Friday before the Wild Card

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2010 – 4:42 pm

This is what I first thought in the aftermath of all the scary injuries the Cards suffered last weekend, the ones that seemingly put them on tenuous ground going into Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game against the Packers:

(OK, maybe it’s not what I first thought, because the first thought is, “You’ve got to be #*$@&%$ kidding me.”)

The thought was, “At some point, this was going to happen.”

You can argue that, for instance, Anquan Boldin shouldn’t have been in the game and you can make a strong case. You could argue (with a much weaker case) DRC and Calais Campbell shouldn’t have been playing. But as Boldin said today, “This is football. You play the game hard, you’re going to get injured at some point.”

That’s what the Cards have been able to sidestep so deftly since the beginning of 2008. Last year, injuries were at a minimum and when they did hit the Cards, they were either short-term (Boldin’s face fracture kept him out only two games), were early enough to be sidestepped (linebacker Clark Haggans was out down the stretch and in the playoffs) or were apparently ignored (Kurt Warner’s bad hip). The offensive and defensive lines stayed intact.

This year, it’s been a little tougher. Left tackle Mike Gandy went down and out, and it’s clear the Cards’ defense (and, on more individual scale, Adrian Wilson) was hampered by the loss of safety Matt Ware. As for the latest aches and pains, it’s the timing more than the injuries themselves, since being less than 100 percent can kill in the playoffs.

Then again, the Packers are without a starting cornerback (Al Harris) and good pass rusher (Aaron Kampman) because of injuries, and it’s a non-story – because those injuries happened a few weeks ago.

It’s football. You’re going to get injured at some point. Even the Cardinals.

On to some last-minute bits and pieces:

— The Cards must get off to a good start, for multiple reasons. They need to feel good about themselves, and that goes for every week. And while the first two times these teams met this year ultimately meant nothing, it doesn’t mean the Packers did not derive confidence (and likely a certain bulletproof mentality) in playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cards also need to keep the crowd engaged.

“(A good start) makes a difference for us,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Against Minnesota, we recovered from (a poor start). When we start quickly — Chicago comes to mind, and Jacksonville — we are a tough team to beat. We have talked about it.”

— Speaking of the crowd, will there be a chunk of Packer backers? Probably. But I have seen people concerned about 10,000, even 15,000. My thought is, so what? By my math, 63,000 (slightly less than capacity) minus 15,000 still equals 48,000 Cardinals fans. They will drown out any Packers contingent, as long as they have something to cheer for.

— The Cards had five passes of 40 yards or more in the postseason last year. They had three the entire 2009 regular season. We’ll see if the offense can generate some big plays again – they’ll likely need it.

— As everyone knows by now, three of the four playoff games this weekend are rematches of regular-season finales: Cardinals-Packers, Cowboys-Eagles, Jets-Bengals. The two NFC games will be played in the same stadium, a coincidence that has happened five previous times. In those five games, the home team won the playoff game three times.

— Larry Fitzgerald, talking about what it means to have Anquan Boldin around: “His desire and his passion he displays every week is infectious. Anybody that’s around him can see it and feel it. He’s definitely and old-school player, an old-school defensive mentality guy. Early in the season, he was always lobbying to get in there and play defense and try to get a blitz. I don’t doubt if he ever got the opportunity to get in there, he’d make a play.”

— Congrats to assistant head coach/offensive line coach/run game coordinator Russ Grimm (I love that title) for being one of the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Grimm has been here before and he downplays it every time, but one of these years, I think that decade he spent anchoring the “Hogs” offensive line in Washington will get him in. Former Cards cornerback Aeneas Williams didn’t make the cut this time around. Former Cards running back Emmitt Smith did – maybe on the strength of what he did elsewhere during his career – as did one-time coach Don Coryell. Coryell was the Cards’ coach the last time this franchise won 10 games in a season.

— Also congrats to defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and Warner, each of whom capture the annual awards from the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association (sponsored by Oregano’s Pizza Bistros). Dockett was awarded the Lloyd Herberg MVP award, beating out Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. Warner was given the Steve Schoenfeld Good Guy, given to the player the writers deem most helpful to the media, beating out Fitzgerald, Campbell and Tim Hightower, among others. The awards are named after two former Cardinals/NFL writers for the Arizona Republic who each passed away while still covering the team: Herberg from cancer, Schoenfeld in a hit-and-run accident.

— The Cards, I would think, need to run the ball Sunday some, to control the clock a bit and keep the Packers’ offense off the field. It is a unit that can put up points, and while the Cards always have been able to themselves, you get a feeling – even against Green Bay’s top-ranked run defense – the Cards have to find a way to make Beanie Wells and Hightower a factor.

— It wouldn’t be bad if the Cards could somehow get to Aaron Rodgers like teams were getting to him earlier this year. This is when Dockett shines, under the spotlight. It’s time to see a heaping helping of 9-0.

— There has been a sense all week the Cards not only have something up their sleeve, but they know a little something everyone else doesn’t. Whisenhunt has been eerily calm, in a good mood. As Warner said, this is the fun time of year, so maybe that’s just part of it. Personally, I’m just a little tired of talking Packers after two straight weeks.

I’d like to be talking Saints or Vikings at this point next week.

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25 Responses to “Friday before the Wild Card”

  1. By Sue H on Jan 8, 2010 | Reply

    Hear, hear, Darren… I’m sick of HEARING about the Packers for two straight weeks! GO CARDS!

  2. By Steve on Jan 8, 2010 | Reply

    I’m with you on talking Packers. You can’t got to a website or listen to the radio (at least here in Denver) without everyone claiming Rodgers is the best QB in the NFC and the Packers will win by double diggets.

    I just hope a lot of these reports are making it to the players. The proverbeal chip always help the Cards.

  3. By Mattman on Jan 8, 2010 | Reply

    First thing first. This is football, the game is played hard and with viscious, physical hits. Those that think you can play and never get injured are playing the wrong game. When you play at less than what you train at, you open yourself up to more potential for those injuries to happen. I’m not a big proponet of pulling back to avoid something happening. If you’re going to play, play it the way it is supposed to be played.

    There are going to be several things that need to happen. We need to push the Packers around right away. On both sides of the ball. That will give us confidence, along with showing the Packers that this is a “real” game.

    The crowd HAS to be in it from the start. When the Packers cannot hear themselves think because of the noise, then we will have that advantage. This is an away game for them, we need to make sure that they know they’re not in Wisconson. Let them hear what happens in our “house”

    The last big thing is that Beanie and Hightower need to get some good gains right away. This will open up our receivers to go down the field and have the Packers decide how we are going to beat them, through the air or on the ground. Either way, they are going to lose.

    GO CARDS!!!!!

  4. By TucsonTim on Jan 8, 2010 | Reply

    It’s time to step up and end the absolute disrespect everyone has for our team.

    My wife who cares nothing for football and thinks I’m a little crazy just walked into my study and said ” My God , you’re right, why does everyone hate the Cardinals?”.

    It’s time to make a statement and put a end to this. You are a great team!!!!

    Warner is a hall of fame quarterback, period. DRC just made the pro bowl in his second year. Boldin is a man among men. Pro bowler Docket is to be feared. Fitz is our generation’s Rice. Wilson is our Lewis, only better. Rolle is an inteception machine, just ask Carson, only thing he can throw a football as far as Carson. Hightower just might break your legs if you try to Blitz. Don’t let our Beany break into the open field. Old man Berry will give you a move that will leave you looking for your jock. Breaston shook off a knee injury that would have left most on the sidelines and he WOULD START on 31 of 31 other teams. Graham is the best footballer in the NFL who happens to be a punter. Patrick can and will catch a superbowl TD pass. Woodson has superbowl blood, but so does our Mcfadden. I don’t just trust Rackers more than your kicker, run out of bounds or he WILL tackle you.

    God bless you Cardinals. Appologies to the fine players I didn’t mention. Chances like this do not come often. Play for yourself, play for your team mates, play for respect and play for us fans who wish we were young and talented enough to be with you…we will be rooting for you.

  5. By BDMag on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Glad to see Schoeny’s name is still being remembered. What a wonderful, wonderful guy he was.

  6. By Tyrelle on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Yeah the players have a lot up there sleeve. They know Green Bay was disrespecting us especially that stupid coach McCarthy. They know something we don’t know but as a fan we know that Whiz was keeping it vanilla all the way and will unveil somethings Sunday that will have us going crazy as we advance.

  7. By Ben on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Well put, TucsonTim…I for one, am chomping at the bit, and can’t wait for Sunday’s game to come!

    All I can say is that we’ve faced adversity and disrespect before, and we have ALWAYS bounced back! I know we’ll go it again!

    GO CARDS! Let’s make another magical run!

  8. By Kyle on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    I really love how all the so-called experts are picking the Packers to come in and roll us. Love it, Love it!! Just like last year, the Cards have no business being in the playoffs. C’mon guys, lets prove em all wrong again!!!! GO CARDS!!!

  9. By Year2remember on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Spread the word! Keep the stadium rockin! I’m up yelling the entire time the D is on the field and dead quiet when Warner is getting ready to unleash the offense!

    Get up! Be loud! We shouldn’t need anything to cheer for! We’re Cards fans! Just yell! They need us just as much as we need them!

    Get’em Dockett! GO CARDS!!!

  10. By LUKE on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    regarding the cards having something up their sleeve… whiz ,i believe,does have something up his sleeve .Last year going into the playoffs,i thought he was disquising the run game and low and behold the run game exploded!now im not sure if it was intentional but i wasnt surprised.i will say right now i wont be surprised if Early Doucet is a secret weapon but we will see.the cards definately have a treat for the cheeseballs!!!

  11. By Secret on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    31 – 30 Cards. Neil makes a 50 + field goal for the epic win. ESPN will be trying to find excuses for the Packers saying if it was a non-dome stadium, that kick wouldn’t have made it. That’s my prediction.

  12. By nor cal cards fan on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more on all of the things you touched on Urb. FIRST AND FOREMOST- IT’S 9-0 TIME BABY!! Dockett is fully healthy, well rested, and ready to explode. We all know 9-0 plays his best in the spotlight, and as luck would have it, this is a nationally televised playoff game. He MUST have a big game for us to win. If he can rattle Rodgers early with some pressure and cause a turnover[like he did to matt ryan in the 1st round last year] it will change the whole complexion of the game. The defense as a whole has to man up and dig deep and somehow figure out a way to get the Packers out of their rythm and comfort zone that they have been able to settle into so easily in their first two trips to UOP stadium.It starts with hitting the quarterback.Billy D has to dial up some pressure. I have a question Urb if u don’t mind. AW was clowning DRC on Bickleys radio show the other day saying DRC had a little cut on his knee.Would it be accurate to say that DRC is pretty much 100 percent? If he is, obviously that’s great news.Was he able to come in and out of his cuts at full speed in practice?

  13. By darrenurban on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Nor Cal —

    I can only go by what DRC says, and if you read the blog, you know DRC himself said he was 100 percent. Is he totally healthy? Probably not. But I am guessing he is pretty close.

  14. By Joe2 on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Turnovers. Can our darn kids hang onto the ball? If they do, then the best team wins (Cards, of course).

    The Birds just need to win the next four games, but no matter who we play in the playoffs, we will be the underdogs. If the wildcard had been Philly or Dallas, we’d still be the underdog, which is great for us. Just a little extra salt in the wound.

    The very last play of Steve Young’s long illustrious career was Adrian Wilson smashing him into the ground. On the first five packer passing plays I would blitz #24 off the edge. Welcome to A-dub’s neighborhood, Mr Rodgers!

    But please remember, this is our team win OR lose.

    Smash the pack!!!!!!!!

  15. By darrenurban on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Joe2 —

    A-Dub is old, but not that old. Steve Young’s career ended on a hit by Aeneas Williams in 1999. A-Dub was still in college at that point.

  16. By Joe2 on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    ooooh damn, man, duh!
    thats right… but it was an A-dub (rolls eyes)

  17. By cards62 on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Cardinal fan since the early 70s so I am nervous but mostly happy and proud of our men. I know all the lean years so I delight in the past two seasons.
    I think for us to win is first and foremost for our defense to show up and put a hurting on the Packers. The Packers offense has owned us twice this year and we must bloody their noses to let them know today it will be different. I think our guys really have a desire to do this and do not care much for the Packers at all. If our defense play like they did against Minnesota we will win the game. Dockett is a monster but we need Robinson, Watson, Branch, Haggins, to also punish Green Bay, but especially we need Wilson and Dansby to be the leaders and welcome a few Packers including Aaron Rodgers to the turf of Phoenix Stadium in a very loud fashion.. I am nervous about the offense. Our line giving Kurt time, and Kurt getting rid of the ball, and our young running backs holding onto the ball, and no Boldin for this game, because guys it does not matter if 81 is on the field or not the Boldin we know will not be on the field. I support Coach W and I want him leading our team for many many years as I remember our last coach to take us to the playoffs two years in a row and we fired him the next season for going 8 – 8 and I remember not having much to cheer about for the next 30 some years , but 81 should have been out of the game once Warner was taken out of the game.
    Darren my question to you is do you think Whiz will have Rolle and DRC play a little wider receiver and stretch the field to open things up for Fitz and Boldin\Doucet.? I know we have Breaston, but I just think our offense is not as explosive as last year so this would be my adjustment to our game plans from the regular season.

    Thank you and win or lose I will still be a Cardinal fan for life come Monday and a Coach Whiz supporter. Now go Cards and be loud my brothers as we have made it to the sweet 12 for 2 seasons in a row.

  18. By darrenurban on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Cards62 —

    No. I don’t think he’d use Rolle and/or DRC on offense more than a single play normally, and with their injury issues, I don’t think they will be used on that side of the ball at all.

  19. By Aaron Lone-Eagle on Jan 9, 2010 | Reply

    Hey CARDS Fans,

    Now this is the support I am talking about. First of all to everyone who is going to be at the game, I am jealous and let’s go Red Sea and make some noise. I agree with you Cards62, Boldin should have been taken out of the game as soon as he hit his 1000 yards, no questions asked. I think this game should be played for and won for Q, mainly due to the fact he is going to be stuck on the sideline,(barring a miracle), and is going to have toi watch and pray for a victory so that he has another opportunity to play again this year. So team, go win this for yourself, your self respect, win it for Q, and win it for the fans. Win or lose, your still going to be our Cardinals, and the future looks pretty bright. SEMPER FI, UH-RAH.

  20. By Danny Heksolson on Jan 10, 2010 | Reply

    My dear cards fans, my dearest sport team in my life; this is it, smash that Packers and show the world again they should respect us!! Our defense will own them from the beggining, and please, all the people should be noisy, I´ll be in my mexican house!! Beat them and gain more confidence, we will smash them by far!!

    GO CARDINALS, FLY HIGH!! Let´s SHOW the world!!

  21. By Wampag on Jan 10, 2010 | Reply

    okay Darren Sunday is finally here can you please let us know as soon as you can on the injury front….GO CARDS…

  22. By kimberly on Jan 10, 2010 | Reply

    well cards fans…this is it…im so ready and nervous…i got my flags on my car,i got my #11 jersey and im excited…..yes i am so tired of them talking about the packers….he is not even close to kurt warner…he is the best and he should be talked about more and he doesn;t…its all about the mannings or tom brady…..kurt warner takes more hits than brady can handle…..were gonna prove everyone wrong….lets go CARDS!!! i used to love the packers,that was my #1 team,well cause of brett favre,GO CARDS!!!1 🙂

  23. By Vivek on Jan 10, 2010 | Reply

    Hey Darren

    What’s this news ESPN is carrying on Kurt’s retirement ?!

  24. By darrenurban on Jan 10, 2010 | Reply

    Vivek —

    I talked about it right here.

  25. By johnnybluenose on Jan 10, 2010 | Reply

    i’m always nervous when the cardinals play because i want them to win so badly. they’re good. all they have to do is protect the ball and avoid penalties and it’s off to the big easy next week-end and we know the cardinals win that one. then it’s back home for the championship game and then to miami for the super bowl. same script as last year…except we win this time. rise up red sea.

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