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Late night Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2015 – 2:22 am

It didn’t take long for Drew Stanton to see it – he was already trending on Twitter by the time he got to the locker room – but the backup quarterback’s sideline gyrations during Andre Ellington’s game-clinching touchdown run went from “Sunday Night Football” to social media sensation in an instant.

“That’s what I heard,” Stanton said. “ ‘Sunday Night Football’ is a very heavily-watched show, so …”

“We don’t have our hype man here anymore. Ryan Lindley used to do stuff like that, so I had to take over.”

Said Carson Palmer, “It was just all heart. … I think that was dedicated to Ryan Lindley because he was a great sideline celebrator, and I think Drew just slid ahead of Ryan.”

There’s nothing like a big win to celebrate. You don’t talk about such things like sideline dances after a loss. Make no mistake, this was a big win.

The Cardinals still haven’t beaten a team above .500, but obviously beating the Seahawks means something. It really means something when it’s done in Seattle, beyond the Cardinals opening up a mammoth three-game lead in the division with seven left to play. The second half of the schedule remains harder than the first, but all of a sudden games against the Eagles and Packers don’t seem quite as daunting. The Cards will know they’ve already beaten the Seahawks once, and now they get them in their own building (and that’s assuming there is still something to play for in the regular-season finale.)

Another nationally televised game coming in a week. I’d assume the Bengals will win Monday night and be undefeated. I’d also assume the Cardinals will relish such an opportunity.

— Carson Palmer was really remarkable. He shouldn’t have thrown the ball that was intercepted early in the game, and yes, he probably has to find a way to hold on to the ball despite nasty (and oft-unblocked) pressure. But you wonder why this team has so much confidence when Palmer is behind center, why it meant more than just having the starting QB going to Seattle, as opposed to last year. That fourth quarter is why.

— Great news that Mike Iupati was OK. He got back to see his teammates and fly back with the team. We’ll see how his health is this week.

— You do have to worry about the hamstring injuries for the receiving corps. Michael Floyd had his huge game end early after he hurt himself, and John Brown – already nursing a hamstring injury and held without a catch against the Seahawks – wasn’t in the lineup for the last series.

— Then again, that opened the door for some unsung heroes. Brittan Golden was playing at the end of the game, and he had the crucial block on the Ellington TD run.

— Meanwhile, Jaron Brown was fantastic in Floyd’s sted. His play to not only stop a sure interception of a tipped pass but actually turn it into a catch, and then his big first-down catch on the Ellington drive, was clutch. He admitted it didn’t quite make up for dropping the TD catch last year in Seattle, but it sure was impressive.

— The way Floyd is playing, it’s really going to make for some interesting choices about him going into the offseason (Floyd is under contract for 2016 at $7 million, money that is not guaranteed.) The way this offense is playing together, it’d be hard not to keep the Fitz-Floyd-Smokey trio together.

— As for Fitz, what a game. He’s had some big games against the Seahawks in the past (he went 10 catches for 151 yards there in 2008) but his 10 for 130 Sunday was more yards than his combined yards there since 2010 (114 in four games; Fitz didn’t play in Seattle in 2014 because of a knee injury.)

— The Seattle defense allowed just 39 points total in their final six games in 2014, including that 35-6 romp at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals got 39 on Sunday alone. That’s the most points the Seahawks had allowed since giving up 40 to the 49ers in late 2010 – and the most since Richard Sherman showed up to fill out the “Legion of Boom.”

— The Seahawks had been giving up 186.4 passing yards a game. The Cardinals piled up 363.

— The Cardinals have already scored 29 more points on the road – in five road games – than they did all last season – in eight.

— Chris Johnson grinded out 25 carries. He only gained 58 yards – it wasn’t a great game. But it was an important effort. The Cards never stopped trying to run, and lo and behold, Ellington snaps off a 48-yarder for the biggest play of the game.

— A lot has been said about the kicking game, but Sunday both Chandler Catanzaro and Drew Butler did well. Cat Man converted all three of his field-goal attempts and all four extra points. Butler averaged 44.7 yards on his three punts and more importantly, Tyler Lockett had zero punt return yards.

— We’re pushing 2:15 a.m. Phoenix time and by the time many of you read this, I’ll have posted another entry on the blog. The Cardinals are going to bed knowing they are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC (and they have the No. 3 Vikings coming to Arizona next month.) A good way to start the second half of the season.


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John Brown, Sendlein both active

Posted by Darren Urban on November 15, 2015 – 4:58 pm

As expected, wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) and center Lyle Sendlein (shoulder) both are active today for the Cardinals. (No, I don’t know how much Brown will play. I do expect him to play after essentially three weeks to get better.)

As a result, the inactive list is seven deep with healthy players — unbelievable in Week 10 of an NFL season.

— QB Matt Barkley

— WR J.J. Nelson (With Patrick Peterson returning punts and Brown healthy, Nelson is unneeded.)

— CB Robert Nelson, Jr.

— LB Shaq Riddick

— G Ted Larsen

— T D.J. Humphries

— NT Xavier Williams

For the Seahawks, running back Marshawn Lynch — who was added to the injury report Friday with an abdominal injury — is active.

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Friday before the Seahawks on Sunday night

Posted by Darren Urban on November 13, 2015 – 4:06 pm

By the time the Cardinals get to Seattle Saturday evening, it’ll be dark and probably rainy. By the time they play the Seahawks Sunday night, it’ll be dark and probably rainy. The crowd is going to be intense from the opening kick, and everyone knows the football world will be watching.

Bruce Arians knows his guys will be jacked up. He wants them jacked up. Except …

“Snotbubbles and tears don’t win s**t,” Arians said.

This is still about the execution. This is about being smart with the football and not turning it over. It’s about the Cardinals being able to run the ball with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. It’s about tackling Marshawn Lynch (sure, he’s questionable, but he’ll play) and containing Russell Wilson. I still think this game will be about the Cardinals scoring, because I believe the Cardinals’ defense can keep the Seahawks at bay.

The season won’t be decided Sunday but it’s impossible to get past the power of the swing it holds: The Cards lose, and they are just one game ahead of the Seahawks with seven to go and the Cards with a harder schedule. The Cards win, and the Seahawks are three games back, don’t have the tiebreaker and are under .500 – while the Cardinals get over the hurdle of winning against a “good” team (although the Cards still won’t have beat an above .500 team in that case.)

This one is going to be interesting, to say the least.

— If it is rainy as expected, I’m wondering what that will mean to a passing game that has been excellent. Will Arians dial it back a bit?

— I forgot that not only did the Cardinals not have Carson Palmer for their trip to Seattle last season, they didn’t have Larry Fitzgerald either. And now both aren’t only playing, but playing as well as they ever have.

— Lost in that win from 2013 was how stupendous the defense was that day. The Cardinals’ defense might have had – given the opponent and context – its finest day under Arians for sure. It ranked up there with the Jake Delhomme beat down in the 2008 playoffs. The Cardinals could sure use a similar showing.

— There is a concern about Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks’ other tight end, Luke Willson, has hurt the Cards before too. Something to remember.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell, who can’t believe he remains the franchise’s second-leading rusher after all these years, said he wants Chris Johnson to win the NFL rushing title. Johnson is currently third behind Adrian Peterson and Devonta Freeman.

“To win, we have to have guys who have individual goals that are team-related,” Mitchell said. “Chris is too close to the top of the rushing title to not want to win it. And that’s his goal. I know it’s the offensive linemen’s goal. I’m not surprised. (CJ) loves the game, and we are running the runs he likes to run.”

— Lot of questions, since the Cardinals still have a Thursday night game left (at home against the Vikings Dec. 10), if the Cards will be a part of the uniform “Color Rush” happening on Thursdays. The answer is no, they are not part of that plan this season.

— Some good links if you missed them:

My Chris Johnson story and the promises he was not given.

This exchange between Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald Thursday was priceless.

Also thought the Jimmy Fallon bit (to pub fellow NBC property “Sunday Night Football”) was funny. Lyle Sendlein said it was the second time Fallon had poked fun at him. “I guess it’s better (this time) than him calling me a Human Angry Bird – I think,” Sendlein said. (You can watch the video, but I’m not so sure about that).

— Arians said he expects linebacker Alex Okafor to get 30 to 35 snaps in his first game back from a calf injury. He also said he’s going to have a steady rotation at outside linebacker. How the playing time is divided between Okafor, Dwight Freeney, LaMarr Woodley and Markus Golden will be interesting.

— Also interesting will be who is made inactive with everybody healthy – assuming Sendlein (shoulder) and wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) are both good to go (which I will not be surprised if it happens.)

— I leave with this: This is being written and posted as the horrifying events in Paris, with shootings and explosions and hostages, are playing out. Honestly, it’s tough to get too deep into football knowing that such things are going on.

With that in mind, I just say this – the game Sunday is important in the context of this world I work within and we all follow. I know I’ll hear from many if the Cardinals lose, but I ask you to just remember – it is just a game. Please keep it in perspective.


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Shipley, Sendlein and Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on November 11, 2015 – 9:27 am

We are still a couple of days away from knowing if starting center Lyle Sendlein, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, will be able to play against the Seahawks Sunday night. Bruce Arians said Sendlein missed practice Tuesday. The first injury report of the week comes out later today.

But if Sendlein can’t go, A.Q. Shipley would start at center. The question is what might that mean for an offensive line that has been solid. It’s true that Arians said he had been expecting more on the interior of the line at Cleveland, which includes Sendlein. But the veteran has something that Shipley does not — experience at CenturyLink Field.

Sendlein has started six games in Seattle during his career (and appeared in a seventh.) He knows what it’s like in that stadium, with that crowd, with that noise. Shipley has played in 51 games in his career, none at Seattle. A night game, with the knowledge that a national TV audience is watching, will boost the crowd intensity that much more. The center is the one who organizes the offensive line every play. In a season where everyone continues to say the offensive line communication is a developing work-in-progress, who starts at center — and how he handles the moment — will have an impact on how effective the Cardinals’ offense can be.


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Turnovers and a trip to Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on November 9, 2015 – 9:30 am

It’s Seattle week. More specifically, at Seattle week, a game the Cardinals have been anxious to play for a long time now that Carson Palmer is healthy. It’s interesting that the Cardinals are coming off that four-turnover game in Cleveland, a game in which they won — because the last time they had turned the ball over four times in a road game, they had also won. That game was the 17-10 stunner in Seattle near the end of the 2013 season, the one in which Palmer threw four interceptions yet found Michael Floyd for a touchdown pass late in the game for the clinching points.

The Cardinals are now 2-1 in four-turnover road games under Bruce Arians. The one loss was a 32-20 defeat in San Francisco in 2013, a game that is remembered for a crucial Larry Fitzgerald fumble with the Cards driving for a go-ahead score — but what might be better remembered for the 18-play, smashmouth TD drive of the 49ers that took up 9:32 and 11 of the plays (including the final eight) were runs up the gut.

The point is that there are always ways to overcome even messy turnover days. The three-turnover games that led to the Cards’ two losses this season weren’t based on the turnovers alone — in both cases, the Cardinals still had chances to win the game late.

But turnovers make the job so much harder. The Cardinals have 14 turnovers total in eight games and 10 turnovers in the aformentioned three games — the win in Cleveland, the losses to the Rams and Steelers. Other than the Packers and Bengals, the Cardinals (while facing a much harder schedule) don’t see a lot of great offenses. None that match up to what the Cards can bring on that side of the ball. But turning it over can change those odds quickly.



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Friday before the bye

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2015 – 1:37 pm

There is nothing better than the bye at the true midway point in the season. Getting through a chunk of the games before you are off is invaluable both mentally and physically for a team — although as Carson Palmer said this week, there is no such thing as a bad bye. (Of course, Palmer was not a member of the 2001 Cardinals, who, because of an odd number of NFL teams at the time, drew the short straw and had a bye in Week 1 of the regular season. That’s right — 16 straight games after. That was an emotional time too, because 9/11 happened the Tuesday following Week 1 and games were canceled. The Cards had nearly a month between their last preseason game and their first regular-season game.)

But I digress.

The Cardinals are going to lament the two losses, games that frankly, they should have had, no matter what happens. They hope they don’t cost themselves something significant come playoff time. But it was a good first half of the season, and regardless of opponents, the Cards have proven to be a good team and one that should be in the postseason mix.

— What has surprised me in the first half of the season? Let’s start with Larry Fitzgerald’s big numbers. I thought Fitz had an excellent training camp and I thought he had a chance to get to 1,000 yards, but the Cards have gone to him more than I expected. Part of that started. I’d guess, because of Michael Floyd’s hand injury, but Fitz has looked terrific. Bruce Arians said a big reason is that he has stayed healthy, and if that’s what it took, that’s a good sign for the Cardinals because Fitz remains healthy.

— I’m surprised that Sean Weatherspoon hasn’t been a bigger part of the defense. I don’t see that changing much unless there is an injury. Deone Bucannon, at this point, is a linebacker. It makes for intriguing roster decisions beyond this year.

— I’ve never covered a Cardinals team (since 2000, mind you) that doesn’t say they have plans to significantly upgrade the running game going into a season. But this was the year it’s actually turned out that way. Chris Johnson has been marvelous. When you have a healthy Andre Ellington and he can barely get touches, that’s saying something about your depth.

— Take a listen to the latest Cardinals Underground podcast for talk between myself, Kyle Odegard and Paul Calvisi about the first half that was.

— This team will learn a lot about itself the next two games. In the national spotlight both weeks, at the defending NFC champion and hosting the sure-to-be undefeated Bengals (Cincy hosts Houston after 10 days to prepare.) The game against the Seahawks is paramount; you put Seattle in a tough, tough spot if you can knock them off in their place.

That’s next week, though. I’m going to enjoy a rare fall weekend off.



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Steelers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 18, 2015 – 7:51 pm

It was tough not to get the feeling that, after a half in which it looked like the Cardinals would take control of their game against the Steelers but never did, the Cards missed their chance. That’s how it played out of course, with the hamstring injury of Mike Vick turning out to be the best thing to happen to the Steelers. Landry Jones looked OK, but the fact he was able to give Pittsburgh a semblance of a passing game made all the difference.

What it means now is that the Cardinals will again draw skeptics that they have lost to the only two decent teams on the schedule so far. That feeling probably won’t change in the next two weeks, with a Monday night game against the Ravens at home and then a trip to the feisty Browns. There was, not surprisingly, confidence in the locker room this will get fixed over the next week. It was, like the game itself, a lot like what happened after the Rams loss.

The Seahawks lost, at home to the Panthers, so the two-game division lead remains intact. The Cardinals play like they are capable, they win Sunday. But the math is simple in the NFL – everything else considered, when you’re minus-3 in turnovers, you’re almost always going to lose. If the Cards finish that next-to-last drive and Carson Palmer doesn’t throw a pick, well, again, we were saying the same thing after the near-game-saving drive against the Rams – you’re talking about a win regardless of the warts.

— It was a little surprising the Cardinals didn’t run it more. They gained only 55 yards on 20 carries, and the Steelers were stout on the day. But Andre Ellington only got one carry for seven yards, early, and then didn’t carry it again.

— Dwight Freeney got his first playing time as a pass rusher. I didn’t watch him a ton, but it seemed like he had a couple of pressures. That’ll be something to watch on the replay.

— The penalties just killed the Cardinals Sunday. Whether it was Michael Floyd’s offensive pass interference to negate a TD or Kevin Minter’s post-play push or the chop block, they didn’t help. There were definitely some questionable calls – the Markus Golden helmet-to-helmet hit wasn’t, as replays proved. But officials are calling that in real time and will always err on the side of caution.

Bruce Arians was blunt about how to fix the mistakes and penalties.

“Stop doing it,” Arians said. “Drag your foot closer and make a touchdown. Don’t give up an 80-yard touchdown.”

— He was talking about the Floyd-TD-that-wasn’t – a huge turn, and Floyd was a toe away from being in, it looked like – and then the final TD catch-and-run by Martavis Bryant. That may have been just as painful as the Palmer pick. A three-and-out there, and the Cards get the ball with about 1:50 left and one timeout. Instead, the game was over.

— So in the Cards’ two losses, they are 2-for-9 in the red zone. In their four wins, they are 16 for 17. The latter is an unrealistic pace to keep up, but still, it makes all the sense in the world to Larry Fitzgerald.

“Our issues on offense are pretty simple to me,” he said. “We are getting down there, we have a ton of offensive red zone snaps. We just have to execute them better. Point blank, that is where it stops. If we are scoring touchdowns and we put 30 points on the board we walk out of here with a win.”

This is true.

— Fitz did do one somewhat strange move late in the first half, during a timeout. He went over to the Steelers sideline to say hi to offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who used to be the Cardinals’ OC back in 2007 and 2008. He promptly dove at Haley’s legs and tackled him – relatively gently – to the ground. Fitz used to do it all the time to Haley at practice (he’s done it to many people over the years, including me), although I will admit to see it during a game was different.

— Safe to say Floyd is back in the mix. One touchdown, and he was targeted for three others, although in one way or another they weren’t completions.

— It’s been a long week. Time to get home.


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As 2015 begins, a look at … 2016 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2015 – 8:46 am

Yes, training camp starts today (hopefully you can check out our redesigned homepage and our training camp page.) But before we get off and running, how about a quick glance at the Cardinals’ opponents for the 2016 season — which, as you know, the league has determined 14 of the 16 regular-season games already.


— New Orleans Saints
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— New England Patriots
— New York Jets
— NFC East team that finishes in same divisional spot as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— St. Louis Rams (assuming the Rams are still in St. Louis)


— Carolina Panthers
— Atlanta Falcons
— Buffalo Bills
— Miami Dolphins
— NFC North team that finishes in same divisional spot as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— St. Louis Rams (even more important to see if Rams are still in St. Louis)

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Palmer and battling the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on June 12, 2015 – 10:40 am

The health of Carson Palmer is the linchpin to the Cardinals’ 2015 season. No one is disputing that, which is why it’s been so important for Palmer to get back on the field and why his full return in minicamp generated the headlines it did. It also (obviously) would make an impact on the NFC West race. Right after the season, Bruce Arians was asked about battling Seattle going forward.

“I’d like to play them with a first-string quarterback,” Arians said. “We beat them with our first-string quarterback. We didn’t get the chance to play them this year with our first-string quarterback.”

The fact is, the Cardinals hardly got any play from Palmer against their division rivals. Because of the schedule and thanks to the shoulder injury that cut down Palmer’s season early before the knee got him late, Palmer played a little more than three of a possible 24 quarters against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks. That’s a tough way to maneuver through a difficult division. (The Cardinals ended up going 3-3 in six division games, rallying behind a Drew Stanton TD pass to beat the Rams in the one game Palmer did get to play.)

Palmer plans to change that in 2015, of course. While he only got six starts last season, Palmer was healthy in 2013, not only starting every game but taking every snap. If he can manage that again — or at least come close to it, since taking every single snap doesn’t necessarily have to happen — it’ll give the Cards even footing in the NFC West.

Carson Palmer

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The offensive line best in the West?

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2015 – 3:03 pm

The tweet came from SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend, with host and former NFL QB Jim Miller saying that it is the Cardinals with the best offensive line in the NFC West. (His partner, Pat Kirwan, has the Cardinals second behind Seattle.) My first reaction, which I tweeted, was that I couldn’t remember the last time someone held the Cardinals’ offensive line in such high regard. It makes sense, with the Cardinals’ big free-agent purchase the past two offseasons being offensive linemen (Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati) in addition to a No. 1 draft pick (Jonathan Cooper.)

Veldheer was asked about being compared — on both the offensive and defensive line — to the Seahawks, and the tackle was pretty blunt.

“I think they’re both solid lines, but I’d take our guys any day over those guys,” Veldheer said. “That’s part of the fun part, too, getting that rivalry going, wanting to puff your chest out more than the guy across the line from you.”

In terms of the division’s offensive lines, the reality is the bar has dropped some. The Seahawks traded their center Max Unger to get tight end Jimmy Graham, who may help in catching the ball but won’t much as a blocker. The Rams have added defensive linemen aplenty of late but seem to have ignored the need on the offensive line. The 49ers lost one of their better lineman when Iupati came to Arizona. As for the Cardinals, they have upgraded. You can see why someone would consider them the best unit in the division. But as always, it’s difficult to tell much of anything on the offensive line in the offseason. What is done in the offseason isn’t enough of football to be sure the line will translate once the games actually start.

Then again, it’s better to be thought of as the best this time of year than the alternative.



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