Run versus pass. It’s always at the forefront of any analyzation of the Cardinals and the game Bruce Arians is calling. After the way the Cardinals had been running the ball, the team tried many fewer runs in Pittsburgh – and the run wasn’t as effective – than passes. What to expect Monday against the Ravens? Well, Baltimore has been susceptible to the pass and their secondary has had all kinds of trouble. So we’ll leave it to everyone’s imagination where this might be headed.
“As an offensive lineman and as an offensive line coach, I’m sure you want to run it,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But at the end of the day, as long as we have more points than they have, so what. So what. At the end of the year, if we’re holding that trophy in San Jose, do we really care how much we ran the ball?”
It can be argued, of course, that the chance to hoist the Lombardi is impacted by offensive decisions. But Goodwin – who admitted he’d worry about run/pass ratios in the offseason when he was breaking down the previous season’s games – is not wrong.
— Goodwin wasn’t happy with the run blocking overall last week from the line, the tight ends and the wide receivers. That should improve this week with the focus on it during practice.
— There was a ton of talk about focus and finishing this week from the Cardinals after a second loss in which the defense seemed to soften up in the fourth quarter.
“Our confidence is still there,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “It’s just a reality check for us.”
Given the spotlight of “Monday Night Football” and the energy of a home game, I’m not expecting a letdown this week.
— It will be fun to watch Patrick Peterson versus the NFL’s own little ball of hate, Steve Smith Sr. Smith isn definitely a receiver who plays like he craves confrontation and given that he’s the lone standout receiver the Ravens have, he’ll need to be targeted.
“Can’t want to see some of his new antics and the emotion he has after each and every catch,” Peterson said. “Whether it’s a negative play or he felt you said something wrong to him the previous play, he always tries to get his get-back.”
— Peterson was talking about how he’s ended up with fewer penalties this season, and naturally, he talked about his improved technique and how he had to adjust after last season after the league put an emphasis on the contact defensive backs can have on receivers.
Interestingly, Peterson also said he didn’t know – until an official said something a few games ago – that once a defensive back releases his jam on a receiver, he cannot jam the receiver again even if they are still inside the legal five-yard chuck zone.
“I thought you could jam him as much as you wanted within five yards,” Peterson said.
— The Cardinals got 19 snaps out of new pass rusher Dwight Freeney last week. The hope is that the veteran will be a little more productive as the weeks go by and he both gets in football shape and learns the defense.
“I was doing May/July/training camp all in one,” Freeney said of his three practices leading into the Steelers game. “My body was confused.”
“We don’t have the easiest playbook – a lot of exotics – but I just have to cram,” Freeney added.
— A couple of quick reminders: If you are going to Monday’s game, remember the Cards are holding their annual food drive so please bring non-perishable food items (or donate some cash.) If you are watching the game at home, the ESPN telecast can also be seen on ABC-15 for those who don’t have cable.
— If you missed it earlier this week, here’s my story on tight end Troy Niklas and his potential everyone is waiting on. Niklas will have a bigger role this week with Darren Fells sidelined.
— Arians, on what the Cardinals are looking for in practice squad players: “We want somebody who knows football that has an upside. You can find a ton of guys who’ll come in and work their ass off, but you don’t want them playing on Sunday. They make good sons-in-laws.”
— A good sign D.J. Humphries is making progress. He won’t play unless there are injuries, but his target date was always 2016.
— The Cards could withstand a game without Smokey Brown. But they’d rather not.
— A parting “Monday Night Football” memory from Bruce Arians, who grew up in Pennsylvania: “It was late, that was the big thing,” Arians said. “I didn’t get to see the second half most of the time. My brother would always sign us up for altar boys at 6 o’clock mass, so I had to get up early.”
Why would he do that?
“He went away to be a priest in the eighth grade,” Arians said. “ I think the nuns talked him into that stuff.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, Dwight Freeney, Harold Goodwin, John Brown, Patrick Peterson, Ravens, Steve Smith, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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Sunday didn’t start well for Carolina veteran receiver Steve Smith when he dropped a sure touchdown pass on his team’s first drive. Smith would’ve beaten Patrick Peterson on the play. Smith ended up being targeted 10 times by quarterback Cam Newton, but he had just four catches for 60 yards. Peterson also made an interception in front of Smith (to be fair, the ball was well underthrown — seen below) and Smith was called for offensive pass interference on Peterson.
That latter call clearly did not sit well with Smith the day after.
“I got a (pass interference) penalty, which is very interesting,” Smith told the Charlotte Observer. “I got leg-humped and hugged a few times. Being a pretty good flag football player, I think I got my flag pulled on my jersey a few times,” Smith said. “I would say pretty much, I take that one on the chin and just say it was me. I’ve got to play better.”
Smith added he had a discussion with one of the officials. “He told me on my route (that) I felt like I got held, where (Peterson) had the back of my jersey and used that to slingshot his way through and bat the ball down,” Smith said. “He said he grabbed my jersey, he saw it, but he didn’t think it was enough that changed the course of the route.”
And then, talking about the Peterson play, Smith said, “It was pass interference in Mexico, Europe, rugby — in pretty much every other sport but in Arizona yesterday. But then when I pushed off it was pass interference.” Smith also called the official “garbage.”
Peterson was credited with three pass breakups in addition to his interception. According to profootballfocus.com, Peterson was targeted a total of nine times in the game, and he gave up three catches (for 48 yards). In his last two games, Peterson has given up four catches in 17 targets, according to PFF. Seven of the Carolina targets were for Smith, who had two catches for 37 yards against Peterson while Peterson knocked down a pass and got the pick.
“They were pretty much running everything we saw in practice all week,” Peterson said after the game. “We didn’t do a great job. We had a couple busts in the secondary which is unusual for us. We weren’t communicating the way we should. But halftime, as a captain and a leader of the defense, I had to get the guys going. So we came out in the second half and played much better, much smarter Cardinal football.”
Tags: Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Steve Smith
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Who would have thought the Panthers could come into University of Phoenix Stadium and do many of the same things the Cards did to them last January in Carolina? The Panthers have more than 150 yards rushing, Julius Peppers returned an interception for a touchdown, and Steve Smith burned DRC on a stop-and-go 50-yard touchdown. The Cards have gone to a no-huddle look to spark themselves and there is still plenty of time, but the Cards — regardless of how this ends up — won’t be happy.
Tags: DRC, Panthers, Steve Smith
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I had wanted to touch on a couple of other things this morning, but they’ll have to wait given the growing story of Larry Fitzgerald, the Twitter page of his brother Marcus and Fitz getting just four catches Sunday. Marcus Fitzgerald took to Twitter and said some things — not surprising, really coming from a little brother — about Kurt Warner not getting the ball enough to his sibling. The key tweet was one where Marcus said Larry had texted him angry he wasn’t getting the ball more. In the day-plus that has followed, Marcus Fitzgerald apparently backtracked and then deleted the tweets, but by then too many outlets had recounted the situation.
I first saw the remarks early yesterday when a fan noted it on a message board. I thought about mentioning it but I was hoping to talk to Larry first. Instead, it’s blown up nationally (The ironic part of this whole thing is that Larry is on Twitter and he goes out of his way to be as non-controversial as possible).
Look, it’s not a surprise when a good receiver gets irritated when he doesn’t get the ball. You don’t have to be a expert on body language to see when guys like Randy Moss, or Terrell Owens, or Steve Smith, or yes, Fitz and Anquan Boldin, feel they should have had the ball tossed their way. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday Fitzgerald will bring it up sometimes although it’s “never done in a way that is anything other than kind of kidding around.”
Fitz is also careful publicly, which is why — and of course, I am guessing now — he was probably cringing at his brother’s Twitter comments. In the Jacksonville locker room, someone asked Fitz about looking upset at one point in Sunday’s game when he was open down the middle. Fitz smiled and talked about how he was just tired in the humidity and that’s why his body language was what it was. Another reporter, who wasn’t there for the first answer, came up moments later and brought up the same thing, and Fitz again smiled and insisted it just was the weather.
Of course, Fitz had a touchdown in hand by the time the game was over. He could have had a second. The TD pass to running back Jason Wright was designed for Fitz; Wright’s route was supposed to clear the area except the safety covering Wright was so badly beat Warner just threw it to Wright. But if you watch the play, Fitz was wide open right behind Wright (and, personally, looked a bit disappointed Wright stepped in front of him).
But here’s the deal: If indeed little brother is telling the truth (and why would he lie?) and Fitz was upset, it wasn’t Fitz putting it out for public consumption. After the game, Fitzgerald stood in the locker room telling everyone the victory was a huge deal, and if he was ticked at that point, he did a marvelous job to hide it. I’d expect star receivers like Boldin and Fitzgerald to be unhappy if they don’t get the ball. I expect Warner to be unhappy if Whisenhunt suddenly started calling 60 percent run plays. I’d expect Darnell Dockett to be ticked if they suddenly said he had to play nose tackle so someone else could rush the passer.
What you can’t have is guys having their moods take a dive after victories, especially ones in which everything seemed to click. And again, that didn’t look like it happened with Fitzgerald.
Now, whether or not he wants to talk to his little brother about the very public impact of Twitter ….
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett, Jason Wright, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Terrell Owens
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