Friday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on December 4, 2009 – 5:15 pm

It’s Friday again, and the Cardinals are all about looking forward. Looking back – given the angles of this weekend’s game against the Vikings – doesn’t give a whole lot of warm and fuzzies.

Take last year’s visit from the Vikings, when Adrian Peterson was All Day – 165 yards rushing – and the normally pedestrian Tarvaris Jackson threw for four touchdown passes. The Vikings came to University of Phoenix Stadium the week after the Cards clinched the NFC West title and walked away with a 35-14 win that wasn’t even that close. It was 21-0 before the first quarter was even over. “I don’t remember that game,” safety Adrian Wilson said. “I would rather not talk about that game. The game was over in the first quarter. We didn’t have a chance after the first 10 minutes.”

Then there was the last time the Cards saw Brett Favre. It was better remembered for the game Anquan Boldin nearly lost his face, but in that Jets’ rout Favre threw a career-high six touchdown passes. “I think that was just a bad day all around as far as communication in the secondary and our play all around,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said.

Then there was last week, a heartbreaking loss in Tennessee capped by that 99-yard drive at the end. “You can’t go back and re-live that game,” Wilson said. “We don’t want to continue to hear about it.”

So the Cards move on to “Sunday Night Football,” hoping their national TV performance is more New York than Indy.

— The big storyline is the Kurt Warner will-he-or-won’t-he guessing game. Fans, friends, even co-workers want to know what I think. I think I don’t know. Wouldn’t put money on it either way and have a hard time even hazarding a guess. I think the expectation is that Warner will start, but that was the expectation last week at this time. The fact Matt Leinart got much more practice time shows the Cards want to hedge their bets this time around, and Leinart will be in a lot better position if he has to play.

I’ve heard the arguments about sitting and keeping Warner fresh and healthy for the 49ers, and I have heard the arguments about getting him in there for a win. To me, this is much more clear cut: If Warner is healthy, he plays. If not, he sits. It’s a concussion, and if Warner doesn’t think he’s ready to play, I wouldn’t want him out there. Don’t lose sight of the fact Warner has now taken his role in the whole concussion discussion within the league very seriously. That may push him to playing it safe. He sees himself as a role model for other players with this issue.

— Minnesota, by the way, has an NFL-best 40 sacks. What a way for Jeremy Bridges to make his debut as a starting left tackle in the NFL.

— These are two of the best defenses on third down in the league. The Vikings are tops, allowing just 32.8 percent conversions. The Cards are third – behind Miami – at 33.1.

— It was disappointing to see Beanie Wells mishandle the pitch last week for a fumble. It was a fixable problem, but one that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. “He just went too steep,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He didn’t go flat enough. The play design was good and it was going to be a big play. But he went downhill too much which shortened the angle of the pitch.”

— Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice is having a Pro Bowl-quality season, with 56 catches, 964 yards and four touchdowns. Maybe Larry Fitzgerald is to blame. Fitz invited Rice to be part of that “receivers camp” Fitz held in Minnesota this summer. “You know how when you see a friend do something and you are just genuinely happy to see him do it?” Fitzgerald said. “That’s kind of how I feel.”

— Speaking of Fitz, he’s tight with Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, and when I asked him about the difficulty of going up against a friend in a violent sport like football, he just smiled. “(Cornerback) Antoine Winfield and I are close friends, we talk all the time. I want to beat him more than some guy I don’t know because I know what kind of player he is.”

Fitz then broke out his Blackberry to show the back-and-forth texts he and Winfield shared this week.

Fitz: “How u feeling? U want to give it a go this weekend? I need 2 know where I’m at playing against the best in the biz”

Winfield: “What’s up homeboy? I’m going 2 b good 2 go this week. Looking forward to the challenge. Tell my man Beanie watch running the ball to my side. C u out there Sunday.”

“I’ll give it my best, he’ll give it his best and after the game, the numbers don’t lie,” Fitzgerald said. “Bragging rights. And at the club, he’s buying the drinks.”

— The key to this game is getting a lead or staying within a touchdown. If the Cards get zapped early – like against the Vikings last season – it’s going to be tough sledding. But if they hang tight, whether Warner or Leinart is playing, the crowd (which I am sure will have more than a few purple jerseys, unfortunately) will rally to the Cards’ favor.

Somehow, I see Minnesota boy Fitzgerald having a big impact. Hopefully it’s for a couple of touchdowns so he can finally get that regular-season win against his hometown team for which he’s been looking.

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12 Responses to “Friday before the Vikings”

  1. By TucsonTim on Dec 4, 2009 | Reply

    I know this is kind of a strange analogy, but I look at this game like when my extremely talented U-12 players play up against a really good U-13 or U-14 team. We usually get beat but we learn alot and grow. Next time around we’re alot more competetive.

    When I got my season tickets 5 years ago it was just to go and watch some pro football. We were a sorry football team with a legacy of losing.

    Now we are talking about playoffs. Playoffs??? Yes we are talking about playoffs.

    We’ve come a long way under coach Wiz and a new mindset in the ownership. This team isn’t the Vikings, or the Colts or the Saints, and this game isn’t a must win game…but on any given Sunday, this Cardinals team can beat anybody. That my friends is pretty neat…GO CARDINALS!

  2. By Aaron on Dec 4, 2009 | Reply

    So Beanie blew a play because he was running downhill too much too quickly. All last year and a couple times this year they couldn’t get Hightower turn downhill fast enough. Get these two backs to meet at the right place in the middle and we are all set!

    In all seriousness, I really hope we see these two together in the backfield Sunday night. Hightower is a proven receiving threat, a great blocker and running at a whole new
    level this year. Beanie has proven his running talent, improved in his blocking and so far has shown that he has learned how to catch as well. Both have shown they can power through the middle or use quickness to get to the outside.

    If they are in the backfield together you have two blockers, two receivers, no idea who will run it and where they will run it and any combination of the above. Sounds like a great way to beat the Williams boys and Jared Allen!

  3. By Mattman on Dec 4, 2009 | Reply

    Leinart? Warner? No problem. This team is capable of winning with either QB in the backfield. It is good to see that all of the eggs are not in one basket though. If Lienart starts, the coaches need to be aggressive right from the start to keep the Vikings off balance. Warner, on the other hand, he can pick their secondary apart if given enough time. That Jared Allen is one mean dude. If he can be slowed a little, then the QB can make plays. The most important thing that needs to be remembered is that these are the Vikings and they won’t quit for 4 FULL quarters, so we need to be right there with them until the last second ticks off. I say, let the ball fly downfield some and let these big time receivers make a few plays on these smaller CB’s. Make them prove that they can defend the long shots, before we check down too much.

    GO CARDS!!

  4. By Dave on Dec 4, 2009 | Reply

    This is one of those games where execution is critical. One or 2 screwups could be the difference for either team. A fumble…a few too many penalties.
    Things have to click and KEEP clickin’…

    Go Cards!!!

  5. By Chuck on Dec 4, 2009 | Reply

    Darren- is it hard to seperate your job of reporting on the cards and being a fan of the cards? do you ever find yourself watching in aww of the team when you are ‘working’. It seems that everyone has pretty much written the cards off this weekend, but as a fan it’s cool to understand they are going into a fight – but have a fighting chance of winning. in years past you could pretty much look at the schedule and pick the wins and losses…but not this year…..i dont want sunday to come because its back to work on monday…but i cant wait to see the game…its exciting to root for a team in playoff contention!!

  6. By darrenurban on Dec 4, 2009 | Reply

    Chuck —

    I don’t know if I’d call myself a fan as much as someone who has something at stake. Working within the organization, your job is simply better on many levels when the team is winning. I hate to sound callous — and again, I know fans will probably not like me for this — but as much as I have been around pro athletes in my newspaper career and as long as I have covered this team (this is my 10th season), it’s tough to feel awe when you know these guys more as regular people than “star athletes.”

  7. By Joe on Dec 5, 2009 | Reply

    Darren, you know thats not true. I’ve worked the Cards summer camp every year they’ve been in Flag from the field to the training room, but when you see a rookie show up named Larry and he does these incredible one handed catches routinely like its nothing, its awesome. You dont have to be starstruck to be in awe of someone’s ability, or determination, or class, or heart.
    Just cuz I’ve seen a thousand sunsets doesnt mean I’m not in awe of a beautiful one. When you lose that, youre just getting old.

  8. By darrenurban on Dec 5, 2009 | Reply

    Joe —

    Don’t get me wrong, I can still be amazed by a play. But the way I think of being in “awe,” not so much. Maybe I am just getting old.

  9. By Joe on Dec 5, 2009 | Reply

    Well, dude, I’m in awe of you. You do a fantastic job and should be proud. You show a great deal of grace and patience when dealing with some pretty odd comments from fans.
    Its a long season and everyone in Dec is bruised and battered, missing the holidays, limping to the finish — even sports writers.
    Thanks, hang in there, and just know that all your hard work is appreciated.

  10. By darrenurban on Dec 5, 2009 | Reply

    Joe —

    Thanks. I know I’m lucky to do what I do.

  11. By Mr. Viking4-ever on Dec 5, 2009 | Reply

    Leave alittle room at the top of that glass of beer you’ll be drinking,you’ll need it for all the tears that you’ll be crying after the game!!!

  12. By ghettobirdaz on Dec 5, 2009 | Reply

    well if i were the cards i would play the kid….lienhart! with jared allen rushing i don’t like warners chances back there, shouldn’t risk it. keep warner healthy to make one last run this tear….valuable time tomorrow for lienhart to prove we don’t need to draft qb’s.

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