An odd game in St. Louis. More late-game heart stoppage when you didn’t think there would be any. Heck, before Kurt Warner left the game – probably right about the time Beanie Wells powered over in a manly one-yard touchdown run – I wondered how much yardage Warner was going to pile up throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin before coach Ken Whisenhunt put Matt Leinart in.
Instead, Leinart had to come in.
There will be plenty of people breaking down Leinart’s time in the game. It didn’t make you forget the starter was out with a possible concussion, but it wasn’t the disaster some will inevitably make it out to be. Under different circumstances, for instance, Whisenhunt might have let Neil Rackers try a 51-yard field goal – in a dome, remember – on the first drive of the second half. Leinart took the Cards from their own 15 to the cusp of field-goal range before Whisenhunt stayed conservative and punted.
It makes sense. The Rams had done nothing offensively and there was little reason, with an 18-point lead, to give them life with good field position (and indeed, punter Ben Graham pinned the Rams at their own 2). But maybe points there changes how Leinart’s day went, especially since the next possession was the one where the Cards couldn’t convert on third-and-1.
Anyway, on to other thoughts in the wake of the win:
— The running game has been tremendous. The Cards have 487 rushing yards the past three games, an average of 162.3 per game. The first seven games of the season, the Cards totaled 454 rushing yards, an average of 64.8. Their overall ranking will still be low, but it’s clear the Cards are a better running team than that ranking.
— Rookie linebacker Will Davis – who got his second sack Sunday — might be a find as a sixth-round pick. With Chike Okeafor out, the Cards have needed Davis, and seems to have surpassed veteran Bertrand Berry for playing time in some key spots.
— The Cardinals used running back Jason Wright as a fullback on one play Sunday. You have to give Whisenhunt props in his ability to shuffle his personnel and use them in different ways. RB Tim Hightower spent some time split wide too.
— Quietly, Anquan Boldin had another big game. It got lost in the running exploits of Hightower and Beanie Wells and the injury to Kurt Warner, but he’s back to playing at a Pro Bowl level. If he can just stay healthy, it’s going to be a bi.. err, very difficult to defend the Cards.
— Wide receiver Steve Breaston was shut out of making a catch for the first time since playing in Washington the third game of last season. Breaston doesn’t really care about such things, but it does hurt him in his quest to get to the 75-reception mark. Then again, if anyone noticed, not only is Fitz on pace for Pro Bowl numbers but Boldin’s pace (85 receptions, 1,020 yards) is getting back there too.
— Leinart acknowledged he had a little problem with high throws. Whisenhunt said it’s partially because Leinart just hasn’t gotten enough playing time. It is an issue Leinart has worked with a lot with quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. “It’s been my little problem this season and I have been working hard to fix stuff on my release,” Leinart said. “I know when I throw a high pass, I know exactly why so I have to correct those things and that’s what I try to (fix) during the week.”
— With Bryant McFadden out with a knee injury, the Rams did their best to pick on 5-foot-8 backup Michael Adams. But there was one play where anyone could see why the Cards like Adams. The Rams ran a pitch wide left for 235-pound Steven Jackson. The only man in his way was Adams, all 181 pounds of him. Adams came up and stuck Jackson with a textbook tackle at the knees. One yard gain. It’s all about angles.
— Safety Adrian Wilson didn’t get his 20th sack, but he did get his 21st interception (Didn’t seem like Wilson was given many shots to rush the QB in St. Louis). That’ll have to be good enough for this week. Wonder if he can chase down the elusive Vince Young.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Bertrand Berry, Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Chris Miller, Jason Wright, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Michael Adams, Neil Rackers, Rams, Steve Breaston, Steven Jackson, Tim Hightower, Vince Young, Will Davis
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For those wondering if Early Doucet has surpassed Jerheme Urban on the depth chart, Urban is inactive today for the Rams’ game after not playing a snap last week. TE Stephen Spach is the choice to sit at that position (along with Dominique Byrd) as Anthony Becht stays in the lineup and Ben Patrick returns from injury.
The other inactives:
- QB Brian St. Pierre
- S Rashad Johnson
- LB Chike Okeafor (back)
- OL Herman Johnson
- OL Brandon Keith
Tags: Anthony Becht, Ben Patrick, Brandon Keith, Brian St. Pierre, Chike Okeafor, Dominique Byrd, Early Doucet, Herman Johnson, inactives, Jerheme Urban, Rashad Johnson, Stephen Spach
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Linebacker Chike Okeafor (back) missed practice again today and coach Ken Whisenhunt said Okeafor will not play Sunday in St. Louis — moreso because he has been unable to practice, and not because he is hurting so much. The rest of the men on the injury list got in at least some work today and, as I previously mentioned, I expect all of them to be available Sunday. T Mike Gandy (pelvis) did practice fully for the first time this week.
Tags: Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy
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The Cardinals only had one player sit out today’s practice — LB Chike Okeafor (back) — and the majority of the long list on the injury report were back to practicing full Thursday. The only players limited were CB Michael Adams (hamstring), CB Bryant McFadden (ankle), WR Steve Breaston (knee), LB Karlos Dansby (shoulder) and T Mike Gandy (pelvis). Like I mentioned yesterday, I expect most players to be ready Sunday — in fact, my early guess will be that only Okeafor will be unavailable.
Tags: Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Karlos Dansby, Michael Adams, Mike Gandy, Steve Breaston
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Linebacker Gerald Hayes (back) returned to the practice field today on a limited basis, as the Cards had a laundry list of guys sitting at least part of the time. LB Chike Okeafor (back), CB Bryant McFadden (ankle) and CB Michael Adams (hamstring) all sat out, while G Deuce Lutui did not practice for a non-injury reason. Besides Hayes, a ton of guys were limited: LB Karlos Dansby (shoulder), S Adrian Wilson (groin), T Mike Gandy (pelvis), WR Sean Morey (concussion), DE Kenny Iwebema (knee), TE Ben Patrick (knee) and WR Steve Breaston (knee).
I am guessing this is a “this time of year” day. By the end of the week, my thoughts would be most will be OK enough to play in St. Louis.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Ben Patrick, Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Deuce Lutui, Gerald Hayes, Karlos Dansby, Kenny Iwebema, Michel Adams, Mike Gandy, Sean Morey, Steve Breaston
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For anyone wondering, the roof will remain closed today, which really isn’t a huge surprise. The crowd noise is that much more intense when it is closed. The Cardinals have also busted out their all red uniforms for today.
As for the inactives, injuries have taken a bite out of the lineup. LBs Chike Okeafor and Geraldn Hayes (both with back problems) will sit, as will the concussed special teamer Sean Morey. So to will TE Ben Patrick (knee), meaning Stephen Spach will be back in the lineup. Special teams, with Morey out and Ali Highsmith starting on defense for Hayes, will be something to watch.
The other inactives:
- QB Brian St. Pierre
- OL Brandon Keith
- OL Herman Johnson
- TE Dominique Byrd
Tags: Ben Patrick, Brandon Keith, Brian St. Pierre, Chike Okeafor, Dominique Byrd, Gerald Hayes, Herman Johns, roof, Sean Morey, Stephen Spach
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It’s been a long week, but here we are to the end, with the second half of the season about to begin. It’s been an odd first half too – the Cardinals are 5-3, and yet, there isn’t that joy you’d think would come with such a record or first-place standing.
“Last year we were excited to be 5-3 and this year we are disappointed to be 5-3,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “because we have had opportunities to be better than we are.”
That’s true, although the players who were around for the more difficult (*cough*DennyGreen*cough*) years aren’t about to complain. “I was hoping we’d get to this point eventually,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, with safety Matt Ware adding “I’d rather have it be this way than the other way.”
Me too. No denying that. Can’t imagine being the writer for stlouisrams.com right now (Hang in there, Nick).
Anyway, the Seahawks are coming in, the Cards are trying to right their issues at home (more on that in a story I’ll post tomorrow) and it’s time to take control of the NFC West.
— I expect a lot of passes Sunday. From the Seahawks because they can’t run the ball – I read one story from Seattle that pointed out their yards-per-rush is the team’s worst since 1984, when their top back was an on-his-last-legs Franco Harris after the other Curt Warner blew out his knee. Matt Hasselbeck threw it 51 times last week. Not that you wish ill will, but since Hasselbeck is already hurting with his old ribs injury and now a sore arm, I will not be shocked with a Seneca Wallace sighting at some point.
— The Cards will run for sure, after 182 rushing yards a week ago. But Larry Fitzgerald seems like he has raised his level of late and I think it’s safe to say (a healthy) Anquan Boldin is, uh, motivated to have a big game.
— Will the roof be open? Whisenhunt called it a game-day decision. The temperature works. The Cards, with the noise trapped inside, always had a lot of success with the roof closed. But I guess, given the road success this season (and the home defeats) you could argue trying the other way. We’ll see.
— With Mike Gandy iffy with his pelvic injury and veteran Jeremy Bridges slated to fill in if needed, I’ve had a lot of fans ask me what the deal is with Herman Johnson and Brandon Keith. Simple – neither is ready on the level of Bridges. Yet. Gandy is going to be a free agent at the end of the season and we could be (probably are?) looking at an Antonio Smith-Calais Campbell thing going on. Whisenhunt said Johnson remains raw and, don’t forget, he played guard in college and the Cards want to use him at tackle. Keith is further along, although he’s been working at guard and Whisenhunt said the Cards envision him as a tackle.
— For all the gnashing of teeth regarding the offense’s perceived ups and downs, Kurt Warner is on pace for 32 touchdown passes – which would eclipse the franchise record of 30, set by Warner last season.
— Safety Antrel Rolle, during a part of practice Friday when he wasn’t needed, took a ball and stood on the south goal line and threw a bomb toward teammate Karlos Dansby – and it landed on the other 25-yard line. There’s no question Rolle has got an arm.
— Fitz, talking about whether Beanie Wells will get that “big” breakout game: “They are splitting carries. If you were to give the ball to Beanie 30 times or Tim (Hightower) 30 times, they would have 100-yard games. But when you are just getting 12 carries, 15 carries and trying to keep guys healthy and keep balance, sometimes it is going to be difficult to have those really big games.”
— It looks like the Cards will be without linebackers Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor, both of whom are battling back problems. They showed, with Ali Highsmith, they can get away with not having Hayes like last week. But it will hurt to not have Okeafor as a pass rush option; as I said, I think the Seahawks will throw a lot and the Cards could use a rotation of fresh rushers.
Or maybe Rolle, Adrian Wilson, Bryant McFadden and DRC can just make sure no one catches the ball.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Brandon Keith, Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, DRC, Gerald Hayes, Herman Johnson, Jeremy Bridges, Karlos Dansby, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Ware, Mike Gandy, roof, Seneca Wallace, Tim Hightower
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So many tibdits after practice today, starting with the fact the NFL has fined Bears DT Tommie Harris $7,500 for his punch of Cards G Deuce Lutui. I thought it might be more, to be honest. Bears QB Jay Cutler got dinged with a $20,000 for abusive conduct toward an official in the Cards’ game.
T Mike Gandy (pelvis) returned to practice on a limited basis today and I am guessing he finds his way into the lineup Sunday, although he is officially questionable. The Cards may be short at linebacker though, since LBs Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor — both of whom have back issues — sat for a third straight day and are listed as doubtful. Ali Highsmith would start for Hayes, and we’ll see if it is Will Davis or Bertrand Berry in Okeafor’s place. Special-teamer Sean Morey (concussion) was limited. He has yet to be cleared for contact, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said Morey should be by tomorrow and be a game-day decision. He, Gandy, DE Kenny Iwebema (knee) and tight end Ben Patrick (knee) are questionable.
Finally, it turns out that on the heels of Kurt Warner winning NFC offensive player of the week award, voters also saw fit to give Warner the FedEx Air player of the week award after his five TD passes this past week.
I know people want to know about the blackout, but that announcement is an hour or two off. I still think the sellout happens.
Tags: Chike Okeafor, Gerald Hayes, Kurt Warner, Mike Gandy, Sean Morey, Tommie Harris
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Anquan Boldin talked today for the first time since Sunday, and not surprisingly, he didn’t back down on his comments but he wasn’t going to revisit them either.
“For me it’s not even an issue,” Boldin said. “That was Sunday and I have moved on.”
Boldin was back at practice doing just about everything, however, so he should be in good shape for Seattle. There were some other guys banged up though. T Mike Gandy has a sore midsection, and LBs Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor are nursing sore backs. But that’s not too shocking given that the Cards are eight games into the season and have played five weeks in a row. Guys get beat up. The Friday injury report is always much more important.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Chike Okeafor, Gerald Hayes, Mike Gandy
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Nothing hugely noteworthy at practice today, other than the fact WR Steve Breaston (knee) and LB Chike Okeafor (shoulder) each returned to limited work. LB Will Davis (knee) and CB Bryant McFadden (groin) were each added to the already-large injury list, but both practiced fully. Every thing else on the list stayed the same.
Tags: Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Steve Breaston, Will Davis
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