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Friday before the Gronk-less Patriots

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2016 – 3:41 pm

The last time the Cardinals played the Patriots, the Patriots had Tom Brady, and Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez when that was someone you wanted. The Cardinals had Kevin Kolb at quarterback, Ryan Williams at running back, and Quentin Groves was a key linebacker. The game was in New England. And the Cardinals won.

It was improbable yes, and took a no-way-to-predict Stephen Gostkowski 42-yard field-goal miss to make happen, but it did. (We won’t reminisce about the 2008 New England trip, the time before that the Cards had played the Patriots.)

But if the Cards can knock off a Brady-Gronk Pats team in New England, what about a Brady-less-perhaps Gronk-less Patriots in Arizona, against a much stronger Cardinals’ roster Sunday night? We’ll see. If there is any coach that can make an inexperienced Jimmy Garappolo work at QB, it’s Bill Belichick. The Patriots are still strong, although they are missing some key components.

Still, if you are as good as the Cardinals should be, this is a game you should win, at home. Really no way around that. And there is no question this team is better than that 2012 squad, despite that win in New England en route to a 4-0 start. (Yes, they finished 5-11. We all know how that ended.)

— The Providence Journal reported that Gronkowski was among a couple of questionable injured players — including former Cardinals guard Jonathan Cooper — who did not fly with the team to Arizona Friday. It’s been pointed out that the Patriots have in the past and could still fly them to Arizona Saturday. But short of a private plane, you’d think it’d be easier to fly banged-up players on a big charter and let their bodies get used to the new surroundings for a day. Officially questionable, could Gronk miss this game too? It’d be a huge break for the Cardinals, for sure.

UPDATE: Gronkowski, Cooper and tackle Nate Solder have all been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game. That’s huge news.

— The story all through camp is whether newbies D.J. Humphries at right tackle and Brandon Williams at cornerback can hold up as starters. We’ll see. Humphries noted today that vet Evan Mathis is set to give him an adjustment if he messes up. Meanwhile, Kyle Odegard writes about why Williams is driven to make this NFL thing work even when people wonder about his late move to cornerback. (Hint: They are 7 and 2 years old.)

— New Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones said he didn’t have much insight he could deliver to his new team about his old team.

“One thing I do know about the Patriots, they will try to expose certain weaknesses,” Jones said. “That’s what they do. They study our weaknesses or who is the weak link on the team and they will try to expose it. that’s one thing you have to look out for.”

— Jones is going to have to play a big role. Don’t know how much the Patriots will let him get off in the pass rush, but this is the guy the Cards have been yearning for and he’s going to have a heck of a spotlight right out of the blocks.

All those times we talked about Larry Fitzgerald potentially being traded to the Patriots seems silly now, to be honest.

— Great line about starting center A.Q. Shipley from offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin, who emphasized he has a lot of confidence in Shipley: “He knows about being told he’s short, he’s fat, he’s chubby and he’s got short arms, so he’s always trying to prove everybody wrong.”

— In case you missed the first Cardinals Underground podcast of the regular season, here it is.

— What to expect from Tyrann Mathieu? Everyone, from players to coaches, talk about how the Badger is back to being the Badger. But when Mathieu talks, there is definitely a pump-the-brakes aspect to his comments. I know Mathieu was disappointed with how he played the last time he returned from a (much worse) ACL injury. He’s made no secret of that. Maybe he’s just trying to temper expectations, especially his own. But I expect Mathieu to be able to play just fine, thank you.

— The parking lots open at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, for those asking.

— The past is the past, but under Bruce Arians, the Cardinals are 25-5 outside of the NFC West and 10-2 against AFC teams. The AFC East, of which the Patriots are part of and the Cards face this season, is the lone division the Cardinals have not played under Arians.

Here we go. Safe to say this is the most anticipated season for the Cardinals since they arrived in Arizona (2009, when the Cards were coming off the Super Bowl, was close, but no one thought that team was as good as this team.) See you Sunday.

beforepatsblog


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Definitely no Brady versus Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on July 13, 2016 – 7:24 am

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s attempt for a new hearing for his four-game Deflategate suspension was turned down today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, meaning — again — Brady won’t be playing against the Cardinals in the regular-season opener at University of Phoenix Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.”

Brady still could appeal to the Supreme Court, but that course of action (which would likely be an attempt to at least get a stay for the suspension, pushing it perhaps to 2017) is a longer shot than the Second Circuit move.

UPDATE: Brady announced he will no longer fight the suspension, so he is definitely not playing against the Cardinals.

The Cards have been asked about Brady playing or not playing, and yes, a couple have talked about wanting to play the best — which includes facing Brady. But I thought Larry Fitzgerald was pretty honest when he was asked about whether he’d rather play against Brady in the opener or not.

“Come on, man,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that’s a pretty easy question to answer. I love Tom, that’s my man, but if he doesn’t play, I wouldn’t shed any tears.

“I’d love to see him back the next week, though.”

It wouldn’t be the next week, either.

Tom Brady


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Brady, the Cardinals and the opener

Posted by Darren Urban on May 23, 2016 – 9:32 am

When Tom Brady’s four-game suspension — the one that would ostensibly keep him from playing the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sept. 11 — it was hard to figure that Deflategate was actually over. And it’s not.

Brady waited until the last possible moment, but he and the NFL Players Association have exercised their right to ask the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to hear his case en banc. That means Brady is appealing for the entire group of Second Circuit judges (13 judges) to hear the case as a whole, rather than the three-judge panel that ruled against him, 2-1.

Without getting too deep in the legal muck, how this impacts the Cardinals is fairly simple. While there is no timetable in which the judges must answer Brady’s request for a rehearing, if it is granted, the suspension is automatically put on hold. So if there is a decision between now and Sept. 11 to grant the rehearing — and it would likely take months for a rehearing to then take place — Brady is going to play against the Cardinals. If he is denied the rehearing, Brady won’t play that day.

It’s important to note that the Second Circuit chooses to hear en banc less than one percent of the cases it is asked to hear in that format. The odds are against Brady. There is still an appeal-to-the-Supreme-Court option for Brady down the road if he so chooses, but that too would be a long shot.

Tom Brady


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No Brady against Cardinals with suspension

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2016 – 9:34 am

When the schedule came out, it was hard not to look first at the Cardinals’ opener — against the Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.” As glitzy as an opener can get. Monday, the glitz was dimmed. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who had been suspended last year for four games after deflategate before winning an appeal, is suspended again.

After Brady won an appeal on the suspension, the NFL took its turn to appeal one step up the legal food chain. Monday, the United States Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the NFL. According to the court’s ruling, “We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

In short, Roger Goodell has the power — broadly given under the current collective bargaining agreement — to suspend Brady under the circumstances. It would be hard to believe Brady wouldn’t appeal again, so we’ll see what the next step would be. It’s possible the sides could negotiate a lower suspension, although that would still mean sitting out against Arizona. Legal maneuverings could still mean Brady finds a way on to the field in Arizona Sept. 11. For now though, he will not play.

After the Cardinals, the Patriots have three straight home games on the schedule against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills.

Tom Brady


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Rams aftermath, with No. 2 on the mind

Posted by Darren Urban on December 6, 2015 – 6:40 pm

Short weeks are just that. Short.

“I’m going to watch Minnesota (tape) on the way home,” Carson Palmer said, after the Cardinals’ win against the Rams. “We’ve got a three-hour flight, whatever it is (technically, two hours and 48 minutes). I’ll get a good jump on them tonight, but there is no celebration. We did what we expected to do. We’ve got to move on.”

Palmer is right. The Cardinals did what they were supposed to do in St. Louis: Beat up a struggling team that, simply put, has no offense to speak of. Their building was half-empty, a crowd dulled by losing and anger toward an owner who wants to move them to Los Angeles.

On the plane ride home, the Cardinals got to watch the Panthers pull out a win in New Orleans, and their possibility of running down the NFC’s No. 1 seed continued to fade. But now the Cardinals are in control of the No. 2 seed, holding a two-game edge on the Packers/Vikings. They can put the Vikings (who were hammered at home by the Seahawks Sunday) out of their misery Thursday night.

There is a lot left here. Games against the Eagles, who won in New England, and the Packers, in a game that could still mean something for the No. 2 seed, and the Seahawks (…. the Seahawks.) But the Cards control what happens to them. That’s all you can ask.

— It would’ve been nice if David Johnson could have gained 100 yards. He came up a yard short. But he was excellent Sunday. Catching the ball, blocking – his blitz pickups, while not perfect, were solid, and that was a big concern for the rookie – and running.

— Johnson was going to come out of the game to give the other backs work right around the time he fumbled, Bruce Arians said. He wasn’t benched for the fumble. In fact, Arians brushed off the fumbles of both Johnson and Kerwynn Williams, saying it was something that will happen with young players.

— Nevertheless, you would’ve liked for Johnson to get through his first start without a fumble.

— The defense made Todd Gurley their mission. One tiny slip, but otherwise, mission accomplished. And the Cardinals have allowed the last two teams (Niners, Rams) to convert just 1-of-21 third downs. Scary good.

— The Cardinals had four drives of at least 80 yards. Carson Palmer quietly had a very good game. It may be tough to displace Cam Newton and Tom Brady in the MVP race, but Palmer deserves to be in the discussion.

— It will be under the radar, but that was a Hall of Fame-type catch by Michael Floyd to gain 30 yards to convert the first third down during the 98-yard drive. I’m not saying Floyd is a Hall of Famer, but that was a manly play. That’s why the Cardinals took him 12th 13th overall in 2012.

— That last 68-yard bomb to Smokey Brown? I’m guessing his hamstring is pretty OK (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards keep him limited in practice, just in case.)

— Safety Rashad Johnson gets interception No. 5, leading the team, on great recognition on a deep route. Like Justin Bethel, Johnson was/is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Bethel got paid. Johnson is hoping he will too.

— Speaking of Bethel, he held up fine starting in place of Jerraud Powers, but there were a couple of times he lost track of the ball and that’s something I’m sure he’ll be working on.

— Three days of prep (and practice will likely be very little actual full-speed practice, if any). Then the Vikings — another game with meaning. The best part of December.

Marcus Roberson, Rodney McLeod, Kerwynn Williams


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Shockwaves from Brady, Pats punishment

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2015 – 3:03 pm

The NFL handed down its punishment of the New England Patriots for deflating footballs — and for, how the NFL and Ted Wells saw it, the subsequent cover-up. It is significant. First is a four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady. There was also a $1 million fine, and, as it impacts the rest of the league, the Patriots have to give up their 2016 first-round draft pick and their fourth-round pick in 2017.

Two of the lines from the statement released of NFL executive president Troy Vincent that came along with the punishment stood out to me:

— “We regard violations of competitive rules as significant and deserving of a strong sanction, both to punish the actual violation and to deter misconduct in the future.” In other words, we definitely want to scare teams/players out of trying anything like this going forward.

— “Violations that diminish the league’s reputation for integrity and fair play cannot be excused simply because the precise impact on the final score cannot be determined.” In other words, the footballs that were deflated might have not changed anything on the field, but you can’t be messing with the rules. Perception is reality.

The league acknowledged the trouble the Patriots got in 2007 for videotaping opponents’ signals came into play. None of this directly impacts the Cardinals. The Cards aren’t playing the Patriots this season, nor are any of the NFC West teams. Right now, Brady does stand to miss one game against an NFC team — a trip to Dallas. But there is still the possibility Brady will have the suspension shortened on appeal, and if that happens, the game against the Cowboys is the first thing to reappear on his to-do list since it would be the fourth game he would miss. (And you know Brady will appeal.) Losing draft picks helps every other team too.

Tom Brady


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Patriots aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2012 – 7:25 pm

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.


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Horton calls Brady best “ever” and daily Skelton update

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2012 – 12:36 pm

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.


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No QB announcement yet (and Fitz talks Uggs)

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2012 – 3:13 pm

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.”


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As Fitz is declared top 10 (seventh, actually)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2012 – 3:24 pm

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. #FaithFocusFinish

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…..”


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