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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It’s gonna be quiet

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2009 – 11:01 am

Below is a shot of the stands 10 minutes before kickoff. There are lots and lots of empty seats and it’s totally quiet. The crowd will not be a factor today.


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Sellout, no blackout for Colts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 24, 2009 – 5:00 pm

The Cardinals announced the game Sunday night against the Colts is officially a sellout, meaning the “Sunday Night Football” telecast won’t be blacked out locally. There are still a few premium tickets floating around to be purchased, but all others are sold out. The game, of course, will be on NBC, which is Ch. 12 in the Valley.

The Cards are counting on a loud crowd for help. As Darnell Dockett said on his Twitter page today: “Big game in the desert sunday night-if ur coming to the game to sit and eat pop corn & refuse to get loud & wild PLEASE GIVE UR TICKETS AWAY”


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