NFL.com and the NFL Network compiled a ranking of the top 20 games of the 2015 season, and the Cardinals were part of the game picked as the best.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the Divisional playoff game between the Cards and Packers earned the top spot, although it took the Cards allowing an emotionally crushing Hail Mary to get there. It was played less than three months ago, so it’s not hard to remember the highlights, like Michael Floyd’s rebound TD catch, the Aaron Rodgers miracle and, of course, Larry being Larry. (I have to admit thought I had forgotten about Patrick Peterson’s 100-yard interception return that would have been legendary itself had it not been called back because of a hands-to-the-face penalty). A truly classic game with many twists and a heckuva ending.
The Cardinals actually appear on the top 20 list two other times. Their 24-22 home loss to the Rams, when Todd Gurley broke out for the first time, was No. 20. The Cards’ big win in Seattle, capped by Andre Ellington’s TD run, was picked as No. 12.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, NFL Network, Packers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Seahawks, Todd Gurley
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The search for pass rushers is leading the Cardinals to investigate one of the best of the Canadian Football League. The agent of defensive end/linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo of the Toronto Argonauts tweeted that Okpalaugo is coming in for a workout with the Cardinals after doing the same with the Seahawks and the Jets. The agent also said the Jets have already made Okpalaugo an offer.
UPDATE: The Cardinals signed Okpalaugo.
Okpalaugo, 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, had 11 sacks in 14 games this season for Toronto after posting 12 in 17 games for the Argonauts in 2014. He went to the CFL after brief stops with the Dolphins, Vikings and Cowboys, failing to get on to a 53-man roster after being undrafted out of Fresno State. But he’s had CFL success, and perhaps that will change his NFL future.
It isn’t the first time the Cardinals have looked at pass rushers from Canada. The Cards had Cameron Wake in for a workout during the playoff run to the 2008 Super Bowl — presumably for the following season — but decided to pass. Wake turned into a Pro Bowler for the Dolphins with 70 career sacks since 2009. There is no guarantee Okpalaugo, 26, will become the next Wake. He might end up as the next Stevie Baggs, a pass rusher the Cards did sign and try and work into the defense.
Perhaps most interesting is the teams involved here. The Cards know each situation well. The Jets, of course, are led by former Cards’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. And the Seahawks are in an arms race with the Cardinals for NFC West supremacy.
Tags: Cameron Wake, Jets, Seahawks, Stevie Baggs, Tristan Okpalaugo
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It certainly hasn’t been quiet in the Cardinals’ division, even with the regular season over. The Cardinals and Seahawks are among the final eight teams in the playoffs. The Rams moved to Los Angeles. And now the 49ers, wanting to make sure no one forgot about them, went out and hired Chip Kelly as their new coach.
It’s an interesting pick. Whether Kelly was their first choice or — as some reports have said — they turned to Kelly after they couldn’t get Hue Jackson (who went to the Browns), it’s a drastic change from Jim Tomsula, that’s for sure. The immediate reaction? That assumed divorce between rehabbing QB Colin Kaepernick and the team might not happen — Kaepernick would seem to be the perfect type of QB for Kelly’s system, to the point many wondered this season if Kap was cut would the then-Eagles coach Kelly snap him up — and also how the relationship will work between Kelly and GM Trent Baalke. But we’ll see how quickly Kelly can get that team changed up after a very rough 2015.
The Cardinals have done fine against Kelly’s Eagles, winning two of three, including the division-clinching rout in Philly this season.
I’ll say this, the NFC West certainly isn’t boring.
Tags: 49ers, Chip Kelly, Colin Kaepernick, NFC West, Rams, Seahawks
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The Cardinals didn’t play this weekend but there was football that meant something from their perspective. The NFC games Sunday determined their first playoff opponent — it’s the Packers — and now, the build-up for a postseason game many on the team have been waiting for since that rough loss in Carolina at this time last year.
The NFC results weren’t a shock. The Seahawks are a better team than the Vikings. The Packers are better than Washington. Of course, the way the Seattle-Minnesota game played out, the Seahawks should be eliminated by now. They aren’t. So we see who will come out of the very interesting dogfight between the Seahawks and Panthers, and if the Cardinals can beat the Packers a second time, whomever they play in the NFC Championship will have gone through the gauntlet to get there (and the Cards could still host that game if the Seahawks win.) But there will be time to look at that. As for the games that were just played:
— It’s hard to believe the Seahawks won. Not because they played poorly, but because the Vikings put themselves in a spot to win and should have. To see Blair Walsh just yank a 27-yard field goal left is simply crushing for that team. Seattle did enough. The frigid weather was clearly a factor, but it was not Russell Wilson’s best game. And if anyone was thinking momentum was going to carry over from that season finale romp over the Cardinals, well, it didn’t (which is the other side of why the Cards kept saying that game wasn’t going to matter either.)
— Speaking of Walsh, this is a great story about him after the game. Something to think about the next time a player doesn’t make the play — and when fan disappointment has a chance to become more than that.
— The Packers looked a ton better Sunday than they did in their final two games in Arizona and Minnesota. Then again, Washington’s defense has a much worse defense than both the Vikings and Cardinals. I’d expect a better showing from Green Bay this week, but the Cards will rightfully be favored.
— There is hope from the Packers they will get cornerback Sam Shields back from his concussion, but they thought they’d have him back this weekend too and it didn’t happen. Other key injuries for the Packers to watch: left tackle David Bakhtiari, who remained out with an ankle injury (he missed the first game against the Cards) and wide receiver Davante Adams, who said he expects to be ready after hurting his knee Sunday, but you have to wonder even if he can what his effectiveness will be, especially on a short week.
— The Cardinals are off Monday still. They return to practice Tuesday.
Tags: Blair Walsh, Packers, playoffs, Sam Shields, Seahawks, Vikings
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I have seen the movie “A Few Good Men” a few times. Or 50. It’s one of those films I can’t help but leave on the TV when I come across it. (I know I’m not the only one.) So much of the dialogue is memorable.
(Hang with me here. I’m getting somewhere with this.)
The last day-plus of the Cardinals-Seahawks aftermath heading into the Cards’ playoff bye week has been filled with opinions on both sides of the fence, not entirely unexpected. The Cardinals are saying it meant nothing in the grand scheme. The players insist there will be a rally. Some on the outside are calling what the Seahawks did “The Most Impressive Victory of the Year” in the NFL and are saying the Cards rank behind both the Panthers and Seahawks in the NFC — in large part because of that finale result. There are spots in history that point to each side as being right, examples of teams that have lost late and done fine in the postseason, teams that have lost late and tripped.
But that’s when I think back to the line Kevin Pollack delivers to Tom Cruise wondering if Cruise’s character should take a legal run at Jack Nicholson’s character as “A Few Good Men” pushed toward a conclusion. Pollack’s “Sam Weinberg” makes it clear that as a lawyer, he wouldn’t, and he doesn’t think the late lawyer father of Cruise’s “Danny Kaffee” would either.
“But here’s the thing–and there’s really no way of getting around this–neither Lionel Kaffee nor Sam Weinberg are lead counsel for the defense in the matter of U.S. v. Dawson & Downey,” Pollack says.
And here’s the thing — and there’s really no way of getting around this — none of those previous teams are the 2015 Arizona Cardinals.
This was a team, after all, that many thought a week ago were the Super Bowl favorite. They may or may not have been, but one game shouldn’t change everything, either. Comparing now to past situations is natural, but by the time the Cards play, two weeks down the road, it’ll be a distant memory. The Cardinals are either going to play a team in their first playoff game that a) they have beaten or b) they finished four games better than in the standings against a more difficult schedule. If the Cardinals win that game and reach the NFC Championship, that finale will be part of the final statistics but little else. No one knows really what that finale loss means, or if it even means anything.
Hopefully, you can handle that truth.
Tags: playoffs, Seahawks, Tom Cruise
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The Cardinals were overrun Sunday by the Seahawks. And General Manager Steve Keim said he is … “actually encouraged”?
“I know what kind of team we have,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “To jump off the ship because of one game … I saw it as an outlier.”
Keim said he’s looking forward to the playoff run. Yes, he had concerns the Cardinals were handled pretty easily up front on both sides of the ball. Yes, it bothered him with the talk the Cardinals had nothing to play for, especially when the Cards then played like they had nothing to play for. “Seattle outplayed us in every facet.”
But Keim also said it’s been a rewarding season, with a franchise-record 13 wins. The last game didn’t go well, but he noted how the Seahawks were the red-hot team just a couple weeks ago, then lost at home to the Rams, who then lost to the 49ers this weekend. The Cardinals were everyone’s darlings last week, and getting beat up Sunday has already changed the thought process. “It’s a week-to-week league,” Keim said.
He added he has no doubt the Cardinals will take these two weeks to bounce back, and, like Bruce Arians, believes the Cardinals have learned a lesson. “Our name hasn’t been printed on any Super Bowl ticket yet,” Keim said.
— Keim’s highlights this season? Carson Palmer’s return from ACL surgery to have an MVP-type season, the impact of many of the one-year vets who signed, like Dwight Freeney, and Larry Fitzgerald rallying for a big season after some down statistical years.
— Keim said he thought the defense missed the energy of rookie linebacker Markus Golden, who sat out with a knee bruise. Golden is expected to be back for the playoffs.
— Finally, Keim was asked if he wants the Cardinals to play the Seahawks again. “Absolutely,” he said, noting the bad taste Sunday left. “As a competitor, I’d love to see the Seahawks again.”
It probably doesn’t hurt that Keim knows, another game against the Seahawks means the Cardinals are hosting the NFC Championship game.
Tags: Markus Golden, Seahawks, Steve Keim
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It was ugly yes, and whether Bruce Arians did indeed see it coming, I’m not sure there is a way to stem that mindset the Cardinals played with Sunday against the Seahawks. It wasn’t anything like the team had played like all season – not like the losses to the Rams and the Steelers, even though they were sluggish in those too.
Larry Fitzgerald said the game reminded him of the Packers finale at the end of the 2009 season, also a home game in which the Cards were hammered because there was nothing to play for, also as the Cards prepared to go into the playoffs (I tweeted the same during today’s game.)
But you know what game this really reminded me of, after it was over: The lost trip to New England in 2008. At least in 2009, coach Ken Whisenhunt had basically said the Cardinals were going to pull back if they had nothing to play for. But that trip to New England, it was messy because the players simply weren’t ready to play, didn’t want to play, didn’t want to be in the snow. They lost 47-7, and they were called the worst playoff team ever, and we know how that turned out.
I’m not saying that’s exactly what happened Sunday, because I believe this current team is stronger mentally than the 2008 squad. But the Cards didn’t show up against the Seahawks, like they didn’t against the Patriots, and it means, well, not a whole lot, really.
If the Cards were to be upset in their first playoff game, it won’t be because they lost against the Seahawks in the Week 17 game. This team has proven it is very good, and potentially great. For all the chest-pounding some of the Seahawks were doing after the game, they just lost to the Rams at home themselves.
Not the way you want to finish. But as Carson Palmer said, there is no panic, and talking with the veterans, it’s not just a brave face. This team understands they must do better. But they are not worried.
(UPDATE: Here’s the playoff info.)
— There were a couple of bright spots. OK, bright moments. Dwight Freeney got his eighth sack. The Cardinals finally had an opponent miss a field goal for the first time all season (which is unbelievable).
— And there were some record breakers. Smokey Brown surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, finishing with 1,003 on the season (although it was Smoke that was Richard Sherman’s target of his taunting penalty, which Sherman said was to mime Brown going to sit on the bench — not a faux pulling his pants down.) Fitzgerald broke his own team record for receptions in a season (he finished with 109 catches). Palmer broke the franchise record for passing yards in a season (4,671).
— Some other cool numbers took a beating – the point differential, the defensive rankings – but no one will care if the Cardinals go on to win a Super Bowl. No one will really care if they don’t, in the end.
— Special teams reared its ugly head, whether it was the punt coverage on Tyler Lockett or a fifth missed extra point by Chandler Catanzaro. Catanzaro missed a field goal as well.
— After all that, the Cardinals seemed to come out pretty healthy. Center Lyle Sendlein limped off late – Bruce Arians said it was a bone bruise of some kind – but Palmer is OK, as are the top guys. Plus there is two weeks to get ready.
— That’s all for now. There’s two weeks to talk about the next game. And not much to say about this one.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Dwight Freeney, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Richard Sherman, Seahawks
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The inactive list looks like it has the last few weeks, so it certainly seems like Bruce Arians will follow through with his comment that the Cardinals are playing this straight today. S Rashad Johnson and WR Michael Floyd are indeed active. In fact, every player who was questionable for the Cards Friday is active today.
The full inactive list:
— QB Matt Barkley
— CB Corey White
— LB Markus Golden (knee)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— NT Xavier Williams
— DT Josh Mauro (calf)
The Seahawks are without starters T Russell Okung, G J.R. Sweezy, RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Luke Willson and S Kam Chancellor.
The bigger pre-game news was that the Cardinals watched former teammate Ryan Lindley throw a TD for the Colts:
— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) January 3, 2016
Tags: inactives, Michael Floyd, Rashad Johnson, Seahawks
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The first game of Russell Wilson’s career started with a loss at University of Phoenix Stadium. It was close, but the Cardinals held on as one of those wins in their mirage of a 4-0 start back in 2012. It was before anyone really knew Russell Wilson was Russell Wilson. It was also the last time the Cards beat the Seahawks at home.
The last two years haven’t been close, even though it’s been in a tremendous upgrade of the Arians era. It’s the only team the Cards have had issues with at home. The first game, Carson Palmer and the offense weren’t ready yet (and the Seahawks defense was at its peak in 2013). Last year, Ryan Lindley started and, well, you know.
We bring up this history lesson in part to understand why Arians is looking to play Sunday’s game straight. Sure, there’s a chance things will change as the game goes along, if the Panthers start to pull away (although Arians said that won’t be a factor) or if the game itself gets sideways.
But mostly, I expect Carson Palmer throwing to Floyd and Smoke and Patrick Peterson covering Doug Baldwin (mostly). Yes, there are risks. But there is still something to play for.
— Speaking of that something to play for, no, I do not expect the Buccaneers to win in Carolina. Never say never.
— The Cardinals aren’t going to get nine sacks a week – especially when Markus Golden, who quietly has had a very, very good rookie season, is sitting out – but their pass rush is rounding into form. Dwight Freeney has been impressive, clearly. But the Seahawks are without starting guard J.R. Sweezy and likely will be without starting tackle Russell Okung. There could be some opportunity to take down the slippery Wilson.
— Bruce Arians said the Cardinals will practice three days next week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Each day will be spent on different potential playoff opponents. The plus the Cardinals have is that, aside from the Redskins (whom the Cards did see in 2014), the Cardinals will have played every single other one of their possible playoff matchups in the last month – Vikings, Packers, Seahawks.
— Since the Cards beat the Seahawks earlier this season, Wilson has thrown for 21 touchdowns and only one interception.
— A bunch of potential milestones well within reach of the Cardinals going into this game.
* Larry Fitzgerald’s first catch will give him a franchise record 104 in a season.
* Palmer needs 73 yards to set a franchise record for passing yards in a season.
* Smokey Brown needs 42 yards receiving to reach 1,000 this season. (Michael Floyd needs 167 to get to 1,000 – I don’t see that happening.)
* Chandler Catanzaro needs four points to set a franchise record in a season.
— Defensive tackle Red Bryant, who played the first six years of his career in Seattle and won a Super Bowl, gets the first chance to play against his former team.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” Bryant said. “I’m excited. I’ve got a lot of respect for them. I’m not bitter. I had six great years, accomplished a lot. Now I’m trying to help this team win. I’m not going to have a lot of emotion in terms of feeling I have to prove something. I’ll let my preparation do the talking.”
— With all of Arians’ talk about playing as normal, it doesn’t not look like first-round pick D.J. Humphries will be active for a game this season. And while Golden is down, I don’t expect to see fifth-round pick Shaq Riddick much if at all, given that Arians said Kareem Martin and even Alani Fua could see time in his spot.
— One more, and then on to the playoffs.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, Panthers, Red Bryant, Russell Wilson, Seahawks
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The last time the Packers visited University of Phoenix Stadium, it ended up being the end of an era. It was a fantastic game, with Kurt Warner finishing with more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four) in what he knew at the time was his final game at home. And, of course, there was the stunning overtime ending, when reserve defensive back Michael Adams came in on a blitz to strip-sack (with the help of a missed facemask/hands to the face call) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, with linebacker Karlos Dansby returning it for the touchdown.
“Yeah, I think there might have been something like that,” Rodgers said this week.
The return visit Sunday for the Packers is not a playoff game. Both teams will be in the playoffs regardless of the loser. But it means so much for both sides. For the Cardinals, wrapping up a bye – with an injury list that has grown the last couple of weeks – would be nice.
The players know this. The talk in the locker room has been all about clinching that bye. The focus after clinching the division hasn’t waned, not outwardly (something that didn’t seem to be the case back in 2008 when the Cards clinched.)
— Arians had a big smile Friday afternoon. The Cardinals held practice much later than a normal Friday, in order to allow for Christmas morning home with the family. Arians also allowed for families to attend practice, making for a relatively sizable group watching.
“Largest crowd ever today,” Arians said with a grin.
— Quarterback Carson Palmer was limited all week because of the finger that got dinged in Philly, but he’s fine. Arians said he looked very good in practice Thursday and Friday.
— Palmer, by the way, turns 36 on Sunday. Wouldn’t be a bad birthday present to himself to get a win.
— If the Cards win and sew up a bye – and the Panthers win, which would seal the No. 2 seed – the finale against the Seahawks will mean nothing. So might Arians rest players? “Hopefully, we can have that conversation,” he said.
But Arians did chuckle at the idea of “resting starters,” noting the Cardinals can only dress 46 players total and injuries can play a factor on who is available. “We’re talking maybe three to five possible guys (to rest),” Arians said.
— With two games left, the Cardinals have already surpassed their rushing yards total by more than 400 yards this season. The Cards, sixth in the NFL in rushing, have gained 1,769 yards on the ground. And now Andre Ellington should be back to supplement David Johnson.
— The Cardinals have 52 touchdowns this season and only 51 punts. That’s a crazy stat. The franchise record for TDs in a season is 53, set in 1948. That should be broken Sunday.
— Hope everyone had a good Christmas. On to Sunday – which just happens to be the Cardinals’ first afternoon home game since they lost to the Rams way back on Oct. 4. Lots of road games and primetime games since then.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Karlos Dansby, Michael Adams, Packers, Seahawks
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