By the time the Cardinals get to Seattle Saturday evening, it’ll be dark and probably rainy. By the time they play the Seahawks Sunday night, it’ll be dark and probably rainy. The crowd is going to be intense from the opening kick, and everyone knows the football world will be watching.
Bruce Arians knows his guys will be jacked up. He wants them jacked up. Except …
“Snotbubbles and tears don’t win s**t,” Arians said.
This is still about the execution. This is about being smart with the football and not turning it over. It’s about the Cardinals being able to run the ball with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. It’s about tackling Marshawn Lynch (sure, he’s questionable, but he’ll play) and containing Russell Wilson. I still think this game will be about the Cardinals scoring, because I believe the Cardinals’ defense can keep the Seahawks at bay.
The season won’t be decided Sunday but it’s impossible to get past the power of the swing it holds: The Cards lose, and they are just one game ahead of the Seahawks with seven to go and the Cards with a harder schedule. The Cards win, and the Seahawks are three games back, don’t have the tiebreaker and are under .500 – while the Cardinals get over the hurdle of winning against a “good” team (although the Cards still won’t have beat an above .500 team in that case.)
This one is going to be interesting, to say the least.
— If it is rainy as expected, I’m wondering what that will mean to a passing game that has been excellent. Will Arians dial it back a bit?
— I forgot that not only did the Cardinals not have Carson Palmer for their trip to Seattle last season, they didn’t have Larry Fitzgerald either. And now both aren’t only playing, but playing as well as they ever have.
— Lost in that win from 2013 was how stupendous the defense was that day. The Cardinals’ defense might have had – given the opponent and context – its finest day under Arians for sure. It ranked up there with the Jake Delhomme beat down in the 2008 playoffs. The Cardinals could sure use a similar showing.
— There is a concern about Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks’ other tight end, Luke Willson, has hurt the Cards before too. Something to remember.
Running backs coach Stump Mitchell, who can’t believe he remains the franchise’s second-leading rusher after all these years, said he wants Chris Johnson to win the NFL rushing title. Johnson is currently third behind Adrian Peterson and Devonta Freeman.
“To win, we have to have guys who have individual goals that are team-related,” Mitchell said. “Chris is too close to the top of the rushing title to not want to win it. And that’s his goal. I know it’s the offensive linemen’s goal. I’m not surprised. (CJ) loves the game, and we are running the runs he likes to run.”
— Lot of questions, since the Cardinals still have a Thursday night game left (at home against the Vikings Dec. 10), if the Cards will be a part of the uniform “Color Rush” happening on Thursdays. The answer is no, they are not part of that plan this season.
— Some good links if you missed them:
Also thought the Jimmy Fallon bit (to pub fellow NBC property “Sunday Night Football”) was funny. Lyle Sendlein said it was the second time Fallon had poked fun at him. “I guess it’s better (this time) than him calling me a Human Angry Bird – I think,” Sendlein said. (You can watch the video, but I’m not so sure about that).
— Arians said he expects linebacker Alex Okafor to get 30 to 35 snaps in his first game back from a calf injury. He also said he’s going to have a steady rotation at outside linebacker. How the playing time is divided between Okafor, Dwight Freeney, LaMarr Woodley and Markus Golden will be interesting.
— Also interesting will be who is made inactive with everybody healthy – assuming Sendlein (shoulder) and wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) are both good to go (which I will not be surprised if it happens.)
— I leave with this: This is being written and posted as the horrifying events in Paris, with shootings and explosions and hostages, are playing out. Honestly, it’s tough to get too deep into football knowing that such things are going on.
With that in mind, I just say this – the game Sunday is important in the context of this world I work within and we all follow. I know I’ll hear from many if the Cardinals lose, but I ask you to just remember – it is just a game. Please keep it in perspective.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Chris Johnson, Jake Delhomme, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Graham, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Patrick Peterson, Seahawks, Stump Mitchell
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Our own Jim Omohundro will be putting together a series of web videos starting today that highlight the Cards’ 2011 schedule by looking back at a few of the highlights from games against that team in recent years past. For instance, Jim’s first piece is about the Cards and Panthers, who will visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sept. 11 to open the 2011 season (and yes, I am staying optimistic it happens). On the video are looking at three Panthers’ games of the past — wins in Carolina in 2001 and 2002 (Jake Plummer! Pat Tillman! Freddie Jones!) along with the game no one will forget, the playoff road trip against Carolina after the 2008 season. That game, of course, brings up one of the best quotes ever — Panthers coach John Fox about QB Jake Delhomme, after the Cards forced Delhomme into six turnovers. “He picked a bad day to have a bad day.”
Tags: Freddie Jones, Jake Delhomme, Jake Plummer, John Fox, Panthers, Pat Tillman, schedule
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Well, I suppose I’m not sure exactly what to say in this edition of the Aftermath. I’ll admit I’m stunned after today. I’d never discount a chance at winning or losing but to have it go down the way it did, no, I wouldn’t have guessed that. Then again, I suppose there could have been many who cover the Panthers writing the same thing after the Cards whipped the Panthers last January.
In the end, Sunday boiled down to three main points: The inability to slow the Carolina run game, the turnovers and this odd part of this team’s DNA that seems to keep it on a roller coaster.
— There were a couple things that killed about the Carolina running game, beyond the 270 yards the Panthers got. One, the Cardinals knew it was coming and how could you not? With all the problems Jake Delhomme had had coming in, you had to know the Panthers would do anything possible to not allow Delhomme to self-inflict wounds. He completed only 7-of-14 passes for a mere 90 yards.
As much as the running game hurt, though, think of this: The Cards probably could have survived it. How? Well, one touchdown for Carolina came on that 50-yard freeze-and-go pass to Steve Smith, when the Panthers used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s gambling nature against him. DRC has to learn that, when on an island like that play, he has to be conservative. Then the Panthers got another touchdown on the next play when Kurt Warner threw the interception (on what really was an amazingly athletic play by Julius Peppers to overcome the cut block and make the pick for six). Without those scores, which had nothing to do with the run game, the Cardinals gave up 20.
That’s not apologizing for anything, or even saying a team can afford to give up that many rushing yards. But …
— That’s where six turnovers can’t be overcome. Warner has had bad games before, and there were a couple of tipped balls Sunday. But he equaled his career-high for picks (five, which he also threw in Seattle in 2007) and the passing game – especially with the receivers – just felt out of sync, even early, before the turnovers started. Can that change in Chicago next week? Hopefully the Windy City will be anything but.
— The ankle injury to Anquan Boldin already is a concern, but maybe it’s moreso now. Boldin is the warrior coach Ken Whisenhunt says he is, but depending how limited he could end up being on this new tweak, maybe the Cards decide to rest Q a week and let a healthy Early Doucet have a shot.
— Then again, if teams keep playing these back-off-and-give-up-underneath coverage, the receivers may not matter as much. Running back Tim Hightower had another eight catches Sunday and it’s become clear that defenses will do whatever they can not to get beat deep by anyone – and by Larry Fitzgerald in particular.
That’s enough for tonight. The silver lining now? You figure the Cards will almost certainly be the road underdog in Chicago next week, a role in which they play very well.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, DRC, Early Doucet, Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers
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Funny how the week seems to fly by when the team is playing well and the storylines are basically positive. And there’s no plane to climb aboard this week. OK, maybe it’s not funny. Just pleasant.
But enough chit-chat. I have a ton of stuff I haven’t been able to notebook/blog until now. So let’s get to it:
— The last time the Panthers came to Arizona, it was quite the result, if you don’t remember. It was 2007, and Matt Leinart had just broken his collarbone the week before. The Cards wanted to sign Vinny Testaverde to back up Kurt Warner, but the Panthers, looking for a replacement for the injured Jake Delhomme, convinced Testaverde to go there instead – and he started despite being in Carolina all of three practices. The Cards signed Tim Rattay, and when Warner badly hurt his left elbow (pictured) on a Julius Peppers’ sack early in the game, Rattay – who also only had three practices – was forced to play. Eventually, Carolina pulled away late in a 25-10 win, a game the Cards always regretted after finishing 8-8.
— To think, Warner began his current 37-game starting streak that day and kept it up the very next week even though his elbow was scrambled and he had to play with a brace. That told me and a lot of people about Warner’s toughness (And no, before you all send e-mails or comments that I’m jinxing Warner, no I’m not. That’s simply a silly thought).
— Speaking of Warner, keeping him clean is the key, right? If he’s sacked two times or less, the Cards are 4-0 this season. More than twice, 0-2. For his career, those numbers are similar: 46-22 when sacked twice or less, 15-24 when sacked at least three times. His passing stats are also much better in the former than the latter. Yes, I know it’s kind of a “duh” stat. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pointed out.
— Whisenhunt has been leaning toward taking the ball if the Cards win the toss this season rather than deferring. “How many times have we scored on the opening drive?” Whisenhunt said. “We would have had (Sunday) night too.” I agree. If Tim Hightower hadn’t fumbled in New York, I have no doubt the Cards would have gotten at least three points there.
— The last time the Cardinals (4-2 going into the Panthers’ game) started 5-2 in a season was 1976, when they were actually 5-1. They eventually ran their record to 8-2 before finishing the 14-game season with a 10-4 mark.
— One man who doesn’t get mentioned much is backup safety/special teamer Matt Ware, who was in a serious fight in training camp with two others – Aaron Francisco and Keith Lewis – for one roster spot. Whisenhunt specifically talked about him today, noting it was Ware who caused the fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw in the Giants’ game. “The arrow is going up with him,” Whisenhunt said.
— No, the Cardinals aren’t going to wear white-on-white this weekend, because they didn’t request it in the offseason (the last home game was planned because of the pink for breast cancer awareness). Had Whisenhunt been given a choice, knowing the Cards are 4-0 this season wearing white jerseys and knowing how superstitious he is, would he have? Heck yeah. “You know I’m aware of it, that’s for sure,” Whisenhunt said.
— A couple fans have asked me about dropped passes and the Cards. The bottom line, there haven’t been many, not officially. The Cardinals have been charged with only 10 dropped passes out of 175 catchable balls, and their 5.7 percentage is sixth-best in the NFL (The Bears, at 3.5 percent, are first; the Browns, at 17.3 percent drops, are last). Fullback Dan Kreider has two of the drops; running back Tim Hightower three. Fitz has been charged with one drop in 63 passes targeted his way. Anquan Boldin has two in 51 targets, Steve Breaston none in 32 and Jerheme Urban none in 23.
— I do say, in light of the fines announced today by the NFL, I did enjoy Darnell Dockett’s response to the Ahmad Bradshaw fine for hitting Dockett.
— The Cards could make an impact with a sudden score, given that the Panthers have had trouble in that area. Carolina, in six games, has given up five such touchdowns – one kickoff return, one punt return, one fumble return and two interception returns.
— I think Fitz could be due for a big game. Sure, the Panthers lead the league in pass defense, but they are dead last in the NFL in pass attempts against. That tends to help your yardage average. Teams run the ball against Carolina (Beanie?) and don’t need to pass as much. The Cards, with Hightower and Edgerrin James, had 145 yards rushing in the playoff game in Carolina. And something tells me that’s going to free Fitz deep.
— Speaking of Fitz, if you haven’t caught it already, Fox Sports Arizona is airing one more time his story on an episode of VIZIO’s Pro Football PROfiles tonight at 11 p.m.
— Finally, it’ll be interesting to see what the Panthers do to free up Steve Smith, who’s been a non-factor. The Pro Bowl receiver used to always torch the Cards, all the way up until the playoff game. “He’s got that big-guy mentality,” Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “He doesn’t fear anything.”
That’s probably true. But the Cards’ defense is playing so well right now. They handled Smith in the playoffs. Their run defense is prepared for DeAngelo Williams. Here’s hoping for another quick week around the Tempe office come Monday morning.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Dan Kreider, Darnell Dockett, DRC, Giants, Jake Delhomme, Jerheme Urban, Julius Peppers, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Matt Ware, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Tim Rattay, Vinny Testaverde
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Panthers coach John Fox just said on the conference call with Arizona reporters that struggling veteran Jake Delhomme — the man who had six turnovers against the Cards in the playoffs last year — will start at quarterback for Carolina Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. It’s not really a surprise, not when Matt Moore is the backup. But it certainly will bring up some ugly storylines for both Delhomme and the Panthers, given that playoff day.
Tags: Jake Delhomme, Panthers
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