The stat of the weekend, bar none: Once the current NFL playoff setup began in 1990, the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed – which obviously got a bye in the first round – won their initial playoff game 17 seasons in a row.
Then the Giants conquered the Cowboys two years ago. And then the Eagles beat the Giants last year.
The Cardinals will try and make it three straight in New Orleans against the No. 1-seeded Saints.
While you let those facts marinate, a few more things to touch upon going into the Divisional round:
— Larry Fitzgerald had two touchdowns last week, including that spectacular one-handed diving catch in the end zone. But he’s a slacker – the 6-catch, 82-yard effort was actually Fitz’s worst playoff game. Of course, that just underscores how unreal Fitz was in the playoffs last year (four games of more than 100 yards). I am pretty sure the Cards will take 6-82-2 every week.
— It was understandable everyone wanted to talk Early Doucet this week after he had his breakout game. But Steve Breaston – who had 125 yards receiving on seven catches – seemed to be ignored in many ways, even though he was great while getting his first 100-yard game of the season.
“I’m just the forgotten man, but it’s never bothered me,” Breaston said. “My whole thing was to be accountable to the team. My coaches and teammates know what I did. I don’t like to get into all that. I told Early the other day I was so proud of him, the stuff he did in the game, showing what he could do on the field. I don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m overshadowed.’ ”
Then Breaston grinned. “Someone will have to pay attention one day.”
— I know I mentioned this last week, but it bears repeating: The Cardinals, under coach Ken Whisenhunt, are now 29-3 when they are even or win the turnover battle and just 2-19 when they lose it. If you want a barometer for who will win, that’s the column to watch.
— Here’s a new stat I wasn’t aware of, however: Including playoffs, the Cards have scored at least 30 points in 23 games. The Cards have won 21 of those games, including 15 in a row. Seems to bode well for a shootout. And if you look at the Cards’ postseasons, there’s only one game they haven’t score 30 (damn you James Harrison).
— The Saints have something going with the city of New Orleans that most teams do not have. That, quarterback Drew Brees said, comes in part because a good chunk of players arrived in the 2006 offseason, right after Hurricane Katrina and those players “feel a sense of responsibility to our fans and our city.”
I wonder, however, if that increases the pressure on the team to come through Saturday. It’s about more than just advancing, it’s about keeping a city’s hopes alive.
“We want to win for them because it does so much for their psyche in regards to lifting their spirits and giving them hope,” Brees said. “The rebuilding process is still very much going on here. I know how much they believe in us and lean on us.
“For us, it’s not necessarily feeling it adds pressure but more so gives us strength knowing we have that fan base behind us.”
— That fan base will be loud, but the Cards believe they will be prepared. Once, going on the road in this situation would be a problem, but no longer. There was never a fear of road trips, but there was never this quiet confidence from the Cards’ locker room either before they climbed on a plane. They seem to understand it’s just another football game, it just happens to be in a different venue than the one in Glendale.
— There is no question Brees is a great quarterback, but Adrian Wilson put the brakes on saying the two are alike. “Kurt is a two-time MVP, has numerous Super Bowl appearances, so to say Drew is like Kurt, I wouldn’t say that,” Wilson said. “You can compare the two, but the things Kurt has done in his career compared to what Drew has done, not taking anything away from Drew because Drew is a great player, but Kurt has done a lot.”
— My two cents on the Antrel Rolle-Michael Silver debate: I can see both sides. I don’t know what happened. I have been around plenty of players who say something and later wish they had not. Obviously, Silver (whom I know and who’s always been good to me) has had his controversies around this team, like the Matt Leinart “ride or die” interview in 2007. But to me, the bottom line is this: When I talked to Rolle after the game, he was effusive in his praise of Aaron Rodgers. That’s all he was thinking about that evening. And really, if the Saints need to get revved up over any perceived slights, maybe they aren’t in the best place. (Then again, teams, coaches and players use perceived slights and even made-up slights all the time to get jacked up. It’s a fact of NFL life).
— It’ll be interesting to see if the Cards are willing to turn to rookie cornerback Greg Toler should Michael Adams struggle again.
— Even if Anquan Boldin suits up Saturday – and I would still lean toward him not – it won’t be as the normal Anquan. It’ll be a situation where he’d only play 30 or so plays, when the Cards are using multiple receiver sets. Again, given needs up and down the roster, I don’t know if you can afford to have active such a part-time player.
— I’m not counting on linebacker Gerald Hayes playing either.
OK, that was a long one. Time to wrap this up, given that we have a flight shortly to New Orleans. I have no idea how this one is going to turn out, but I do think the key will be the start. If the Cards can stay settled and not be rattled early (like, say, have two turnovers in the first quarter, right Packers?) I think they have a good chance to win. If they can get a lead and force worry into the Superdome crowd, even better. If they let the Saints jump out early and get the crowd even more excited, that’s a problem.
We’ll see. It’d be nice to be getting ready for a charter flight again late next week too.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Drew Brees, Early Doucet, Gerald Hayes, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, playoffs, Saints, Steve Breaston
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