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Blogs

Friday before the Patriots

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2012 – 3:18 pm

Given that Levi Brown is on injured reserve, there are just seven players left on the Cardinals’ roster who were there when the team made its last flight to New England: Adrian Wilson, Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Michael Adams, Lyle Sendlein, Calais Campbell and Early Doucet. What happened that day – an ugly, ugly 47-7 loss in a horrible snowstorm – had both good and bad repercussions.

The showing was terrible. It was the one, in the next-to-last week of the season, where analyst Cris Collinsworth declared the already-NFC West champs the worst to ever make the playoffs. But coach Ken Whisenhunt used it as a jumping-off point to have a padded practice in the rain that week – time to refocus – before the Cards won the season finale against Seattle to finish 9-7. They didn’t lose again until Santonio Holmes decided to rip their collective heart out.

That game means nothing Sunday, really, although it’s tough for any of those players who were around last time to just forget.

“There’s not a lot of guys on this team from the 2008 year, but we remember that butt kicking we took up there in 2008 out there and that didn’t sit well with us then and four years later it still stings,” Fitzgerald said.

“For me I’ll never forget walking off that field and looking at that scoreboard. Just the feeling of embarrassment, disappointment. … They totally tore us down that night. That’s something I still remember very vividly. That was a tough game, the worst game that I ever played in in my professional career.”

There will be no snow this time. The Cards want to make sure a lot of things are different this time around.

– The irony of Fitz saying it was the worst game he ever played in – his career-long reception, 78 yards, came in that game, a late catch-and-run from Matt Leinart for his team’s lone score of the game.

– Leadership means a lot in a game like this, I’d think. I was wondering if a guy like cornerback William Gay, who has faced the Patriots multiple times in his years as a Pittsburgh Steeler, might be able to help a little in terms of familiarity. He quickly dismissed that.

“We have leaders that have been around football for quite some time,” Gay said. “I listen to those guys. Just because I have played them a lot, those veterans still have years over me. Seeing those guys calm, it will calm the rest of the guys down, and that’s what you need. If your leaders are rattled, everyone will be rattled.”

– I don’t know how the Cards are going to approach covering the Patriots’ tight ends. I don’t know if it’ll be the safeties (pictured below) or linebackers, or a combination. The latter seems likely. I know some out there disagree, but Wilson did well in coverage last season. Now, how that will translate against guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, we will see. Those two have been impressive.

– The Cards have faced Tom Brady just once – in 2004, when he came to Sun Devil Stadium and won, 23-12, when the Patriots were at the peak of their Super Bowl-winning powers. Matt Cassel, of course, was the QB in 2008 after Brady wrecked his knee in the season-opener that season.

– This is only the third visit the Cards have made to New England since moving to Arizona. The score of the 1996 trip was 31-0 Patriots, so adding in the 2008 game, it hasn’t been a pleasant place to play.

– Fitz needs three catches for 700 in his career. Tight end Todd Heap needs six for 500. And speaking of milestones, Sunday will be defensive end Vonnie Holliday’s 200th game.

– The constant talk of Skelton/Kolb has been exhausting to a point this week. Obviously I think Kolb will start this week. Everyone does, and even Ken Whisenhunt has sent everyone in that direction even if he didn’t officially name a starter. But this is a big deal for Kolb. He had his moment last week, but the moment is over. There will be plenty of eyes on him across the NFL landscape Sunday, not just those in Arizona.

– Defensive coordinator Ray Horton called his unit’s first game “an excellent start” but that it could have been better. “I was looking at the things we left on the table, and we left a fantastic, great, dominating game on the table,” Horton said. “We have room to improve.”

– This is a testing ground for the string of tough road games the Cards have this season. Trips to Green Bay, Atlanta, the Jets all come later. The long plane rides are par for the course. The Cards need to have a good showing. In a game where the Pats are opening the home schedule, and adding former fan favorite and team MVP Troy Brown to the franchise’s Hall of Fame, fighting those emotions won’t be easy.

See you Sunday.


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