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Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2016 – 5:10 pm

For a few minutes, it was exactly how Bruce Arians wanted it to be all along.

Carson Palmer, with a clean pocket, threw perfect chunk passes off play-action. David Johnson picked up six yards running just falling forward. The Cardinals scored a touchdown on the first possession for the first time this season. Arians was thrilled.

“I take a lot of pride in that stat of scoring first,” Arians said.

The Cards couldn’t get a stop, though. They couldn’t get a stop all game when they really, really needed one. I take that back, they did to begin the second half – but then the offense had a three-and-out in their lone full possession of the third quarter.

That’s frustrating, Arians and everyone else asked about it will say. But that’s expected. There isn’t any one part of the game (unless you go with David Johnson himself as a part of the game) that has been excellent.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters, the one-time Falcon, shook his head at the lack of consistency. He was talking about the defense, and there is certainly reason to look at the defense that way. But the offense and special teams haven’t been able to find any either. That’s why they can shred a defense for an easy 75-yard drive to start, and have just 109 yards total in the second half.

That’s why the Cards are stunningly only 4-6-1.

“We’re 4-and-6, that’s our reality,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “We’re too talented to be under .500.”

— Arians is beside himself about the receiving problems. Smokey Brown gets hurt again. Michael Floyd drew a pause and an “I don’t know” from the coach, after a game in which he could have made a huge fourth-down catch and he did not. Floyd’s season will go down as one of the greatest mysteries in recent Cardinals history.

— Arians said the Cardinals used more maximum protection on pass plays Sunday than any time since he has been coach. The group was not perfect, but I did think they held up – at least until the end when the Falcons figured a pass was coming every down. I fully expect that group – from left tackle over, Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Wetzel, John – to remain the starting five.

“I really would like to see it on film, just to critique the small stuff,” Humphries said. “But I felt the way stuff was shuffled around and the wat we had to pull together in a short time, it was a good outing. But it wasn’t good enough. Clearly.”

— Mathieu talked again about accountability in the locker room. I don’t know if he has things in particular he is thinking of or if he just feels like, when you are losing, people need to go under the microscope. It may be the latter, because he said in the same breath they have to stick together. That will be tested these last five games.

— Patrick Peterson hurt his knee. He said he got kicked by the cleat of Julio Jones on D.J. Swearinger’s interception. We’ll see what that means for him this week, although he said it was “painful.”

— Swearinger’s reputation earned him that interception he made. Jones beat Patrick Peterson on the in-route but Jones was staring straight at Swearinger as Jones made his way across the middle. That moment of lost concentration – and that knowledge Swearinger lights up receivers going across the middle – caused the bobble and Swearinger was gift-wrapped an INT.

— Unfortunately, Swearinger couldn’t hold on to the interception later, which would have stalled a Falcons’ TD drive. But the way it went Sunday, that might’ve been a band-aid. Not sure the Cards could’ve stopped the Falcons enough.

— Well, the Cards and Peterson didn’t let Jones beat them. So …

— The series of plays before halftime was a well-executed as anything the Cardinals have done this season. The loss buries the plays, but after the Swearinger interception, the Cards had just 25 seconds at their own 37. A 17-yard pass to J.J. Nelson that may or may not have been incomplete. Rushing to the line to run a play and make sure it wasn’t reviewed. Then Palmer hit Fitz, who in one motion slid to catch a 10-yard pass and called timeout, using only four seconds of the five left and allowing Chandler Catanzaro to boot the 54-yard field goal.

Yes, I’m looking for silver linings.

Cardinals Falcons Football


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Floyd, Mathieu active and a new O-line

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2016 – 9:34 am

The Cardinals will have both wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) on the field today against the Falcons. The Mathieu news wasn’t unexpected. Floyd worked out for head athletic trainer Tom Reed before the game and looked OK. It makes the inactive list one devoid of big names, unless you want to count first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche, who has been there more often than not this season.

One other player active today is guard Earl Watford, among reports there could be changes on the offensive line today. We’ll see of D.J. Humphries gets a chance to play left tackle and/or Ulrick John plays right tackle. If there are changes now, it would seem to be production-based, since everyone is active. UPDATE: And the changes have been implemented, based on pre-game warmup. Humphries is the left tackle, Mike Iupati the left guard, A.Q. Shipley still at center, John Wetzel at right guard and John at right tackle.

The full inactive list:

— WR Marquis Bundy

— S Christian Bryant

— LB Sio Moore

— G Cole Toner

— DT Olsen Pierre

— DT Robert Nkemdiche

— DT Ed Stinson

 


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Keim: “We’ve let our fans down”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2016 – 8:19 am

Steve Keim (like Kevin Minter Sunday) said it right away Monday, about how he sounded like a broken record. The stats were better than the opponent, the score was not. The Cardinals’ General Manager, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, was also blunt about the hole the team is in after 10 games and a disappointing 4-5-1 record.

“We’ve let our fans down, especially when expectations were so high,” Keim said.

That was the theme of Keim’s thoughts. “There’s nothing I care about more with in this organization than winning and putting a product on the field for our fans can be proud of,” he said. And this: “The season is not over, and I know that’s not what the fans and the people supporting us want to hear. But we’re certainly not going to quit.”

— Asked specifically about special teams and special teams coaching, Keim said there will be discussions about that and everything else after the season. He said the reoccurring theme not only for special teams but also the offense and defense was inconsistency. Keim is at practice daily, and he has seen and heard the coaching, not only on special teams but team-wide, and he noted that the players have to get better as well. “At some point and time, it comes down to those guys executing,”

— Along those lines, Keim said he takes ownership in the problems on special teams (and elsewhere) because he’s the one who supplied the players. “It’s something where we all have to look in the mirror, and that starts with me.”

— That was reflected on the long kickoff return. One issue Keim noted, sometimes it’s about “guys running downfield and having the will to make a play.” That’s about fighting through blocks and having a want-to he’s not seeing.

— Taylor Boggs was in the game late Sunday at right guard because Earl Watford was suffering from stingers, Keim said. He added he did not know if that might impact Watford’s availability for Sunday’s game in Atlanta. “We were down to our third guard,” Keim said. “(The Vikings) were running a lot of games and stunts (up front) and we had trouble picking those up.”

— Keim said he wasn’t sure if safety Tyrann Mathieu would be back this week to play, but said he was close in Minnesota and felt there was a good chance Mathieu would be available.

— He said, knowing how sick Michael Floyd was — Floyd was apparently up most of Saturday night ill — that he was willing to give him a pass on the deep pass where Floyd looked to slow up on what turned into a Carson Palmer interception.

— Palmer was impacted by receivers not getting open and protection that wasn’t very good. But “he made some critical mistakes as well,” Keim said.

— Keim said he doesn’t have a problem with the effort this season. But he also said, with limited things he can do to impact the current situation, he will continue to look hard at the back end of the roster and see if he can find players that can help, particularly on special teams.

Otherwise, he said he’ll continue to work by the motto he said he’s followed in his 19 years with the organization. “Be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Keim said. “I have to be a positive leader.”

 


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Mathieu inactive in Minnesota, Bucannon playing

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2016 – 9:30 am

Safety Tyrann Mathieu is inactive against the Vikings today because of his shoulder injury. He was limited all week, and in the end wasn’t quite ready to go. Fellow cornerback Tharold Simon (ankle) also is inactive, so Justin Bethel and/or Brandon Williams will need to play bigger roles this week again. The good news is money linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle) is healthy and will be playing for the Cardinals.

The full list of Cardinals inactives:

— WR Chris Hubert

— CB Tharold Simon (ankle)

— S Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder)

— G Cole Toner

— DT Olsen Pierre

— DT Robert Nkemdiche

— DT Corey Peters (foot)


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Friday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2016 – 4:20 pm

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.

befreminny


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Pick plays a secondary needs

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2016 – 10:20 am

The Cardinals are playing well, statistically, on defense. They are second in total defense, and tied for third in scoring defense. But of late, the turnovers have dried up.

In their last three games, the Cardinals’ D has forced only one turnover — a fumble recovery in Carolina, a play that was negated by a Carson Palmer interception soon after. (The Cardinals did recover a fumble against the 49ers, but it was on special teams.) The Cards haven’t had an interception since picking off Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick twice on “Monday Night Football.”

It’s a big missing element right now. Perhaps it has something to do with the year Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu has had  — or hasn’t had — trying to come back from his knee injury and then sitting out last week with his shoulder problem (there is a possibility Mathieu will play Sunday in Minnesota). The Cardinals still have nine total interceptions this season, not a bad total given the bagel posted over the last month. But on a team that has struggled to score points consistently, those are the kind of plays that can change fortunes.

It could be tough Sunday — Vikings QB Sam Bradford has been careful with the ball, letting his great defense do the heavy lifting. Bradford has thrown only two interceptions this season in 283 attempts while taking 24 sacks. He’ll be smart. The Cardinals hope to get enough pressure to force a mistake — and maybe that can jump-start the Cards on the other side of the ball.

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Keim: No such thing as disappointing win

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2016 – 8:10 am

Steve Keim was blunt.

“I don’t think there are any disappointing wins,” the Cardinals GM said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “The one thing I’ve learned in this position is to respect and appreciate every win.”

The Cardinals are back to .500 after beating the 49ers. They have huge games coming up, on the road, with playoff contenders Minnesota and Atlanta. The good news is that Keim said the Cards came out of the game “relatively healthy” — Keim was not asked about the status of Larry Fitzgerald — and in keeping with the theme of respecting every victory, he found the positives from his team’s first game of the second half of the season.

— Keim said he was encouraged by the play of two players who struggled in the first half of the season: wide receiver Michael Floyd and kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Both continued to work every day despite their issues, Keim said. Especially for Floyd, “to see a smile on his face in the locker room was exciting for all of us,” Keim said.

— The offensive line did OK. Keim said new left tackle John Wetzel “played good” although Keim acknowledged the 49ers don’t have much of an edge rush (Wetzel will most certainly face a harder test against the Vikings.) The 49ers came in with a plan to jam up the run, so even going against the NFL’s worst run defense, “do you want to run into a wall?” Keim asked rhetorically. Instead, the Cardinals threw the ball. It led to turnovers, all on passing plays — two interceptions, a fumble by Palmer trying to buy time to throw a pass, a fumble by J.J. Nelson after a catch. The turnovers are what made the game close, Keim said.

— He praised Fitzgerald. “Fitz continues to be a warrior, making plays in critical situations,” Keim said. Again, no comment (or question) about Fitz’s health.

— The big picture says the Cardinals “have opportunities ahead of us.” And the Cards did finish in a close game, something they didn’t do against New England or Seattle (or Los Angeles, for that matter.”

— Keim said there was a chance safety Tyrann Mathieu will be able to return either against the Vikings or the following week against the Falcons.

— Keim still doesn’t give much vibe one way or the other about the possibility of a Chandler Jones contract extension. “Without getting into the dialogue of negotiations, when you make a trade you’re not sure how its going to go,” Keim said. “But he’s been a great teammate, fantastic in locker room, he works hard on and off on field. He’s been great fit for us, and hopefully we can iron out something long term.”


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Mathieu “pretty good” after shoulder injury

Posted by Darren Urban on November 1, 2016 – 3:08 pm

Safety Tyrann Mathieu is going to miss some time with his shoulder injury, but he was in good spirits Tuesday after the Cardinals had meetings and their annual team photo. Mathieu hung out with some teammates in the locker room for more than an hour after the photo and said his mindset was “pretty good” even though he got hurt.

“It’s not something that’s going to keep me out for the rest of the season,” Mathieu said, echoing Bruce Arians’ thoughts previous.

Mathieu said he was in on a tackle trying to pull a Panther down and in the course of trying to brace himself, both his weight and the Panthers player’s weight fell on his arm.

“I kind of popped it back in, and then it felt like I lost some strength in it,” Mathieu said. “I played one more play and then I was like, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’ ”

Mathieu left after playing 16 defensive snaps. He was originally listed as probable to return, but he did not. Arians said Mathieu could miss up to 3-to-6 weeks, but Mathieu said he was hopeful it would more like 2-to-3. Arians seemed certain Mathieu would miss the Cardinals’ next game Nov. 13 at home against the 49ers, but there is a chance Mathieu could be back for the Nov. 20 road game in Minnesota. Mathieu will have to play with a harness once he returns.

“Once my shoulder gets stable, I’ll be good to go,” Mathieu said.

Tyrann Mathieu

 


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Chris Johnson’s potential IR return

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2016 – 4:29 pm

Both running back Chris Johnson and safety Tyvon Branch went on injured reserve on Oct. 4, and a potential return date — for only one of them — is the Dec. 4 game against the Redskins. For his part, Johnson said he is “ahead of schedule” in his rehab from a groin injury (Branch suffered the same injury) and is optimistic about his availability to practice two weeks before that.

The new rule this season declares that while one player can return from injured reserve (it’s always been just one), teams do not have to declare which one is coming back. So both Johnson and Branch are in play. (In contrast, when the Cardinals put Johnson on IR last year with his knee injury, they said it was IR-to-return.) If chosen to return, players can return to practice after six weeks on the sideline, and play eight weeks later.

At the time Johnson and Branch went on the list, coach Bruce Arians said the decision on which one would return — and those two are the only real options on IR right now to come back — would not only be based on rate of recovery but also positional need.

As of now, running back actually would seem to be a greater need, with the number of touches starter David Johnson is receiving along with the depth in the secondary. While Tyrann Mathieu is still rounding into form, he isn’t leaving the lineup, and the other two safeties — Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger — are playing well. If the Cardinals can maneuver through the next four games (the bye is mixed in there), bringing Johnson back for a playoff push over the final five games makes sense.

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Cardinals getting stingy on defense

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2016 – 10:06 am

The Cardinals’ defense has become very stingy. Hasn’t allowed a touchdown in nine quarters and two games. The franchise hasn’t had a stretch where it didn’t allow a touchdown in two straight games since 1970. That’s a long time ago (and when the NFL game was a completely different animal.) The Cardinals are now fifth in the NFL in scoring defense at 15.7 points a game and second (behind Minnesota) in total defense.

The current stretch, however, has come against clearly lesser offenses. The Panthers, who the Cards visit this weekend, are fifth in the NFL in scoring at nearly 27 points a game. Carolina is not playing well enough to win, but it is scoring well enough to win (which tells you something about the Panthers’ leaky defense.)

Many teams have quarterbacks that can move a little bit. The Cards benefited from the fact Russell Wilson, with a knee and an ankle banged up, clearly can’t run around as well as he normally can. Now comes Cam Newton, who can definitely run around and has the giant frame to boot. Newton has taken a lot of punishment this season as he’s run around, so maybe that impacts the Carolina game plan, but it would be foolish to think Newton carrying the ball — either by design or scrambling — won’t be a concern.

Still, the Panthers are facing a different defense than the one they saw in the NFC Championship. The effective four-man pass rush, and the way Chandler Jones is playing, changes the dynamic. Tyrann Mathieu isn’t quite himself — Bruce Arians said on Sirius XM radio Tuesday Mathieu was about 85 percent, in his estimation, and will be better once the knee brace can come off — but at least he is on the field, unlike January. The odds aren’t with the Cards to keep the Panthers out of the end zone — although when the Panthers met the Vikings earlier this season in Carolina, the Panthers only scored 10 points.

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