Friday before the Buccaneers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2016 – 4:06 pm

Practice over for the week and the players going off to leave for the day, Bruce Arians said during his Friday media meeting he hoped the Cardinals would do a better job of mental preparation between then and kickoff Sunday against the Buccaneers. Asked what he could do in that regard, Arians didn’t hesitate.

“That’s their job, not mine,” he said. “I’ve already prepared them. That’s their homework.”

A little while later, linebacker Kevin Minter chuckled when that message was relayed. “He told you exactly what he told us,” Minter said. “Almost verbatim.”

“He has a point though,” Minter said. The linebacker said the practices last week — like this week — were excellent. Something got lost before kickoff in Week 1. Maybe it had to do with the emotions of the moment, with a Sunday night game, and the Patriots, and 9/11, and the season starting. “Not making excuses, but we had to calm it back down,” Minter said.

Did they?

“You get hit in the mouth like that, you better calm down,” Minter said.

Guess we’ll find out Sunday.

— So much is on the defense this week. They know they didn’t play as the should’ve last week (I’ve got the “10-for-16” burned in my brain at this point.) They face a much more dangerous passing offense in terms of explosion. They still have to find a way to go with work-in-progress Brandon Williams at cornerback. Can’t let Doug Martin get outside, but I think the Cards can handle the run game. Can they slow down Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson down the field? A couple of those TDs last week in Atlanta weren’t about bad coverage — it was Jameis Winston throwing to a tall receiver and that receiver making an incredible catch.

— The GMs in this game, Steve Keim and Jason Licht, are close friends. Wonder if there has been any trash-talking this week.

— It’ll probably be a week or two before new cornerback Tharold Simon is active for a game, but Arians said Marcus Cooper, the corner acquired in a trade a couple weeks ago, will “get action” this week. I assume that means on defense. Cooper played five special teams snaps against New England.

— The last time the Cardinals played the Bucs, it was in Tampa in 2013, the back end of a week away from Arizona. The Cardinals pulled out a late win against an inferior team because Patrick Peterson made two interceptions in the last four minutes of the game. (Why rookie QB Mike Glennon, in his first start, was throwing at that point no one knows.)

Peterson said he had forgotten about the circumstances until assistant athletic trainer Chad Cook brought it up. “Didn’t know that was in the last four minutes of the game,” Peterson said. “So that was pretty clutch.”

— Larry Fitzgerald now has 100 career touchdowns after his last one against the Pats. Fitz was asked where that TD ranks for him.

“Ranks 97 behind Jerry Rice,” Fitzgerald said. “So that puts it in perspective for me to keep working.”

As good as Fitz is, I don’t think he’s catching Rice.

— I think John Brown will be better this week than last. Not sure if he just needed a game to get the rust off, but I think you’ll see some Smoke this time. And I think the Cardinals need him.

— Peterson said the Cardinals will “definitely” bounce back after last week. “I’m not guaranteeing a win, but there is a different energy,” Peterson said. “I can feel the sense of urgency. … Good teams don’t lose twice (in a row).”

Bring on the Bucs.


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Buccaneers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 29, 2013 – 6:33 pm

Bruce Arians used the hot read on his first postgame comment Sunday.

“I wouldn’t have any other ending at Raymond James Stadium,” he said. “I’m kind of used to that.”

Of course, Arians was referencing both Sunday’s 13-10 come-from-behind win for the Cards over the Bucs and the Super Bowl he won with the Steelers back in early 2009, and yes, that picked at the scab of the Cards’ fans that remembered that painful ending all too well. Then again, it was nice for the Cards to avoid another painful trip to Tampa Bay. And goodness knows it certainly looked like it was going to be just that.

For a while it echoed the Cards’ last regular-season trip here, a seven-point loss in which the offense could do nothing. The Cards saw exactly what they expected this time out of rookie Mike Glennon. He completed some passes on them but for the most part, the Bucs’ offense did little. Not that they needed to.

But finally, the offense came around. Sure, Patrick Peterson had to play the set-up man – what in the world were the Bucs thinking letting a struggling rookie throw that deep in his own territory when the Cards had been doing next to nothing offensively? – and it’s always nice when your stars shine. Peterson two picks? Check. Fitz clutch TD? Check.

There will be frustration and concern, all rightfully so. Yet there is a world of difference between 1-3 and 2-2, and the Cards made sure they didn’t mess it up. Most, if presented with the possibility of 2-2 after four games – three being on the road – would take it. The Cards will.

— Peterson said the game changed as field position began to change in the second half. The offense didn’t score but at least it was getting yards. Meanwhile, the Bucs stopped moving as the Cards honed in on rookie QB Mike Glennon.

“(Being a rookie) definitely played into the thought process,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “They threw a little more early than I thought they would. He is a young quarterback and he made some young mistakes.”

— That included that game-turning pass thrown to Peterson. Glennon said he made the right read but just a bad throw. Peterson said he knew exactly what the route was and jumped the pass. Regardless, it changed the game.

— And yes, Peterson admitted that as a rookie, or even last year, he probably would have tried for a longer return on his final pick. But he got down because he just wanted to end the thing and get the Cards on their flight back to Arizona. A wise man.

— It was good to see Fitz get involved. Cause/effect? Sure seemed that way.

— The Cardinals will officially get Daryl Washington back. I’m pretty sure it’s as early as tomorrow. Peterson talked about how much more aggressive the Cardinals will be able to get with him in the lineup. I really think he will have a huge impact on the defense.

— The last time the Cards came back to win a road game where they trailed by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter? It was in Philadelphia, Sept. 12, 1999. The Cards were down 12 before coming back to win, 25-24. That’s the year before I started covering the team. The last time they won in regulation down at least 10 in the fourth quarter? That was 2003, with the infamous McCown-to-Poole Hail Mary pass to beat the Vikings, 18-17. That was 17-6 in the fourth.

— Rookie wideout Jaron Brown hadn’t looked sharp in his few chances this season, but he showed a lot by making that 19-yard sideline catch while being blasted by Bucs safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson was flagged (and could be suspended) and the Cards got the easy field goal attempt.

— Tyrann Mathieu got a couple of punt return attempts, but the Bucs kicked it away from him like they did Peterson. The first Mathieu return came after Peterson’s right arm went numb briefly, and he didn’t want to take a chance at fumbling a punt out there.

— The defensive linemen were huddled around after the game wanting to know how many yards the Bucs rushed for, and were disappointed when they heard 80 (on 31 carries). Of course, that was skewed by Goldson’s 22-yard fake punt. Doug Martin gained just 45 yards on 27 carries – 1.7 yards a tote – and that’s a good day’s work for the D.

— By the way, confirmed by Elias, there has only been eight times when a player had 25 or more carries and gained 45 or less yards since 1935. Only the second time it’s happened in a team’s loss. So again, a good day’s work for the D. Martin was a key Sunday.

— Arians wasn’t sounding overly concerned about Carson Palmer’s play. He did say he thought getting sacked on the first play didn’t help Palmer’s confidence. But “it’s not just him,” Arians said. “It’s 11 guys on offense. We have about eight of them playing in the first quarter the last two games.”

— I did think the pass protection was generally better in the game after a rough start. Palmer was sacked on that first play and then wasn’t sacked again.

— In their two wins, the Cards are a combined 2-for-21 on third-down conversions. Mind-boggling.

That’s enough from 35,000 feet. It’s been a long week.

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Friday before the Buccaneers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 27, 2013 – 2:27 pm

The Cardinals have played the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay just once in the past 16 years, a forgettable 2007 17-10 loss in which, among other things, the Cards began to start leaving for East Coast trips on Fridays (after looking sluggish following a Saturday arrival in Tampa) and Larry Fitzgerald inexplicably stepped out of bounds on a long catch-and-run that seemed like it should have gone for a touchdown.

That, of course, doesn’t even include the last time the Cards played in Raymond James Stadium, which didn’t include the Buccaneers but did include Bruce Arians on the other sideline.

“I don’t have any good memories from this stadium at all,” Fitzgerald said.

The Cardinals desperately need to change that up this time around. It couldn’t be lined up any better. The team stayed in Florida for the week, to prep for the early start/humidity/weather. The Buccaneers decided to start a rookie quarterback – a third-round pick, no less – and will probably inactivate the only QB on the roster who has ever had any success in the NFL (and who played well against the Cards in 2010 in Arizona.) Fitzgerald is back healthy. The Bucs are 0-3 in the first place.

There seems like a giant chasm between a 2-2 record and a 1-3 record.

— Fitzgerald was talking – again, like he has the past couple of years – about what the problems were of the offense. Fitz obliged the best he could, and then was asked if he ever tired of saying the same things. Fitz smiled.

“I can give you clichés all day,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got them in my back pocket. I’m not going to give you any bulletin board material. I’m going to keep it classy.”

— Some of the issues aren’t new. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin reiterated the need to protect Carson Palmer better, and if that happens, the offense flow from there. Once again, Goodwin was asked about extra blocking help on the edge, especially for left tackle Levi Brown.

“There’s only so many things you can do in a game based on what we do,” Goodwin said. “We are going to go empty. We are going to do play-action pass. Obviously he’s got to get the job done. Otherwise I’ll be in there.”

— The reality is that most teams have protection issues these days. Look around the league. That doesn’t excuse problems Brown or anyone else have, but few teams are satisfied. It can change week to week too. As for sacks, the goal is “get the number down,” Goodwin said. “You are going to give up sacks, it’s the nature of the beast. We just have to do a better job getting in front of those guys, try and slow them down.”

— If the equation is a) the Bucs’ top two receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson are questionable with injuries and b) the Bucs are starting rookie Mike Glennon at quarterback and c) the Bucs have a solid run game with Doug Martin in the backfield, well, that all should equal some obvious offensive tendencies. That run defense we saw through the first two-and-three-quarter games – before the Saints game went sideways – is what the Cards need in Tampa.

— Looking back at that 2007 game, the seven-point loss – the Bucs had the ball for more than 43 minutes. How is that even possible in a 17-10 game? I’m sure the Bucs want to possess the ball again like that. The best thing the Cards could do is have another opening drive like the one in New Orleans. With Glennon and not Drew Brees, the affect would be much greater.

— Martin, whose nickname in college was the “Muscle Hamster” – a nickname Martin clearly hated – played at Boise State. His tackle was current Cardinal Nate Potter, and at one point, there was a story going around that Potter gave him the nickname. Martin said that wasn’t the case.

“He actually didn’t call me the nickname, and that’s why I like him,” Martin said.

— How the Cards deal with the loss of their starting linebackers is going to be a major storyline. It isn’t as if Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho were dominant, but they were starters for a reason. And they clearly will be missed on special teams, which has been the one spot that’s been pretty consistent up until this point. What you have to wonder about is the coverage skills of the outside guys on the roster. Shaughnessy, Abraham and Moch are all pass rushers first.

— It’s been a crazy week with the finger issue of Rashad Johnson, all the way to the very real possibility he will play Sunday. That just is unreal to me.

— The team will bus from Sarasota to Tampa tomorrow afternoon. Two-game road trips in the NFL – true road trips, not road games on back-to-back weekends – are rare. We’ll see if the Cards can come up with a split.

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