The moves today to release cornerback William Gay and linebacker Stewart Bradley aren’t really shocking. This is what happens when salary exceeds production, as general manager Steve Keim was talking about just a couple of weeks ago. Bradley’s story is well known, and after he didn’t do much last season and with his salary back to $5 million, his future was all but written. Gay’s 2012 playing time escalated his salary from $1.475 million to $3.225 million, and that too probably cost Gay any chance of returning. With around $7 million of cap savings, the Cards are under the cap now.
There is still work to do, of course, the most glaring the contract of quarterback Kevin Kolb. There has been no word yet of any talks or movement in that area. The Cards have fit his giant $13.5M cap number in for now, but nothing has changed from the fact something has to happen. Kolb is due a $2M roster bonus soon (do not know the date, but anticipate it being the start of the league year on March 12 or right around there) and I can’t see it being paid unless a new deal is in place.
The Cards were about $1.2M over the cap prior to the cuts today according to Adam Schefter, so the savings should put them a little more than $5M under — decent breathing room in the short term, although a tender offer to QB Brian Hoyer would eat up some of that space if one were made. Are further moves, aside from Kolb, coming in the form of a cut or a restructure? Perhaps. Don’t forget, a restructure basically means giving the player more money now for the privilege of pushing cap space on to a future year’s cap. Eventually, it has to be paid. And if there is anything we have learned about the new collective bargaining agreement and the salary cap is that it was set up to no longer have giant spikes from year to year — making cap management for every team a little more challenging year-to-year. Bradley and Gay were not the only NFL veterans cut today, that’s for sure.
It also underscores another NFL reality — for all the gnashing of teeth that goes on when free agency starts about why the Cards (or any team) didn’t sign this guy or that guy — that the draft is the way to build a roster. Ultimately, teams don’t let players get away that they think they can’t afford to lose.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, Kevin Kolb, salary cap, Steve Keim, Stewart Bradley, William Gay
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Free agency is still a couple weeks away — March 12 for those who have forgotten — but for those who want to keep track of the Cardinals’ comings and goings, here is the page to do so. On it you can see the Cards’ own unrestricted and exclusive free agents going into the offseason. I ran into free agent safety Rashad Johnson today. He sounded upbeat about his status with the Cards but he wasn’t there to sign a new deal or anything. Those deals, I would think, will be deadline-driven probably. The Cards have talked to many of the agents for free agents, but again, I don’t think anything is about to pop.
The Alex Smith trade — or the reported trade that is going to happen — to the Chiefs will give the 49ers another draft pick this season. That, along with the anticipated compensatory picks the 49ers will get for losing free agents last offseason, will give San Francisco 15 draft picks for April. The day has been littered with speculation over what the Niners will do with all those picks. It’s too many to draft. No way 15 rookies make the team. So the Niners might as well trade some of them for players (Revis? Harvin?) or to move up and get a better pick or two or nab a rookie they really want.
Speaking of comp picks, I don’t expect the Cards to have any. They lost cornerback Richard Marshall to the Dolphins (to a pretty big contract) but signed free agents like William Gay, Adam Snyder and James Sanders. So that means the Cards will likely have only their seven picks — none in the seventh round and two in the sixth round. The official list of compensatory picks usually is released during the March owners’ meetings, which this year happen to be in Arizona.
Tags: 49ers, Adam Snyder, compensatory picks, free agency, James Sanders, Rashad Johnson, Richard Marshall, William Gay
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Here’s one benefit of playing the Lions and Bears in back-to-back weeks: The blueprint was already there for the defense, after covering Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, to deal with the Bears’ Brandon Marshall. Johnson has been a beast this season, no question, but Marshall has been fairly beastly himself, with 107 catches, 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns already himself.
Now, that doesn’t mean the Cards will necessarily give Marshall the “vice” look they gave Johnson at times last week – when Johnson was in the slot, safety Kerry Rhodes and cornerback William Gay would basically double-team him at the line, like Johnson was a gunner on punt coverage. But who knows? We could see it again. It’ll be fun to watch this defense regardless, against a struggling offensive line and against a quarterback who has shown he can be harassed into bad decisions.
— We do know we’ll see Patrick Peterson on Marshall , as Peterson keeps making his late-season push. I don’t think he’s getting double-digit picks, but he’s closer than I thought he’d get earlier in the season. He also talked a little this week about his confidence which is obvious.
“All the good corners have confidence in their ability to go out and make plays for their team,” Peterson said. “I believe the confidence started in high school. It was something my Dad always instilled in me growing up – ‘Always be confident in your ability, confident in what you are doing at all times.’ Not cocky. There is definitely a difference.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to go out and boast and brag about my ability, but if I feel like I am doing something better than another guy or doing something at the top level, I’ll definitely let you guys know.”
Peterson added, in a question about whether he was the best in the game, “I believe I am playing at a top level right now.”
— Both Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and James Sanders (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time this week. Both are questionable. I would guess at least one will play Sunday, if not both, but starter Adrian Wilson could get more playing time, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.
“There’s never been a question of Adrian’s ability,” said Horton, although Wilson has lost snaps since the bye. Horton said Friday part of the reason for that was to reward the good play of Johnson and Sanders.
Nevertheless, Wilson understands – as do many – there is a chance this could be Wilson’s final home game Sunday, with his future with the team murky right now. Horton was asked about calling the blitz last weekend that got Wilson the sack he needed to reach the 25-25 club.
“I was aware of where he was in the (historical rankings) in the league and it was a perfect opportunity to do it,” Horton said. “It was kind of called for him.”
— If the Cardinals win Sunday, it will be Ken Whisenhunt’s 50th victory as Cardinals’ head coach including playoffs.
— Given the problems with the Bears’ offensive line and the way the 49ers play offense, this might be the week linebacker Daryl Washington wants to get that elusive 10th sack of the season. Time is running out for him to his double-digits.
— Nothing official, but yes, I expect the roof open Sunday.
— Don’t know what’s going to happen with quarterback Brian Hoyer. I still think he ends up active in one of the final two games, if not both. Does that mean he plays? Not necessarily. Whisenhunt made it plain he wouldn’t change things up and jeopardize winning just to look at Hoyer, so my guess would be if a game got out of hand, then he might be willing to test-drive the new guy. But again, he’s got to be active for that to happen. Which likely means John Skelton would be made inactive.
— While Sunday’s game doesn’t kick off until 2:25 p.m., the plaza at University of Phoenix Stadium will open early, at 10:45 a.m., so fans can get through screening. The stadium still does not open until 90 minutes prior to kickoff for non-premium seat holders, but food and beverage options will be available on the plaza, in addition to entertainment at Gate 2. Anyone with food or beverage purchased on the plaza can bring it into the stadium when the doors open.
We come to the end of another home schedule. Seems like we were just showing up for that Seahawks game in early September. Back then, Ryan Williams, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein were still around (playing, I mean) and so were hopes for the season. Now the Cards just want to finish above .500 at UoP.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bears, Brandon Marshall, Brian Hoyer, Calvin Johnson, Daryl Washington, James Sanders, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, William Gay
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We’ve covered this before, but seriously, the interceptions keep piling up for the Cardinals. They now lead the NFL with 22 interceptions, one more than the team that comes in to visit University of Phoenix Stadium this weekend, the Chicago Bears. (The Cards, with 32 total takeaways, are fourth in the league in that department, with Chicago’s 37 topping the list.) Remember this team had only 10 interceptions all of last season.
And in all honesty, the Cardinals could have more this year. There was the one Adrian Wilson couldn’t quite hold on to against the Dolphins this year (although that would have been a spectacular effort and it certainly wouldn’t be considered a drop), and I can think of at least three that I remember in the hands of William Gay that he couldn’t quite snare. That’s just off the top of my head. Patrick Peterson gets the headlines with his seven, and deservedly so. But Kerry Rhodes has four, Gay, Rashad Johnson and Greg Toler two each.
“I wish we could lead the league in a number of different categories,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. “Maybe that would help us be a little bit better record-wise.”
They even punctuated this weekend’s trio with 186 return yards, the fifth-most interception return yards for an NFL team since 1970 and 66 more yards than the Cards had totaled on their first 19 picks of the season. The interceptions are a big reason the Cardinals are tops in the NFL when it comes to passer rating-against (68.0) and third in the NFL in completion percentage-against with 54.5.
“When you have 22, obviously it’s not going to be one guy or otherwise he’d be defensive MVP,” Whisenhunt said. “You’ve got a number of different guys that are making those kinds of plays.
“You think about the interceptions Patrick has had, some of those acrobatic ones down the field and even (Sunday’s) was another one like that. Our guys believe in what they are doing and they’re playing hard, and it’s nice to see them making some plays.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, William Gay
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A national report yesterday noted that recently released cornerback Stanford Routt, cut by the Chiefs, was “drawing interest” from multiple teams around the league. The Cardinals were named specifically. The Cards might have looked into the possibility, but I have been told the Cardinals do not have interest in signing Routt (The Dolphins, also named specifically, also are not pursuing him.)
The Routt situation is interesting. On the surface he looks intriguing. But it says something that, in a league starving for cover guys, he has now been released twice since the end of last season, by the Raiders and now the Chiefs. As always, in this league, there is a reason players are cut. Sometimes it’s a lucky break for another team out there but often times, there is something behind it. Teams don’t usually cut good players.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, need more consistent play from their own cornerbacks. Patrick Peterson has been admittedly up and down, newcomer William Gay has been struggling, rookie Jamell Fleming has looked like a rookie and Greg Toler has been injured. The Cards should have the players there, but they have to have the performance.
At this point, I am not expecting new players on the roster coming out of the bye — other than defensive end Ronald Talley, signed yesterday — and we’ll have to check in with coach Ken Whisenhunt after practice Monday to see if there were any depth chart or positional changes that might be coming down the pike.
Tags: Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Patrick Peterson, Stanford Routt, William Gay
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There will be many things that people will be waiting to see Sunday when the Cards finally kick off against the Bills – how the Cards’ run game looks, whether the Bills have recovered from a couple of historical beat-downs – but from the Cardinals’ side of the fence, it’ll be Arizona’s first few pass plays that will be under the microscope. The Bills won’t have (struggling) defensive end Mark Anderson, although they do have (struggling) defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and (struggling) defensive end Mario Williams. There has been plenty of talk not surprisingly, from the Buffalo perspective that their pass rush can get healthy against the Cards. It’s vice versa for the Cards, who count on righting the pass-protection ship after surrendering 17 sacks the past two games.
“If you go into the game thinking that you are going to do that just because, you could be in for a rude awakening,” Mario Williams said. “If we go out and think, ‘Oh well, it’s going to be easy because the last two teams did this,’ we could be in for a rude awakening.”
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb spoke again this week about how there were many facets in the pas game that need to do better to improve the pass protection. Someone suggested more three-step drops for Kolb, which the quarterback dismissed. “You can’t just go to three-step drops,” Kolb said. “That’s not the way the game is.”
You can’t just do a lot of anything. Pro teams – and pro coaches – figure that out soon enough. Leave more guys in to block? OK, but that’s fewer people in pass routes, and fewer options for which Kolb to pass. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows he needs better technique from his blockers, better protection schemes and better overall play. There’s will have been 10 days to try and iron some of this out.
— There are two banged-up teams going out to play. With cornerbacks Greg Toler and Michael Adams doubtful, it sure sounds like rookie Jamell Fleming will be thrust back into a prominent defensive role. And kind-of-newcomer Crezdon Butler may be active right off the bat after being away from the team since being cut at the end of the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, are missing a pair of starting offensive linemen themselves.
— Cornerback William Gay, who stands to start across from Patrick Peterson again Sunday, has struggled at times. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said it is technique issues with Gay, and along those lines, Gay’s role was reduced against the Rams. “Obviously, he’s capable,” Horton said. “He had a good week of practice. We reduced his role and message sent, I believe. Now, whether message was received or not, we’ll find out.”
— The Bills have allowed 97 points the last two games, to the Patriots and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cardinals will suddenly break out, but if the Cards’ offense is going to have a chance to improve, this is a matchup you want.
— Quarterback John Skelton is listed as probable for the first time since his ankle injury. I fully expect Kolb to start – who wouldn’t? – but Skelton, I would guess, would be the backup. After that, I don’t know if we are going to have any big announcement or not. The Cards are going to go through the gauntlet on the schedule after this game, at Minnesota, home against the Niners, at Green Bay and at Atlanta, which will be rough on whoever is playing QB.
— Today is Adrian Wilson’s birthday. He turned 33. His biceps don’t look a day over 27.
— Yes, I used that on Twitter.
— Speaking of birthdays, analyst and Cardinals Underground compatriot Ron Wolfley turns 50 Sunday, with the Cards playing against his hometown team. How great is that?
— The Cards are wearing black Sunday, as a reminder. And pink. This is the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, in case you are still putting together your gameday outfit.
— It probably saved an interception return for a touchdown – and it wasn’t even flagged at the time – but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was dinged for a $7,850 fine from the NFL after grabbing cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ facemask on a play against the Rams. The Rams didn’t escape fines for their play, though. Two players were nailed for roughing up Kevin Kolb – defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo was fined $7,875 for roughing the passer when he ripped Kolb’s helmet off, while defensive end Robert Quinn was fined $15,750 for hitting Kolb helmet-to-helmet.
— Fitz needs 48 receiving yards to reach 10,000 in his career.
— Fitz, by the way, wasn’t about to pop off about the Bills’ struggles. “I always remember my grandfather said, you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “We just don’t want to ruffle any feathers and try to sneak out of here with a ‘W’ without getting anyone upset.”
It seems like it’s been forever since the Cards last played.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bills, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Janoris Jenkins, Jermelle Cudjo, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Michael Adams, Rams, Ray Horton, Robert Quinn, Ron Wolfley, William Gay
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Maneuvering through a short week is difficult. The flip side, of course, will be Friday, and Saturday and Sunday and the extra days off. That could really benefit the Cards as banged up as they have been.
But they have to get through Thursday first. And truthfully, those benefits would feel a little bit better with a victory in St. Louis.
“(A short week) is pretty tough, but I think everyone in this locker room feels the same way – we’ve put together four decent games and are in position to be 4-0 and have an opportunity to play on national TV in front of the masses,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I think guys are relishing the opportunity.”
I do get the sense that the vibe is better for this Thursday game than it was back in 2008, for the Thanksgiving game in Philly. Back then, it didn’t feel like anyone was relishing anything. It showed on the field. This team is in a different place. We’ll see how it plays out on the turf.
— Andre Roberts has four touchdown catches – that’s the most of any receiver in the NFL right now. He’s a long way from training camp of 2011, when every “name” receiver that popped up as available quickly was linked to the Cardinals. Roberts has become a real weapon – he has been since midseason last year – but as usual, downplays his situation.
I asked him if he thought he had crossed some kind of threshold as a player. “I don’t know if it is a threshold,” Roberts said. “I just try to make the best out of my opportunities. When it comes my way, I want to make the most of it.”
— The steady play of Kevin Kolb and the clutch play late in the Miami game obviously plays well with teammates. But it’s also about a settling of the position. That’s all the rest of the Cards ever wanted was to find a player who was effective. They don’t care if it is Kolb or John Skelton.
“I’m pleased it’s not become an ordeal in the locker room,” center Lyle Sendlein said.
— It will be interesting to see who is playing cornerback across from Patrick Peterson. Will Greg Toler stay there after finishing the game at the spot? Does William Gay, who struggled, go back? If Toler gets more time, given that Gay stayed at nickel last game when that happened, it looks like rookie Jamell Fleming will be the one losing defensive snaps. Toler was the starter last year before he got hurt. I’m sure he’d like to regain that spot for good.
— The Rams are not the same team they were. They barely lost to the Lions and had they won that game, Jeff Fisher’s bunch would be 3-1. “This team is not sitting here with aspirations of going to the Super Bowl, because I think those things are unrealistic at this time of the year,” Fisher said. “Realistic goals are improving, accepting the next challenge, and doing whatever it takes to try to win the next game.” It’d be a big feather in the cap to beat division rivals Seattle and Arizona in back-to-back home games. The Cards will be tested to make sure that doesn’t happen.
— As I mentioned before, the Cardinals could make some headway with their struggling running game. They need to. Ryan Williams figures to get more carries. St. Louis has always been a place where Cards’ runners can get healthy, stats-wise.
— Speaking of guys who pop in St. Louis, Adrian Wilson is one. Against the Rams, he has six career interceptions and 7½ career sacks. Plus he is coming off a strong game, even if his diving interception (below) was eventually eliminated. Wilson thought the Rams, in 2001, might draft him with multiple high picks. They didn’t. He remembers.
Bring on Thursday night.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Jeff Fisher, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Rams, Ryan Williams, William Gay
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The Cardinals will practice tonight — for an hour — as their short week begins. They aren’t going to do much because they really can’t, not after finishing a game just about 24 hours before. The body just isn’t ready for that. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he won’t really know much about the injury situation until he sees his players like Darnell Dockett (hamstring) and Todd Heap (knee) doing things in practice, and it will be so light this evening that tonight probably isn’t going to give much of a barometer.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson just tweeted, “Quick turn around big game on Thursday. This game will say a lot about our team, can’t wait.
#Don‘tBlink” That’s true. This game will tell a lot about the Cards. The last time the Cards had a Thursday game, it didn’t go so well.
— Whisenhunt said Greg Toler has been working back to health after missing all last season with the ACL tear. Toler was available all of camp, but he never was quite right. “He was fighting it in camp and he’s been getting healthier,” Whisenhunt said. “During the course of the game we made the move (to play him more) because we thought it was best because of the matchup situation.” Whisenhunt said “we’ll see” when it comes to keeping Toler in that spot. Toler ended up playing across from Patrick Peterson at cornerback instead of William Gay, and in nickel, instead of Jamell Fleming (with Gay staying at nickel). Gay played 50 defensive snaps Sunday, Toler 44 and Fleming 12.
— Because running back Ryan Williams is not part of the no-huddle because of where he is in his development and William Powell does work in that package, Powell actually played more offensive snaps (34) than Williams (33) Sunday.
— The play-action was very effective for the Cards Sunday. Whiz said if he could guarantee that success, he’d run it every snap. It’s a little strange too. “It’s not like we’ve been killing it in the run game,” Whisenhunt acknowledged.
— Many have asked about the push Dolphins defensive back Sean Smith made on Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone on Kevin Kolb’s interception. Fitz said after the game “when the quarterback is out of the pocket he’s allowed to push me” and the Pro Bowler was absolutely right. It says in part in Rule 8, Section 4, Article 7 of the rulebook, “If the quarterback leaves the pocket area with the ball in his possession, the restrictions on illegal contact and illegal cut block both end, but the restriction on defensive holding remains in effect.” Kolb still had the ball and was out of the pocket when Smith shoved Fitz.
— The game Thursday will be televised on NFL Network and for those who don’t have NFLN, it will be also shown on KPHO (Ch. 5).
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Williams, Sean Smith, William Gay, William Powell
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A short week starts in as good of a way as possible. Let’s put it that way.
What do you say? Even coach Ken Whisenhunt’s opening statement acknowledged there was so many areas to correct that he wasn’t going to try and hit on them all. But the Cards won. I’m not sure how – it was hard to believe the Hartline 80-yard score wasn’t a backbreaker, and the Dolphins certainly thought it would be – but it wasn’t.
Kevin Kolb had a couple of shaky moments. But being down on the field, to see that dart he threw to Andre Roberts for the game-tying touchdown, it looks even more impressive up close. On fourth down, no less … just another step forward. No he can’t throw the end-zone pick. He knows it, Whiz knows it, we all know it. But he overcame it. So did all the Cards. Unreal.
— The Cardinals missed Darnell Dockett today, sitting with an injured hamstring, but safety Adrian Wilson returned with a vengeance after missing one game. Wilson had a team-best 10 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, a forced fumble, three pass deflections and almost had an incredible diving interception until replay stole it from him. With everything that happened today, it’d be easy to lose sight of that performance. But you can’t.
— Patrick Peterson had a miserable night returning punts. He averaged just 4.5 yards a return. He was charged with three fumbles, two on one return (although he fortunately recovered them all). He fair-caught a punt inexplicably at his own 3-yard line, and thank goodness for Dave Zastudil it didn’t hurt the Cards.
“I was pressing a little bit today, the ball was dropping a little faster,” Peterson said. “I was trying to hurry up and get the ball in my hands and try and take off. I wasn’t patient today. I definitely wasn’t myself in the punt returns, but that won’t happen again. I told the return team, that’s my fault. We’ve got 12 more games to get to the end zone and make it right.”
— The Cards got everyone involved in the passing game Sunday. Fitz was targeted 15 times – 8 catches for only 64 yards, but a score – and Michael Floyd even had four grabs. Roberts has played excellent football, with 118 yards. Now, Kolb can’t get sacked eight times. Some of that was him holding the ball, and some was the offensive line. Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie was overwhelmed by Cam Wake in the first half, although he did better in the second half (Wake still had 4½ sacks.) Mostly, though, when there is time, I still think Kolb looks pretty good in the pocket.
— That end-zone pick, though. Can’t happen. “A terrible decision, a terrible throw,” Kolb said. He understands.
— William Gay was picked on a lot at cornerback. He stayed in playing nickel, but Greg Toler was taking snaps as the guy opposite Peterson in both base and nickel. Jamell Fleming was the odd man out in nickel.
— The flip side of the pass game: Ryan Williams doesn’t look like he is part of the no-huddle package, which the Cards used a bunch Sunday. The Cards had 15 rush attempts and, with sacks added in, 56 pass plays. Williams finished with just 26 yards on 13 carries. If you would have told me that would equate to a win, I don’t think I would’ve believed you.
— Kicker Jay Feely got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a kickoff that was downed in the end zone to start the second half. It could have been bad, but the Cards forced a punt. Feely said the Cards had planned to use him to help block on a Dolphins blocker if he was used a certain way. On a kickoff, Feely is allowed to hit the player in the back if necessary. Feely did and was flagged.
“The ref said, ‘Well it’s a touchback, you shouldn’t have done that,’ ” Feely said. “I said ‘I didn’t know it was a touchback, I was running to the block.’ I was just glad they didn’t get a score.
— That’s 500 wins all-time for the franchise.
— There were mistakes, obviously, but Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill looks like the real deal to me (and yes, I’m looking at you John the Draft Guy.)
— The Cardinals, per Elias Sports Bureau, are now 10-214-1 all-time when trailing by at least 13 points at halftime. That underscores the occasion.
— The last time the Cards came back down at least 13 points at the half was Sept. 12, 1999 at Philadelphia. Heck, that was before I was covering this team. (h/t to Mark Dalton and Randall Liu for those last two goodies.)
— Brian Hartline’s 253 yards receiving was not an all-time high for a Cards’ opponent. Anthony Allen had 255 against the Cards in 1987? Don’t know Anthony Allen? Well, he was a replacement player during the 1987 strike, crossing the picket line in that game against the then St. Louis Cardinals. He was done when the regular players returned, but actually made the Redskins the following year.
— Gotta keep propping punter Dave Zastudil. Nine punts for a net of 47.3? Seriously? So, so huge.
A wild game. Now comes a trip to play the Rams where the Cards have dominated but where the Cards usually have had a week to prepare. Not as much time now – but it’s so much easier after a win.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Bobby Massie, Brian Hartline, Cameron Wake, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Dolphins, Greg Toler, Jay Feely, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Williams, William Gay
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Given that Levi Brown is on injured reserve, there are just seven players left on the Cardinals’ roster who were there when the team made its last flight to New England: Adrian Wilson, Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Michael Adams, Lyle Sendlein, Calais Campbell and Early Doucet. What happened that day – an ugly, ugly 47-7 loss in a horrible snowstorm – had both good and bad repercussions.
The showing was terrible. It was the one, in the next-to-last week of the season, where analyst Cris Collinsworth declared the already-NFC West champs the worst to ever make the playoffs. But coach Ken Whisenhunt used it as a jumping-off point to have a padded practice in the rain that week – time to refocus – before the Cards won the season finale against Seattle to finish 9-7. They didn’t lose again until Santonio Holmes decided to rip their collective heart out.
That game means nothing Sunday, really, although it’s tough for any of those players who were around last time to just forget.
“There’s not a lot of guys on this team from the 2008 year, but we remember that butt kicking we took up there in 2008 out there and that didn’t sit well with us then and four years later it still stings,” Fitzgerald said.
“For me I’ll never forget walking off that field and looking at that scoreboard. Just the feeling of embarrassment, disappointment. … They totally tore us down that night. That’s something I still remember very vividly. That was a tough game, the worst game that I ever played in in my professional career.”
There will be no snow this time. The Cards want to make sure a lot of things are different this time around.
— The irony of Fitz saying it was the worst game he ever played in – his career-long reception, 78 yards, came in that game, a late catch-and-run from Matt Leinart for his team’s lone score of the game.
— Leadership means a lot in a game like this, I’d think. I was wondering if a guy like cornerback William Gay, who has faced the Patriots multiple times in his years as a Pittsburgh Steeler, might be able to help a little in terms of familiarity. He quickly dismissed that.
“We have leaders that have been around football for quite some time,” Gay said. “I listen to those guys. Just because I have played them a lot, those veterans still have years over me. Seeing those guys calm, it will calm the rest of the guys down, and that’s what you need. If your leaders are rattled, everyone will be rattled.”
— I don’t know how the Cards are going to approach covering the Patriots’ tight ends. I don’t know if it’ll be the safeties (pictured below) or linebackers, or a combination. The latter seems likely. I know some out there disagree, but Wilson did well in coverage last season. Now, how that will translate against guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, we will see. Those two have been impressive.
— The Cards have faced Tom Brady just once – in 2004, when he came to Sun Devil Stadium and won, 23-12, when the Patriots were at the peak of their Super Bowl-winning powers. Matt Cassel, of course, was the QB in 2008 after Brady wrecked his knee in the season-opener that season.
— This is only the third visit the Cards have made to New England since moving to Arizona. The score of the 1996 trip was 31-0 Patriots, so adding in the 2008 game, it hasn’t been a pleasant place to play.
— Fitz needs three catches for 700 in his career. Tight end Todd Heap needs six for 500. And speaking of milestones, Sunday will be defensive end Vonnie Holliday’s 200th game.
— The constant talk of Skelton/Kolb has been exhausting to a point this week. Obviously I think Kolb will start this week. Everyone does, and even Ken Whisenhunt has sent everyone in that direction even if he didn’t officially name a starter. But this is a big deal for Kolb. He had his moment last week, but the moment is over. There will be plenty of eyes on him across the NFL landscape Sunday, not just those in Arizona.
— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton called his unit’s first game “an excellent start” but that it could have been better. “I was looking at the things we left on the table, and we left a fantastic, great, dominating game on the table,” Horton said. “We have room to improve.”
— This is a testing ground for the string of tough road games the Cards have this season. Trips to Green Bay, Atlanta, the Jets all come later. The long plane rides are par for the course. The Cards need to have a good showing. In a game where the Pats are opening the home schedule, and adding former fan favorite and team MVP Troy Brown to the franchise’s Hall of Fame, fighting those emotions won’t be easy.
See you Sunday.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Early Doucet, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Cassel, Michael Adams, Patriots, Ray Horton, Ron Gronkowski, Todd Heap, William Gay
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