitzgerald could have drilled defensive back Walter Thurmond on a blindside block early in the game. He did not, and Thurmond, while blocked, could’ve been much worse for wear. Later in the game, Fitzgerald did pop Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman harder, although replays showed Fitz could’ve creamed him much harder. And you wonder why Fitz has such a good reputation among his peers.
“I tried not to hit him too hard,” Fitzgerald said. “They fine you on those crackbacks and penalize you too. I didn’t want to put my team in a position to lose 15 yards in the red zone like that. I just tried to make a smart play.”
– GM Steve Keim said Bradley Sowell was going to have his ups and downs at left tackle. Thursday was definitely a down. He had a rough game getting pushed back, down and away by what is a very good Seattle defensive line. There were plenty of plays where other linemen had issues, but Sowell – with the Seahawks able to pin their ears back and come without fear of the run – was overmatched one-on-one much of the time.
– Not a whole lot else to say on this one. The Seahawks a good team. Better than the 49ers right now. After these two games, the Cards know where they stand. They wish it was in a better spot.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Larry Fitzgerald, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Yeremiah Bell
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