Ray Horton was smiling. “To beat a team that I respect a lot, it means everything,” Horton said in a locker room that featured a lot of happy people and more of Daryn Colledge’s ‘80s music. To beat the Patriots, on the road, “it’s what we want,” Horton said. “We actually want better, but a team like this, we want the win.”
Horton had to be happy. The Cards are a team built with the knowledge the defense must perform. And that’s what they did Sunday. The blitz-happy Horton barely blitzed, by design. No way the Cards wanted Tom Brady picking them apart (one of the times the Cards did bring the house, Brady threw his lone touchdown pass). They generated enough, even without the blitz, to sack Brady four times.
Horton praised his front men. The Cards have a whole lot of high picks invested in the front seven – Dan Williams as first-rounder, Campbell and Washington as second rounders, Dockett the top pick in the third round – and when you throw in the fourth-rounder Acho and former Jacksonville second-round pick Quentin Groves, you’d think they have the pedigree. They showed up.
The Cards put it on their defense in the fourth quarter. Just like Horton wants it. Or not.
“No. No. No,” Horton said with a smile. “I want to win games sitting back and enjoying them. But we tend to win close games. The guys responded to a gameplan. They executed flawlessly.”
Maybe not flawlessly. But to hold Brady and his bunch (as Kevin Kolb called them) to one touchdown? Pretty close.
— Some perspective: The Patriots have now played 81 regular-season home games at Gillette Stadium. That was only their 14th loss, and as noted, their first in a season home opener. It was also the first time Bill Belichick lost to a team in the NFC West since it was currently aligned.
— It won’t be considered Kolb’s best game. But he’s a different guy in the pocket, which is a huge step forward for him. He missed some throws definitely. He needs to be able to hit Todd Heap down the seam early – that looked like it would have been a TD, just like two similar misses to Rob Housler last season – and even coach Ken Whisenhunt lamented his poor low throw on what should’ve been an easy swing screen to LaRod Stephens-Howling that would have gone for big yards. But he did pick and choose his running spots, and (while he can’t lose a fumble) he called his own number twice, once to run for a first down and the other to run for a five-yard touchdown.
With this team, with this defense, I think Kolb can win. “We knew what kind of game this was going to be – we’ve been stressing it all week – stay patient don’t get greedy.” That’s how this is going to go this season. Grind it out.
— No, I don’t know who starts at QB if John Skelton’s ankle is healthy enough against Philly next week (although I won’t lie, that would stink to lose Kolb-vs-Eagles two years in a row.) My guess is Whiz will play it close to the vest all week again. So tell yourself that, and don’t be frustrated when he doesn’t make an announcement.
— Larry Fitzgerald got his first catch early Sunday but was shut out after that. He made what looked like a big grab late, but it was called incomplete and wasn’t overturned on review. Anytime you’re best offensive weapon and he is limited to one reception for four yards you can’t feel good. Then again, the last time Fitz was held to one catch – Christmas, 2010 – the Cards won that game too. So maybe it doesn’t matter.
(Relax. I’m kidding.)
— My brother texted me at one point later in the game, after cornerback Patrick Peterson made a big third-down tackle to force a punt, after he made his diving interception, after he ran the wildcat a couple of times, including a 17-yard run: “Is there anything Peterson CAN’T do!?”
No, Jason, there’s not. Even in the postgame interviews, if he fumbles a word, he takes time to restate what he was saying. You even get clean soundbites if you want.
— The Cardinals have won nine of their last 11. They haven’t had that kind of stretch ever since moving to Arizona. They nine of 12 in the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2008 They won nine of 14 from the end of 2001 to the beginning of 2002.
— Wait, you said you wanted to hear the field-goal miss in Spanish? OK, here you go.
— Ryan Williams promised the fumbles will stop, and they need to. That’s two in two games, but you have to be rooting for the kid. A win wipes out a lot, and to have someone else (that’s Stephen Gostkowski, if you weren’t sure to whom I was alluding) fail at the end doesn’t hurt.
“We’ve been through a lot of these situations, good and bad, just in my year and a half here, and we finally got a break our way,” Kolb said. “That’s going to happen. The good thing is, is that it was any ugly game; it wasn’t clean for us either. It wasn’t like we played a perfect game.”
Less than two hours until we land. I’ve been writing or doing something web related for more than three hours so I think that’s enough. There’s other things we could touch on, but that’s plenty after a day that turned out pretty good for the Cards.
Tags: Bill Belichick, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Ray Horton, Ryan Williams, Todd Heap, Tom Brady
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We’ll get to the Cardinals’ QB situation in a minute — since nothing really new was said Friday, including an announcement of a starter — but we’ll start with defensive coordinator Ray Horton talking about the task of taking on the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady. Horton made it clear that, with all his years in Pittsburgh, he has a good handle on what the Patriots try to do. But understanding it and being able to stop it are two very different things, he acknowledged.
Then he had this to say about Brady: “This is to me the pinnacle of quarterbacks in the history of football. I think he’s unquestionably the best football player ever to play in this game.”
That’s some significant praise, but this week, with the way Patriots coach Bill Belichick has given lofty praise to just about everyone who plays at all for the Cardinals, it probably isn’t unexpected.
Horton feels like his defense worked well this week.
“They know us and trust me, I know them,” Horton said. “What works well is hitting Brady. If you don’t hit that guy, you have no chance.”
— On to the quarterback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt still wouldn’t officially announce Sunday’s starter. But he came right up to the edge of that in his comments about John Skelton and his ankle injury. “We’ll see who (the starter) is at 1 o’clock Sunday,” Whisenhunt said, before saying Skelton had his boot off and was getting better. “I have hope he can be available,” Whisenhunt said. “I know he’s in to the plan mentally. I would say it’s doubtful he would play, but I was encouraged with what I saw.”
— On a better note, Whisenhunt said his other injured players — specifically cornerback Patrick Peterson — all were doing well and he expected everyone else to be available Sunday in New England. That’s good news on Peterson, whom the Cards need. “You never know when you travel because you never know how their bodies will respond but I don’t anticipate we will have any issues.”
Officially, Skelton is listed as doubtful, with defensive backs Adrian Wilson, Rashad Johnson and Peterson all questionable after being limited Friday. Everyone else on the injury report practiced full and is probable for Sunday.
Now, it’s off to the airport.
Tags: Bill Belichick, John Skelton, Patriots, Ray Horton, Tom Brady
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Nothing official yet on the Cardinals’ starting quarterback situation Wednesday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said again that there is still a couple of days left for John Skelton’s ankle to get better. Skelton did not practice Wednesday, and quarterback Kevin Kolb talked about how good it was to work with the “ones” during the workout. Asked about Michael Bidwill’s radio comment that Kolb would start, Whisenhunt reiterated “we still have some days.”
Leave it to Larry Fitzgerald to provide some perspective. “This is nothing new for us,” Fitzgerald said. “This is like regular training camp, Kevin, John, we’re used to the competition. We are conditioned for this. We’re going to play this to our advantage.”
Fitzgerald was in that kind of mood. Talking about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he cracked “I bought a pair of Uggs just to try to be like him.”
More Fitz on Brady: “He’s a model of consistency. He’s just unbelievable, passer rating, touchdowns-to-interceptions, the guy does it every single year. Not to mention he has the most beautiful wife in the world. So he’s every man’s dream … er, every woman’s dream, I mean.”
Tags: John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Tom Brady
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The NFL Network’s summer tour of the top 100 players — as chosen by a vote of players — wraps up tonight. Somewhere in the final 10, Larry Fitzgerald will have his named called.
(The show airs at 5 p.m. Arizona time. And I am sure we will have Fitz’s segment available on the site soon after. … And here it is.)
Last year, Fitz was No. 14. Where will he be in a couple of hours? Don’t know. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis remain. I will be interested where Fitz is in relation to Johnson. Something tells me that could get the fans riled up. I already know — since I watched it unfold on Twitter — that people aren’t thrilled Calais Campbell/Adrian Wilson/Darnell Dockett didn’t make the list. Only Patrick Peterson will join Fitz.
Is Campbell or one of the others one of the current 100 best players in the league? An argument can be made, sure. I don’t know how many players participated in the voting, but someone came up with this list. (I mean, is Eli Manning really only the 31st best player? Worse than James Harrison? Or Wes Welker? Um, no.) This is about talking about the NFL in the deadest time of the NFL calendar, however. Don’t ever forget that. Lists are popular to make because they generate such conversation. And we are certainly talking about it, right?
UPDATE: Fitz was seventh. Calvin Johnson was third, behind Rodgers and Brees. Said Fitz on Twitter, “Honored 2 b voted a top 10 player by my peers. Congrats 2 all others. I will continue striving 4 perfection. 6 spots 2 go.
UPDATE, THE SEQUEL: Fitz had an even longer — and poignant — response on Facebook:
“Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement.
“I’ve completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal.
“Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players.
“My sincere hope is that we can get back to the playoffs on a regular basis and become Super Bowl Champions.
“Our team was 2minutes away from that goal on February 4, 2009, and similarly, my 7th rank of NFL top players leaves room for improvement.
“I will strive as always to expand my role and contributions to team success, be as productive as possible,and win a Championship…..”
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Calvin Johnson, Darnell Dockett, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, James Harrison, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
What I remember most is that it seemed to come out of nowhere.
Before the tirade that let everyone remember Denny Green was who we thought he was, we had already gone through five or six minutes of his postgame press conference on that fateful Monday night. It had been an ugly ending, but Denny – who usually was grumpy with an edge after losses – seemed calm, almost shell shocked as the questions came.
Then came the query that set him off, a question that should have led Denny to a good place – one about what the Cards saw in the Bears’ offense that allowed the defense to dominate and forced QB Rex Grossman into six turnovers. Like a boulder rolling downhill, Green started slow and as the anger built, the response grew into its epic ending, when Green bellowed how the Cards “let ‘em off the hook!”
Quick side story – Denny had a similar moment in training camp that year. The day rookie holdout Matt Leinart finally signed, two weeks into camp, tension was building on when he would do so. I was told Green was going to go off on Leinart in his lunchtime presser, and lo and behold, that’s what happened. Denny was asked about how linebacker Karlos Dansby’s injury was doing. A five-minute monologue later, Green was talking about what a shame it was that Leinart wouldn’t play in New England that weekend for the preseason game, when Kurt Warner would and when Tom Brady would, and Green clearly was irritated Leinart wasn’t there. Wonder if Denny knew Leinart was about to sign? Regardless, I don’t see the Bears’ rant as that calculated.
But back to the crowning moment in Denny’s Arizona tenure. The roots of the speech came back in August – a week after that New England trip – when the Cards beat the Bears in the third preseason game in Chicago and both Warner and Leinart played well. Grossman was terrible against the Cards, so much so that the Chicago fans booed him relentlessly. That was what was rattling around Green’s mind less than two months later.
The Cards were already ornery because of how things were going. After winning the first regular-season game at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cards had lost four straight. Warner had been benched for Leinart. The Bears were coming to town with a 5-0 record. The big story during the week was actually Darnell Dockett signing a contract extension (although Leinart’s first start the previous week against the Chiefs caught everyone’s attention.)
Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked about Leinart’s good game in the preseason and talked about that game meaning nothing, as a “glorified practice.” Green, hearing this, clearly didn’t agree and said as much, although it wasn’t exactly “who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bull.” At least, not yet.
Then came the game. The Cards dominated, and they lost. Green calmly answered most of the questions and then the one hit him the wrong way, especially with the leftover irritation with Smith’s comments percolating all week and the frustration of the season building (for instance, kicker Neil Rackers missing what should have been a game-winning field goal that night).
While the world watched – over and over – Denny’s rant and it was repeated everywhere, the fallout was quick. Offensive coordinator Keith Rowen was demoted the next day. The Cards’ season ran off the rails, and by the time the Bears made it to the Super Bowl, Green was out and Ken Whisenhunt was the coach. Super week, Denny’s words continued to echo, as everyone kept saying, in some way shape or form, the Bears were who we thought they were.
Tags: Bears, Darnell Dockett, Dennis Green, Karlos Dansby, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Lovie Smith, Matt Leinart, Neil Rackers, Revisionist history, Rex Grossman, Tom Brady
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt was on Sirius XM NFL radio today with Adam Schein and Rich Gannon, talking not only about his upcoming trip to the Persian Gulf, but also his team. Not surprisingly, he was asked about the quarterback situation. Also not surprisingly, no names were specifically mentioned, save for John Skelton, whom the coach did not rule out as potential 2011 QB. Whisenhunt did say, however, the Cards will be adding a quarterback (of course) and that when the labor stoppage ends, the Cards will be ready and need to be ready to make a move quickly.
As for who, “We are going to get the best player we can get based on how we have them rated,” Whisenhunt said, “and then we will have to adjust (the playbook) based on what kind of time frame we are looking at.” Whiz added later, “If you had a chance to get a young quarterback you think could develop into a great player for you for a decade, as opposed to a veteran player you think could come in and help you right now, you’ve got to go with your evaluation and the player you have rated higher.”
Could that mean Kevin Kolb? It could, but obviously, lots of room for speculation, since it’s impossible to know how the Cards have the (potential available) QBs ranked. Whisenhunt said a labor stoppage into August “possibly could” affect what quarterback the Cardinals chase. But “let’s say your number one(-rated) player is a player you think can help that position for a long time to come, you’ve got to take that shot. It’s hard to find a guy to play that position in this league. … Whether that player is already on the team, I don’t know.”
Whiz said he still “feels good” about Skelton. He also wouldn’t touch the recent comparison of Kolb to Tom Brady, made by current Kolb teammate/Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. All Whisenhunt has, he said, was evaluation from game video and what little he had gleaned talking about Kolb with people before the lockout started.
A few other tidbits from the interview:
— Whisenhunt said the Cards are “going to pick our spots” in free agency. The successful teams he has been a part of historically build teams through the draft and add a couple of critical free agents. That isn’t going to change. “We’re not going to go overboard,” Whisenhunt said, adding “it’s always good when you can get a couple of free agents who can make an impact not only as a player but as a leader.” The Cards will “aggressively pursue” what is needed to return to the playoffs, he said.
— Based on the length of the labor stoppage and how long teams will have training camp, the Cards have a number of different installation plans for their playbook, and the Cards are ready to pare down the playbook depending on prep time for the season. Probably obvious, but always interesting to hear.
— As for the doubters about the in-flux offensive line, “quite frankly, I like what I hear about our offensive line being poor and not being able to play very well because that’s going to motivate our guys.”
Tags: free agency, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Tom Brady, Trent Cole
Posted in Blog | 21 Comments »
That beautiful back-shoulder TD pass for 18 yards to Larry Fitzgerald — Fitz gets big props for finding where he was on the field and reaching across the goalline — was Warner’s 200th career TD pass. Warner becomes the 29th player in NFL history to reach that mark. Four other active QBs are on the list: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb.
Tags: Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady
Posted in Blog | 9 Comments »