Carson Palmer walked off the field Sunday, baseball cap on his head, his look muted. He was by himself, and if it wasn’t for a brief stop to sign a Cardinals helmet for a disabled fan in a wheelchair when he entered the tunnel, he would have been alone in his thoughts until the locker room.
The quarterback said the same things as always when he met with the media – the team needs to figure out what mistakes they made and then set out on correcting them – but he knows the opportunities are slipping away for this team this season. All the Cardinals do. As safety Tony Jefferson said – quietly – “It’s never over ’till it’s over,” and mathematically the Cards aren’t really that close to eliminated.
But the tea leaves make it harder to remain optimistic, especially after a loss against a team the Cardinals are directly battling for a wild card spot. The Seahawks were handling the Eagles Sunday, and that’s another blow in the NFC West race.
It’s not like the Vikings were great Sunday. Bruce Arians said once again, it was his team beating itself. That’s happened way too often this season.
— Arians was asked if the special teams were being coached well enough. Special teams coordinator Amos Jones was not named specifically. “Extremely, extremely well,” Arians said.
— Special teams did have some good plays. Justin Bethel blocking an extra point. Brittan Golden getting a 49-yard kickoff return. But the kickoff return was a killer, and the failure of John Brown to catch the final punt hurt a lot too – although there was no guarantee the Cards would have moved it either.
— That was the first time a team had an interception return of at least 100 yards and a kickoff return of at least 100 yards since the Cowboys did it in 1962.
— According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings targeted receiver Stefon Diggs eight times when Patrick Peterson was covering him. The result? Five receptions for 35 yards.
— The offensive line actually did a nice job blocking for the run all day – David Johnson was fantastic in both the run and pass game – but whatever it may have been able to do in the pass and play-action game was undone by the final quarter when Palmer was swamped repeatedly. Taylor Boggs was in at right guard at the end and not Earl Watford; there was no Watford injury reported.
— Palmer said he thought there was an obvious hold on John Brown on the 100-yard interception. Brown also said he was held although he was more muted in his statement.
— There was confusion – and anger – over the two 15-yard penalties called on Patrick Peterson (hitting QB-turned-wide receiver Sam Bradford) and Tony Jefferson (hitting what looked like a live Diggs on the sideline apparently too hard) and I personally am not sure why they were flagged. But it only lead to a field goal, and the Cards unfortunately couldn’t even generate enough to get into field goal range anyway. (UPDATE: This ESPN story contains a good analysis of the Peterson hit and the rule book.)
— Arians said the receivers didn’t run great routes. Michael Floyd can’t slow up on a deep ball, even if he isn’t sure if the ball will come his way. I’ll have to re-watch the end too, but when Palmer couldn’t find anyone open late, the wideouts seemed to have a tough time moving around to help him.
— It’s becoming weekly now – Chandler Jones with an important play. His strip-sack in the fourth quarter made it a game.
— Finally, it wasn’t a happy homecoming for Larry Fitzgerald. He started hot, with four catches for 53 yards in the first half, including a dazzling one-handed catch to get a first down inside the Minnesota 10 on the Cardinals’ first scoring drive. But he only had two catches for 10 yards after halftime. And the Cards suffered a painful loss.
“We had a bunch of yards and time of possession but at the end of the day it comes down to wins,” Fitzgerald said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or ugly. You are trying to come out with a win any way you can.”
Tags: Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Stefon Diggs, Taylor Boggs, Tony Jefferson, Vikings
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The very first game Larry Fitzgerald played in the NFL was in Minnesota. That’s where the Cardinals opened the preseason in 2004. (He was targeted twice, making one catch for five yards.)
The first game Fitzgerald played that counted in Minnesota was in 2006, and that’s the game he set his regular-season best in yards, with 172 on 11 catches. (He had 176 yards against the Packers in the playoffs in 2015.)
Fitz insists this is just a business trip, and truth be told, he spends enough summer time in Minnesota where I could see how he would be able to separate. Shameless plug: Here’s the story I did after going to Minnesota in 2012 and talking to him at his house on the lake.
(By the way, one part of the interview burned into my brain from that Minny visit: Did you know Fitz wants to go into space?)
Besides, Fitzgerald has big enough reasons to want to get this one aside from his 0-4 record against the Vikings in Minnesota (The Fitz-era Cardinals are 2-1 against the Vikings in Arizona.) It’s not the fact the franchise hasn’t won there since a 1977 game, with an eight-game losing streak. It’s the fact the Cardinals need the win basically to stay in the playoff race. Mathematically they won’t be eliminated, but with a game coming in Atlanta and the Vikings struggling like they are, this one is crucial. No way to argue otherwise.
— It’s easy to wonder about the Cardinals’ offensive line, and John Wetzel and D.J. Humphries will be tested (yes, that is an understatement) against this front in this building. The Cards have to run the ball better than they did last week, you’d think.
But the Vikings are facing the same issues, if not moreso. With no Adrian Peterson and line injuries, the Vikings have one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. QB Sam Bradford has been solid when he has time – he’s only thrown two picks – but he can be sacked. For the noticeable hiccups the Cardinals have had on defense, and some blown coverages, the Cardinals have allowed a league-low 4.7 yards per play this season and their pass defense has nine interceptions and has allowed only six passing touchdowns.
— Along those lines, the Patrick Peterson-covering-Stefon Diggs matchup is incredibly intriguing. Diggs has made 26 catches total the last two games. That’s a huge number. By comparison, Pro Football Focus has Peterson allowing just 20 receptions all season.
— The Vikings have 38-year-old cornerback Terence Newman, who has played a significant role. Peterson shook his head at such longevity. Peterson, at age 26 in his sixth year, said he wants to make double-digits for a career before he thinks beyond that.
“My mindset is I want to go as long as my body will let me go,” Peterson said.
— Michael Floyd is also going home this weekend. He’s from St. Paul. He was asked if he looked forward to seeing some snow, since it’s supposed to snow tonight. “I’m glad they have a roof,” he said with a smile, referencing the new stadium.
— We’ll see on Tyrann Mathieu playing. It felt like a red flag when Bruce Arians said he was sore on Friday. It’s hard to tell if the safety will be playing Sunday. It could be a true game-day decision.
— You feel better about Deone Bucannon playing, despite only one day of limited work. Arians said he was “fine.” He’d be an option on tight end Kyle Rudolph. The good thing for the Cardinals is that this is the first time in a while they aren’t dealing with a mobile QB (Wilson, albeit gimpy; Newton; Kaepernick).
— Fitz, by the way, had ditched the knee brace for Friday’s practice after wearing one Thursday (and in the second half of the 49ers game.)
— Will be cool to see the new building. Everything I have heard (and seen on TV) makes U.S. Bank Stadium the jewel it was supposed to be. We’ll see if the Cardinals can find a way to break their losing streak now that they’re in a new place.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, John Wetzel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs, Terence Newman, Tyrann Mathieu, Vikings
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Stefon Diggs is having a pretty good rookie season for the Vikings. But he couldn’t do much of anything against Patrick Peterson Thursday night. Diggs finished with just two catches for a scant 12 yards with Peterson covering him most of the game. (Full disclosure — Peterson was flagged twice for defensive holding. Both were declined.)
Tyrann Mathieu has been fantastic this season, and he was again Thursday night. He deserves the national publicity he has received. But with the way Peterson has turned into the lockdown cornerback everyone had been waiting for since he was drafted — this is definitely is best season as a pro — and how much this team would be hurting if he wasn’t out there, Peterson would seem to have the edge as this team’s defensive MVP.
Profootballfocus.com has Peterson targeted just seven times against the Vikings, and he gave up one completion — and that was a seven-yard screen pass to Diggs. Given the play scheme, it would’ve been almost impossible for Peterson to stop the pass. For the season, PFF has Peterson targeted only 55 times in 13 games, and he’s only given up 24 catches. He’s only allowed 309 yards and one touchdown.
By comparison, (in one fewer game) Denver’s Chris Harris is at 53-37-338-0, Carolina’s Josh Norman is at 70-33-296-1, the Jets’ Darrelle Revis is 59-28-281-2 and Seattle’s Richard Sherman is at 51-26-346-1.
The debate of who the best cornerback in the league seems to have died down from where it once was, mostly because Peterson and Sherman have apparently decided not to talk about it as much anymore. Peterson is letting his play do the talking. He’s making a strong point.
Tags: Chris Harris, Darrelle Revis, Josh Norman, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Stefon Diggs, Tyrann Mathieu
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