Once upon a time, before the Cardinals ran their home playoff record all-time to 4-0 with a thrilling 51-45 overtime win over the Packers, before Kurt Warner had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four), before Karlos Dansby’s fumble return brought Mike McCarthy to his knees, there was a baby on the way.
No, not my kid. (My boys were watching at University of Phoenix Stadium that day, in fact.) But I have a good friend who has covered the Packers for a long time. And he had a daughter due to be born about a week after that Packers-Cardinals tilt. A Green Bay win, and there was going to be some serious juggling to do in his life.
Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams unknowingly had my buddy’s back though, and Money Mike’s strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers, leading to Dansby’s return touchdown allowed no complications with job and family.
A few weeks later, I sent my friend a surprise gift. It was a picture – the one you see below – signed by Adams, addressed to baby Madison:
Madison – I’m glad I could make sure your Dad was there for you. Michael Adams
This is one of the first things I think of when I think of Cardinals-Packers in the playoffs – in addition to Warner, and Money Mike and Dansby and Early Doucet’s helmet flying off and Fitz’s diving touchdown and Rodgers being thisclose to hitting a wide-open Greg Jennings in overtime for what would have been a game-winning TD and made my friend’s life that much harder.
This game Saturday night, will it be as memorable? If it puts the Cardinals in the NFC Championship, I’m going to say yes.
— I think the Cardinals can survive the loss of Alex Okafor. Not sure yet how they make it happen – I will be curious to see if they use DT Josh Mauro on the edge in run-down situations – but I think they’ll be OK. They managed fine in run defense in the games Okafor missed (Steelers, Ravens, Browns) and against the pass, they should be good with Dwight Freeney and Markus Golden.
— Saw this nugget from another Packer writer friend of mine, Wes Hodkiewicz: The Packers are 10-0 this year when hitting the QB at least five times. On the flip side, you have the Cardinals offensive line, which has allowed only 27 sacks this season – tied for fourth-fewest in the NFL.
“Knock on wood,” offensive coordinator/line coach Harold Goodwin said, chiding the reporter for bringing it up. “You can’t do that to me.
“We’ve done a decent job all year of protection. I don’t know where we’re ranked or finished, as far as how many. I really don’t pay attention to that. We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got 11 guys on the same page, which is the biggest thing when it comes down to protection, and win the one-on-one battles up front.”
Goodwin said the Cards lost two such battles early in the last Packers meeting. They know – as they have known all season – protecting Carson Palmer is crucial.
— That said, Palmer has been so fantastic this season with his footwork and moving in the pocket. He’s not Rodgers or Russell Wilson, but he’s better than Palmer 2013 or 2014 in that regard.
— Goodwin on getting Larry Fitzgerald to block so well: “It comes with a lot of choice words, is what you say to him to get him to block. ‘If you want the ball, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, you’ve got to block some.’ ”
Goody smiled as he said it. There is little question Fitz has become arguably the best blocking wide receiver in the game. Oh, and he had 109 catches too.
— Hall of Fame cornerback Roger Wehrli will man the Big Red Siren Saturday pre-game.
— GM Steve Keim and team president Michael Bidwill will speak at a pre-game pep rally on the Great Lawn at 4:15 p.m. Saturday. And don’t forget Flo Rida is singing at halftime.
— This feels like a David Johnson game to me.
— Bruce Arians said the 13-3 season has been “fun.” But (and there is always a but) “it doesn’t mean crap if we don’t win it.”
— Which leads me to this: There has been a lot of talk about pressure this week, and undoubtedly, the Cardinals understand that after a 13-3 season, winning at least one playoff game is expected. But as the talk veers into the favorite and the underdog and that pressure I mentioned, it’s better to be the better team. Just in my history covering this team, I’ve seen losing streaks and the Monday Night Meltdown and fumbles in field-goal range and horrific blowout losses. I’ve seen “the worst playoff team in NFL history” – yes, that was a hell of a ride – and injuries overwhelm a playoff team in New Orleans and trying to win a postseason game with a third-string quarterback.
This is the first time the Cardinals were considered better, the first time they’ve earned “better.” And it’s the position where you want to be, pressure or not.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Harold Goodwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Michael Bidwill, Packers, playoffs, Roger Wehrli, Steve Keim
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The last time the Packers visited University of Phoenix Stadium, it ended up being the end of an era. It was a fantastic game, with Kurt Warner finishing with more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four) in what he knew at the time was his final game at home. And, of course, there was the stunning overtime ending, when reserve defensive back Michael Adams came in on a blitz to strip-sack (with the help of a missed facemask/hands to the face call) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, with linebacker Karlos Dansby returning it for the touchdown.
“Yeah, I think there might have been something like that,” Rodgers said this week.
The return visit Sunday for the Packers is not a playoff game. Both teams will be in the playoffs regardless of the loser. But it means so much for both sides. For the Cardinals, wrapping up a bye – with an injury list that has grown the last couple of weeks – would be nice.
The players know this. The talk in the locker room has been all about clinching that bye. The focus after clinching the division hasn’t waned, not outwardly (something that didn’t seem to be the case back in 2008 when the Cards clinched.)
— Arians had a big smile Friday afternoon. The Cardinals held practice much later than a normal Friday, in order to allow for Christmas morning home with the family. Arians also allowed for families to attend practice, making for a relatively sizable group watching.
“Largest crowd ever today,” Arians said with a grin.
— Quarterback Carson Palmer was limited all week because of the finger that got dinged in Philly, but he’s fine. Arians said he looked very good in practice Thursday and Friday.
— Palmer, by the way, turns 36 on Sunday. Wouldn’t be a bad birthday present to himself to get a win.
— If the Cards win and sew up a bye – and the Panthers win, which would seal the No. 2 seed – the finale against the Seahawks will mean nothing. So might Arians rest players? “Hopefully, we can have that conversation,” he said.
But Arians did chuckle at the idea of “resting starters,” noting the Cardinals can only dress 46 players total and injuries can play a factor on who is available. “We’re talking maybe three to five possible guys (to rest),” Arians said.
— With two games left, the Cardinals have already surpassed their rushing yards total by more than 400 yards this season. The Cards, sixth in the NFL in rushing, have gained 1,769 yards on the ground. And now Andre Ellington should be back to supplement David Johnson.
— The Cardinals have 52 touchdowns this season and only 51 punts. That’s a crazy stat. The franchise record for TDs in a season is 53, set in 1948. That should be broken Sunday.
— Hope everyone had a good Christmas. On to Sunday – which just happens to be the Cardinals’ first afternoon home game since they lost to the Rams way back on Oct. 4. Lots of road games and primetime games since then.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Karlos Dansby, Michael Adams, Packers, Seahawks
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The draft is over. Rosters for most teams have ballooned to the max of 90 or near it (the Cardinals, right now, have 88 on the roster.) And yet there are still a ton of veteran players out there without jobs that you wouldn’t think would be without jobs.
Some players you can understand why it might be happening. Both Michael Adams and Paris Lenon played significant time last season for the Cards, but both were free agents and their time had run its course in Arizona. Adams was always a Ken Whisenhunt favorite — with both Whiz and former special teams coach Kevin Spencer in San Diego, I expected Adams to end up with the Chargers, but it hasn’t happened yet — but his size isn’t great for a cornerback. Lenon played well but at his age, teams are looking to go younger and cheaper.
Of the players cut, Kerry Rhodes still hasn’t been picked up, nor Early Doucet or Beanie Wells. It’s not surprising with Beanie, unfortunately. His knees aren’t in good shape and he’s going to have to pass a physical for someone. But I thought Doucet would have a spot by now and Rhodes too. The Cards wanted Rhodes to take a pay cut, yes, but they wanted to find a way to extend his contract too and apparently he passed. So now what?
Those aren’t the only “names” on the market. Profootballtalk.com actually has compiled an “All-Unemployed team” of players still looking for jobs, and it’s a pretty impressive list. (The Cardinals have been linked to defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, by the way, and they still need to sign a couple of players.) Some of these veterans are looking for money they probably aren’t going to get. Former front-office guy/agent Andrew Brandt pointed out this morning some vets may not be in a hurry to sign because the same minimal offers out there now will be there closer to camp (and then the vet doesn’t have to show up and work in the offseason.) That may be true. For some, you have to consider the risk/reward. Even if Lenon, for instance, was paid minimum, is that worth it at age 36 for the pounding his body takes?
Tags: Beanie Wells, Early Doucet, free agency, Kerry Rhodes, Michael Adams, Paris Lenon, Sedrick Ellis
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I always love when the Cardinals play the Packers because their game notes – fitting a team that’s been around for so long and is steeped in tradition – carry the name “The Dope Sheet,” a phrase directly out of the 1920s. The Packs’ explanation:
Two years after he co-founded the Packers with Curly Lambeau, George Calhoun began writing a piece called The Dope Sheet, which served as the official press release and game program from 1921-24.
Need any Packers’ info? Check The Dope Sheet. This week it has a lot of information about quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is arguably the best in the NFL right now. I think he’d have my vote. If he had a healthy receiving corps this would be a monster task for the Cardinals Sunday. He doesn’t, and that does leave some room for a Cardinals’ team that needs a win. The bye comes after this week for coach Ken Whisenhunt’s crew, and while it would have been great to have it exactly at the halfway point in the schedule, if the Cards can steal one at Lambeau Field before getting some down time, that wouldn’t be too bad.
Here’s some more of my own Cardinals’ dope:
— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton spoke Friday, and a few questions in – and indirectly, since the question that spurred his answer was about clamping down in the red zone – he got to the heart of what he considered the matter.
“I’m surprised the first question wasn’t ‘What happened against San Francisco?’ Tackling,” Horton said. “They threw a number of balls that were short of the first-down marker and we missed tackles and they scored. That’s it. There’s nothing wrong schematically. We have to make the play in front of us. All (of Alex Smith’s) yardage was missed tackles. We had guys in position to make tackles and we didn’t.”
Certainly that’s something that can’t happen against the Packers, although Rodgers and Green Bay tend to throw the ball further down the field in the first place.
— Horton did say the Cards, as much as they could in an NFL world where practice contact is relatively limited, worked on tackling this week.
“An old sage, (Steelers DC) Dick LeBeau, said (tackling) is just want-to,” Horton said. “Guys on this level understand technique and what they are supposed to do. Sometimes it’s ‘I’m going to get this guy on the ground and nobody else.’ Losing four games is disappointing but I was disappointed how we performed tackling San Francisco 49ers.”
— Running back Beanie Wells is supposed to be able to start practicing next week, although because of the bye week, I’d guess he’d start slow. The Cardinals will be limited as it is, with practices scheduled only for Tuesday and Wednesday before getting a few days off. That doesn’t surprise me, given how beat up the roster is. This is a later bye than the Cards have had recently. A break will do some good.
— Daryn Colledge said Packers’ DC Dom Capers will be “out for blood,” which doesn’t sound good when it comes to holding up against the pass rush but could create some lanes for Larry Fitzgerald. Of late, teams have rushed only four or even three, knowing they can get pressure and yet have a bunch of guys for coverage. If the Packers blitz sometimes, you figure there will be more chances for Fitz. But they have to convert.
— It’s the flip side of only nine rushing attempts for seven yards, which is what the Cards ended up with against the 49ers (second fewest rushing yards in a game ever, behind the minus-1 the Cards had against the Giants in 1953), but quarterback John Skelton set personal highs in both attempts (52) and completions (32) last weekend. Obviously, in an ideal world, the Cards won’t have to pass as much.
— The Packers already have their inactive list practically done. Six guys are already listed as out, five of whom are starters – Jennings, Woodson, Kuhn, Perry and Shields. With Jennings already sidelined, the Pack also probably won’t have receiver Jordy Nelson, who didn’t practice all week with a bad hamstring (and with the Packers’ bye waiting too for extra rest.)
— That’s why the Cards need to make sure tight end Jermichael Finley doesn’t go off. Finley hasn’t been the same player since erupting on the Cardinals back in the playoff game of the ages. The Pack are trying to remind him he can be that guy.
— Comon, Money Mike. How about creating some deja vu?
— A gut prediction: Fitz gets 100 yards this week.
— With a road game in a tough place, it’s not difficult to imagine a good start would be a replication of what the Cards did in New England. They only got a field goal on their opening drive, but they ate up clock and took the crowd out of it early. That would be ideal at Lambeau.
So would finding a win. Somehow.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Beanie Wells, Daryn Colledge, Dom Capers, John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Packers, Ray Horton
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Tight end Todd Heap remains sidelined today with his bad knee, while quarterback John Skelton is active today for the first time since hurting his ankle and will back up starter Kevin Kolb. The Cards do have tight end Jim Dray back to help at tight end.
Injuries are a big reason for a chunk of inactives today. Linebacker Reggie Walker (concussion), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and cornerbacks Michael Adams and Greg Toler (both hamstrings) are all out. Also sitting out is QB Ryan Lindley — natural with Skelton back — and guard Senio Kelemete.
That means wide receiver LaRon Byrd will be active for the first time in his NFL career. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is active.
Tags: Anthony Sherman, Darnell Dockett, Greg Toler, inactives, Jim Dray, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Michael Adams, Reggie Walker, Ryan Lindley, Senio Kelemete, Todd Heap
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There will be many things that people will be waiting to see Sunday when the Cards finally kick off against the Bills – how the Cards’ run game looks, whether the Bills have recovered from a couple of historical beat-downs – but from the Cardinals’ side of the fence, it’ll be Arizona’s first few pass plays that will be under the microscope. The Bills won’t have (struggling) defensive end Mark Anderson, although they do have (struggling) defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and (struggling) defensive end Mario Williams. There has been plenty of talk not surprisingly, from the Buffalo perspective that their pass rush can get healthy against the Cards. It’s vice versa for the Cards, who count on righting the pass-protection ship after surrendering 17 sacks the past two games.
“If you go into the game thinking that you are going to do that just because, you could be in for a rude awakening,” Mario Williams said. “If we go out and think, ‘Oh well, it’s going to be easy because the last two teams did this,’ we could be in for a rude awakening.”
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb spoke again this week about how there were many facets in the pas game that need to do better to improve the pass protection. Someone suggested more three-step drops for Kolb, which the quarterback dismissed. “You can’t just go to three-step drops,” Kolb said. “That’s not the way the game is.”
You can’t just do a lot of anything. Pro teams – and pro coaches – figure that out soon enough. Leave more guys in to block? OK, but that’s fewer people in pass routes, and fewer options for which Kolb to pass. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows he needs better technique from his blockers, better protection schemes and better overall play. There’s will have been 10 days to try and iron some of this out.
— There are two banged-up teams going out to play. With cornerbacks Greg Toler and Michael Adams doubtful, it sure sounds like rookie Jamell Fleming will be thrust back into a prominent defensive role. And kind-of-newcomer Crezdon Butler may be active right off the bat after being away from the team since being cut at the end of the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, are missing a pair of starting offensive linemen themselves.
— Cornerback William Gay, who stands to start across from Patrick Peterson again Sunday, has struggled at times. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said it is technique issues with Gay, and along those lines, Gay’s role was reduced against the Rams. “Obviously, he’s capable,” Horton said. “He had a good week of practice. We reduced his role and message sent, I believe. Now, whether message was received or not, we’ll find out.”
— The Bills have allowed 97 points the last two games, to the Patriots and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cardinals will suddenly break out, but if the Cards’ offense is going to have a chance to improve, this is a matchup you want.
— Quarterback John Skelton is listed as probable for the first time since his ankle injury. I fully expect Kolb to start – who wouldn’t? – but Skelton, I would guess, would be the backup. After that, I don’t know if we are going to have any big announcement or not. The Cards are going to go through the gauntlet on the schedule after this game, at Minnesota, home against the Niners, at Green Bay and at Atlanta, which will be rough on whoever is playing QB.
— Today is Adrian Wilson’s birthday. He turned 33. His biceps don’t look a day over 27.
— Yes, I used that on Twitter.
— Speaking of birthdays, analyst and Cardinals Underground compatriot Ron Wolfley turns 50 Sunday, with the Cards playing against his hometown team. How great is that?
— The Cards are wearing black Sunday, as a reminder. And pink. This is the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, in case you are still putting together your gameday outfit.
— It probably saved an interception return for a touchdown – and it wasn’t even flagged at the time – but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was dinged for a $7,850 fine from the NFL after grabbing cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ facemask on a play against the Rams. The Rams didn’t escape fines for their play, though. Two players were nailed for roughing up Kevin Kolb – defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo was fined $7,875 for roughing the passer when he ripped Kolb’s helmet off, while defensive end Robert Quinn was fined $15,750 for hitting Kolb helmet-to-helmet.
— Fitz needs 48 receiving yards to reach 10,000 in his career.
— Fitz, by the way, wasn’t about to pop off about the Bills’ struggles. “I always remember my grandfather said, you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “We just don’t want to ruffle any feathers and try to sneak out of here with a ‘W’ without getting anyone upset.”
It seems like it’s been forever since the Cards last played.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bills, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Janoris Jenkins, Jermelle Cudjo, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Michael Adams, Rams, Ray Horton, Robert Quinn, Ron Wolfley, William Gay
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It was basically a walk-through tonight, which is what is expected a day after playing an NFL football game. The Cards will practice late afternoon tomorrow, and midday Wednesday before flying out for St. Louis.
The Cardinals did have an injury report, although as coach Ken Whisenhunt noted earlier today, the truth about how banged-up players like Darnell Dockett really are won’t be known until tomorrow at the earliest. And even then I am guessing Dockett and others will be game-day decisions whether they will play.
Monday’s list is long. CB Michael Adams (hamstring), TE Jim Dray (knee), TE Todd Heap (knee), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) and LB Quentin Groves (hamstring) did not practice. Dockett (hamstring) was limited, as was LB Paris Lenon (knee), LB O’Brien Schofield (knee), FB Anthony Sherman (hamstring), QB John Skelton (ankle), G Adam Snyder (elbow) and NT Dan Williams (foot).
For the Rams, among those on the injury report were RB Steven Jackson (groin) and T Rodger Saffold (knee), both of whom sat out.
Tags: Adam Snyder, Anthony Sherman, Dan Williams, Jim Dray, John Skelton, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Adams, O'Brien Schofield, Paris Lenon, Quentin Groves, Todd Heap
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The headlines this weekend begin with Kevin Kolb (probably) facing the Eagles for the first time since they traded him away. But it’s also the first chance for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — the other player in that trade — to return to Arizona for the first time. Kolb may have been hurt last year when the teams played in Philadelphia, but DRC was there, at least at first. DRC hurt his ankle returning the opening kickoff of the second half and missed the Cards’ rally that day.
“They’re the ones who gave me the opportunity to be in the National Football League, so you always want to thank them for that,” DRC told PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “I had fun times (in Arizona); there are no hard feelings.”
DRC never really seemed to be a hard-feelings kind of guy. He was/is talented, and showed, especially in 2009, why the Cards made him a first-round pick in 2008. He made the Pro Bowl and seemed headed for great things. But he wasn’t good in 2010 — few were for the Cards that season — and even he knew it. When the Cardinals hired Ray Horton to be defensive coordinator, Horton talked about having “little guys who could hit,” and anyone who watched DRC had to wonder if DRC fit that bill.
(Although I will say this — Horton has made it clear to me that if a guy is a good enough cover corner, other issues can be overlooked.)
When the Eagles were willing to trade Kolb, and on the lookout for a cornerback knowing their time with Asante Samuel was likely coming to an end, DRC ended up being the piece the Cards surrendered. DRC struggled a bit last season as the nickel corner while the Eagles started Nnamdi Asomugha and Samuel started. “The way he handled that was phenomenal,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “My hat’s off to that kid just for that alone. It was new to him. He attacked it the best he could attack it. We were blessed with three real good corners, so one of them had to sit. He was the one and he was awesome with that, but he’s playing well now.”
DRC admits he was surprised at the trade, but he’s moved on. The locker room certainly hasn’t been the same. Close friend Michael Adams (tackling DRC on DRC’s first-half kickoff return last year) and DRC often did a lot of talking, bantering, arguing. It’s hard to forget DRC’s sometimes painted toenails, his Toy Story kids backpack, how he talked about his love for sandwiches he “cooked” with an iron on the ironing board, or the time he wore old-school footie pajamas into work when the Cards had to practice on a holiday. He was one-of-a-kind.
He and Fitz had some practice battles — the ones Patrick Peterson took over after DRC left — and considering DRC played just three seasons in Arizona, he left a mark. It’ll be interesting how his homecoming goes Sunday.
“I’m just looking at it like another game,” DRC said. “I know a lot of people are probably looking at (the trade angle), but I’m just going in there facing an Arizona team that’s on the rise.”
Tags: DRC, Eagles, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, trade
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Given that Levi Brown is on injured reserve, there are just seven players left on the Cardinals’ roster who were there when the team made its last flight to New England: Adrian Wilson, Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Michael Adams, Lyle Sendlein, Calais Campbell and Early Doucet. What happened that day – an ugly, ugly 47-7 loss in a horrible snowstorm – had both good and bad repercussions.
The showing was terrible. It was the one, in the next-to-last week of the season, where analyst Cris Collinsworth declared the already-NFC West champs the worst to ever make the playoffs. But coach Ken Whisenhunt used it as a jumping-off point to have a padded practice in the rain that week – time to refocus – before the Cards won the season finale against Seattle to finish 9-7. They didn’t lose again until Santonio Holmes decided to rip their collective heart out.
That game means nothing Sunday, really, although it’s tough for any of those players who were around last time to just forget.
“There’s not a lot of guys on this team from the 2008 year, but we remember that butt kicking we took up there in 2008 out there and that didn’t sit well with us then and four years later it still stings,” Fitzgerald said.
“For me I’ll never forget walking off that field and looking at that scoreboard. Just the feeling of embarrassment, disappointment. … They totally tore us down that night. That’s something I still remember very vividly. That was a tough game, the worst game that I ever played in in my professional career.”
There will be no snow this time. The Cards want to make sure a lot of things are different this time around.
— The irony of Fitz saying it was the worst game he ever played in – his career-long reception, 78 yards, came in that game, a late catch-and-run from Matt Leinart for his team’s lone score of the game.
— Leadership means a lot in a game like this, I’d think. I was wondering if a guy like cornerback William Gay, who has faced the Patriots multiple times in his years as a Pittsburgh Steeler, might be able to help a little in terms of familiarity. He quickly dismissed that.
“We have leaders that have been around football for quite some time,” Gay said. “I listen to those guys. Just because I have played them a lot, those veterans still have years over me. Seeing those guys calm, it will calm the rest of the guys down, and that’s what you need. If your leaders are rattled, everyone will be rattled.”
— I don’t know how the Cards are going to approach covering the Patriots’ tight ends. I don’t know if it’ll be the safeties (pictured below) or linebackers, or a combination. The latter seems likely. I know some out there disagree, but Wilson did well in coverage last season. Now, how that will translate against guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, we will see. Those two have been impressive.
— The Cards have faced Tom Brady just once – in 2004, when he came to Sun Devil Stadium and won, 23-12, when the Patriots were at the peak of their Super Bowl-winning powers. Matt Cassel, of course, was the QB in 2008 after Brady wrecked his knee in the season-opener that season.
— This is only the third visit the Cards have made to New England since moving to Arizona. The score of the 1996 trip was 31-0 Patriots, so adding in the 2008 game, it hasn’t been a pleasant place to play.
— Fitz needs three catches for 700 in his career. Tight end Todd Heap needs six for 500. And speaking of milestones, Sunday will be defensive end Vonnie Holliday’s 200th game.
— The constant talk of Skelton/Kolb has been exhausting to a point this week. Obviously I think Kolb will start this week. Everyone does, and even Ken Whisenhunt has sent everyone in that direction even if he didn’t officially name a starter. But this is a big deal for Kolb. He had his moment last week, but the moment is over. There will be plenty of eyes on him across the NFL landscape Sunday, not just those in Arizona.
— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton called his unit’s first game “an excellent start” but that it could have been better. “I was looking at the things we left on the table, and we left a fantastic, great, dominating game on the table,” Horton said. “We have room to improve.”
— This is a testing ground for the string of tough road games the Cards have this season. Trips to Green Bay, Atlanta, the Jets all come later. The long plane rides are par for the course. The Cards need to have a good showing. In a game where the Pats are opening the home schedule, and adding former fan favorite and team MVP Troy Brown to the franchise’s Hall of Fame, fighting those emotions won’t be easy.
See you Sunday.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Early Doucet, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Cassel, Michael Adams, Patriots, Ray Horton, Ron Gronkowski, Todd Heap, William Gay
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As well as the defense played – and make no mistake, the Cards would have been in huge trouble if the defense didn’t play the way it did – the way Kevin Kolb played when he came in in the fourth quarter was clearly the story Sunday. He airmailed his first throw well over Fitz’s head in a toss that looked like every ounce of adrenaline being pumped into one pass. But after that he was sharp, everything the Cards hoped he’d be. And that was his lone drive, save for his lone kneeldown at the end. He felt like the equivalent of a comic or rapper who just had the perfect finish, and then dropped the mic and walked off stage.
Kolb certainly didn’t act that way after – “To win a game in that fashion, the way the preseason went, I’ll definitely enjoy this evening,” Kolb said – you know he has to be feeling pretty good inside. The guy is human. Any one of us criticized to the level that he’s been criticized, redemption is always sweeter.
Of course, that’ll last a week, and he’ll start in New England, a brutal test, and he’ll have to put up or shut up again. But that’s in a week. Right now, it’s good.
— Everyone wondering about the relationship between Kolb and John Skelton, people talking about Kolb blowing off Skelton when he came off the field hurt in the Hall of Fame game or Skelton somehow acting happy when Kolb made mistakes in Tennessee are just foolish. When Skelton got hurt, it was Kolb on the field crouched down with the doctors, talking to him at that moment. Again, both guys desperately want to be the starter. But it isn’t personal, it’s why Kolb was never going to be a problem as a backup, and why there was genuine happiness for Kolb’s success in the locker room afterward.
— Skelton’s ankle sprain means he’ll be down a little while, I’d think. Ryan Lindley becomes the backup in that case. You’d think they’d sign someone. It can’t be Rich Bartel – since Bartel was put on IR before being released on an injury settlement, he can’t sign with the Cards for six weeks (at least, that’s what he tweeted.)
— Kolb will need the running game. The Seattle defense is good, but for Beanie and Ryan Williams to combine for 23 yards on 15 carries? Ouch. Wide receiver Andre Roberts was the Cards’ leading rusher with his lone end-around for 15 yards. LaRod Stephens-Howling even vultured the lone touchdown with his one-yard run on third down.
— The run game is what made coach Ken Whisenhunt’s answer to a good day from the pass protection – one sack despite the fears of two new tackles – tempered. “They brought a lot of pressure today, and we didn’t run the ball good enough, so how can you judge a line?” Whisenhunt said. “Based on protection? In that they did well. We didn’t run the ball very well. We have to get that fixed.”
— It’ll be interesting to see how bad the shoulder injury is to Jamell Fleming, but Michael Adams had a very, very good game in his place. He had three tackles and three passes defensed, including a pair of impressive breakups on that final drive. “Like any other day’s work,” said Adams, who probably wouldn’t have played much other than special teams if Fleming hadn’t gotten hurt. “When your number is called, you go out and make plays. Today I was able to make plays. I’m living for today. I don’t know if I’ll see tomorrow.”
— The timeout fiasco wasn’t good. The officials admitted later they basically gave Seattle four timeouts. Here’s an explanation from a guy who knows his stuff. I fall in the it-is-what-it-is camp.
— Two sacks for Paris Lenon, his career high (and he’s below, belting Seahawks QB Russell Wilson). “I just played within the scheme,” he said. He had a very good game and showed why he is such an important cog. Daryl Washington had a very good game too, and Reggie Walker got a ton of playing time – while Stewart Bradley was relegated to special teams.
— Calais Campbell with yet another blocked field goal, after three last year. Huge Sunday, since without the block, the Seahawks are down just one late and easily kick a field goal to win (unless, of course, Campbell would have blocked that one – which is always possible.)
— Tight end Todd Heap came up huge in the winning drive, with two big catches. Larry Fitzgerald didn’t have a gigantic game, but Kolb found him twice on that drive too. Obviously the Cards want him to get the ball more often, although they were so bad in the third quarter, there were hardly any snaps.
— After Adrian Wilson’s interception, he gave the ball to Patrick Peterson for a return attempt at the end of the first half. It was a far cry from in Seattle last year, when Peterson made a pick at the end of the half and Wilson implored him to get down and not risk a fumble. Wilson seemed to have forgotten that. “I know my role, and my role isn’t a runner with the ball,” Wilson deadpanned.
That’s it for tonight. It was a grind for the Cards, but they won, and it’ll make for a much better week than the alternative.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Reggie Walker, Rich Bartel, Ryan Williams, Seahawks, Stewart Bradley, Todd Heap
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