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Posts tagged with "Larry Fitzgerald"

Fourth quarter woes that cost team in losses weren’t a problem on Sunday

Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones tackles 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer on Sunday.
When crunch time came in past years, the Cardinals’ defense was usually the one dropping the hammer.

But in fourth quarter losses to the Lions and Cowboys earlier this season, it was the one getting squashed. The Cardinals were determined to get back to their late-game ways, and did so in Sunday’s 18-15 overtime win over the 49ers.

The defense didn’t allow a first down in the fourth quarter to give the offense every chance to win the game, and even though that didn’t happen, it didn’t break. San Francisco got the ball first in overtime and put together an impressive drive, but the Cardinals forced a field goal near the goal-line when a touchdown would have ended it.

“That,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said, “is how we’re supposed to play.”

The Cardinals led by two in the fourth quarter against Detroit but gave up a pair of touchdowns in just over five minutes as Detroit took control. Last week, the Cowboys broke open a tie game with 14 points in a seven-minute span in the fourth. The 49ers, meanwhile, scored three points in the final 29 minutes of this contest.

“We made it a big emphasis, that in that fourth quarter, that’s when we’ve got to rise up,” money linebacker Deone Bucannon said. “The first three quarters, we were lights out those first three games. … I’m happy we came out with the win. We played all four quarters.”

The defense has to be the engine for the Cardinals right now because of all the injuries and inconsistency on the other side of the ball (though it did suffer one of its own when linebacker Markus Golden left the game late with a knee injury). Success has shown up in spurts throughout 2017 but there have been too many lapses.

Red zone woes were a big problem through the first three games, as the Cardinals were last in the league, allowing touchdowns on 87.5 percent of possessions inside the 20. They didn’t allow the 49ers in the end zone at all on Sunday, allowing for the late-game heroics by Larry Fitzgerald.

“They didn’t give up any touchdowns, so that’s a pretty good day,” coach Bruce Arians said.

The Cardinals only had one takeaway – an interception by safety Antoine Bethea – but came close to a couple others. Cornerback Justin Bethel couldn’t corral a pass early in the game, and Dansby didn’t see another heading his way until it was too late.

When the Cowboys visit Arizona of late, it’s provided quite the show. The last three times, it’s been decided at the very end.

* In 2008, the game goes to overtime, and the Sean Morey blocks a punt, with Monty Beisel recovering in the end zone for a 30-24 win;
* In 2010, on Christmas night, the Cardinals blew a 21-3 lead and then got a Jay Feely field goal with five seconds left for a 27-26 win;
* In 2011, Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey misses a 49-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and the game went to overtime. LaRod Stephens-Howling then grabbed a Kevin Kolb dump pass and raced 52 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Whether we’ll see that kind of drama Monday night is unlikely, but you can’t really know. This is a game where you figure to get a much better read on the Cardinals. No early start time to gum up the works, no road game. If the Cards are going to show more than they have, this is the time and place.

“The Cowboys are apparently ‘America’s Team’ so there will be a lot of eyes on this matchup,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.

In a weekend in which I’m guessing a lot of eyes will be everywhere on the NFL after the President’s comments and the league-wide reaction to them, Cardinals-Cowboys will cap what will likely be an emotional weekend all around. A win would do wonders for the Cards’ emotion too.

— I like the concept from Frostee Rucker about the Cardinals staying together one way or the other when it comes to potential protest. The idea that sports can stay separate from where we are as a country, though, that’s long past.

— As expected, John Brown is going to sit again (so will D.J. Humphries), and so J.J. Nelson becomes important again. Not ideal that he’s listed as questionable, or that your speed merchant is dealing with a hamstring. If I had to guess, I’d think Nelson plays, but if he was limited all week, there has to be concern with how much he can do.

— It looks like the Cards finally get Deone Bucannon back. As for the questionable Mike Iupati, after the job Alex Boone did last week, if you aren’t sure, it makes sense to me to stick with Boone again.

— Speaking of Boone, there was some learning-on-the-fly last week. “I’m not even kidding, there was a play where I was like, ‘I have no idea what’s going on,’ ” Boone said. “Carson (Palmer) looked at me and told me and was like ‘SET, GOOOO!’ Hey man, trial by fire, right?”

–All this talk about offensive line play – the Cardinals certainly have had their share – there was a great quote by Browns stud left tackle Joe Thomas this week.

“As offensive linemen, we consider ourselves mushrooms because we get thrown in the corner of a dark room and people pile poop on us and then expect us to grow,” Thomas said. “So that is why we are mushrooms.”

I have not had a chance to run the mushroom analogy past any of the Cards’ linemen.

— One lineman who actually played tight end this week was rookie guard Will Holden, who played 15 snaps at tight end last week because Jermaine Gresham was hurt and he was a better blocking option in heavy packages than Ifeanyi Momah. Holden said he’d never played tight end before. Ever. In college, he came in for similar heavy packages but he played inside while they had another offensive lineman be the tight end.

“I felt fine,” Holden said. “It’s a little different view of the defense because you’re wider out and it’s a little harder to hear. But once you settle into the game, you’re just playing football.”

Holden said he was happy with his play, although he was willing to allow, smiling, that how well he did was “up for debate.” OL coach Harold Goodwin said Holden needed to finish blocks better. Holden probably won’t be needed this week now that Gresham is back, but it’s an option going forward.

— The last time the Cardinals hosted the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football” was 1995, when Larry Centers made his incredible leap, Buddy Ryan left before the game was over and cameras were capturing footage later used in the movie “Jerry Maguire.”

“Everybody loves Jerry Maguire,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “ ‘Show me the money.’ It’s what Monday night is all about.”

(Speaking of Maguire, it makes you think back to Rod Tidwell, right?)

— Bruce Arians, after the win in Indy, now has 42 victories as Cardinals head coach. It ties him with Don Coryell for second-most in team history (Ken Whisenhunt has the top mark with 49.) B.A. was asked what he thought of that.

“It was a bad team for a long time,” Arians deadpanned. Seriously, though, “to be even mentioned with Coach Coryell, that’s mind-boggling to me,” Arians added. “He was one of my great idols and watching that team play.”

— A random tidbit Fitz revealed this week, of which I have no recollection: He played special teams as a rookie. He was on punt return, as an outside blocker taking on the opposing gunner.

“I played hold-up guy,” Fitzgerald said. “I was pretty good at it too. Me and Nate Poole, we held it down out there.”

Poole, if you remember, was on the receiving end of the famous McCown-to-Poole TD pass in the last game of 2003 to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs and send the Cards from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3. Probably got them Fitzgerald in the first place. Now that’s drama.

See everyone Monday night.

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With cuts looming, here’s an attempt at how it might look

Among the players that figure to make the Cardinals’ 53-man roster is quarterback Blaine Gabbert (7).
By Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals have to slice the roster down to 53 players from the 89 they had as of Friday morning.

Some will end up on injured reserve. A trade is possible. Most will simply be released. The reality is that of the 53 the Cardinals keep, the vast majority – perhaps as many as 46 or 47 – were locks before the Cardinals even had their first training camp practice.

The 53 Cardinals Saturday won’t necessarily be the 53 Monday taking part in the first practice of the season either. If a player is awarded via a waiver claim, the Cardinals will have to let someone go. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Cards sought someone to add depth to the offensive line or the linebacker corps, especially on the outside.

For purposes of this exercise however, we’re sticking with who is on the current roster, since that’s all we have available.

QB (3) — Carson PalmerDrew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert: Gabbert has been a pleasant surprise since he signed. Stanton is the backup, but Gabbert sticks and is a possibility for the future.

RB (4) — David JohnsonKerwynn WilliamsElijhaa PennyAndre Ellington: With David Johnson and Kerwynn Williams locks, it feels like this comes down to two spots for the remaining three guys. It

would not be a surprise if veteran Chris Johnsonmakes the team over Ellington, and this is probably the most difficult decision the Cardinals have to make. Penny showed a lot running the ball over the preseason, and the hope is that he can fulfill the special teams role of former running back Stepfan Taylor. The pros for keeping Ellington are that he is running as well as he has (and as hard) since his rookie season and he’s the one player best equipped to fill David Johnson’s role if something were to happen to the top back. The pros for keeping CJ2K are his relationships inside the locker room and his superior pass protection. Both have been effective running the ball. Not an easy choice. (Rookie T.J. Logan goes to IR, but he may be back later this season.)WR (6) — Larry FitzgeraldJohn BrownJaron BrownJ.J. NelsonChad WilliamsBrittan Golden: Bruce Arians hinted at a seventh receiver, but that seems unlikely. Aaron Dobson’s speed intrigues, but in the end, Golden is good on special teams, an area Dobson does not help. Rookie Carlton Agudosi makes sense for the practice squad.

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Karlos Dansby, veteran linebacker and southern gentleman (he’s from Birmingham, Alabama), was asked about adding a Chick-Fil-A store to the new Atlanta Falcons stadium and how Chick-Fil-A will still be closed on Sundays, even there. Los had a lot to say.

“That ain’t right, man. That ain’t right,” Dansby said with a grin. “How do you do something like that? You put a Chick-Fil-A in the stadium, and y’all play on Sundays. It just don’t add up. Know what I’m saying? Everybody is going to be expecting Chick-Fil-A to be open on Sunday at the game. That’s tough, man. I feel sorry for the people. That’s embarrassing. You can’t do that to the fans. It’s not right. Hey man, it’s not right. Hopefully, Chick-Fil-A will step their game up.”

It should be noted that the Cardinals’ game this weekend at brand-new Mercedes Benz Stadium — literally brand-new, since Cardinals-Falcons will be the first event held there — is on Saturday. Los can get some sweet tea if he wants.

— Left guard Mike Iupati left practice early on after trainers were looking at his right elbow/arm. Cole Toner took his spot on the first unit. Receiver Brittan Golden and linebacker Josh Bynes were back limited. Linebacker Philip Wheeler (foot) isn’t back, but he was in uniform with helmet when he was running rehab sprints.

— Wide receiver John Brown did well in his only practice of the week (he is headed to a funeral back home in Florida and will meet the team in Atlanta). He was in the mix through the entire practice and afterward said he was feeling better and wanted to play Saturday. At this point, I’d be surprised if he did not.

— Practices this week are more like the regular season, with scout offenses and defenses prepping the other side of the ball for the opponent. So the actual play isn’t quite like we’ve seen earlier in camp.

— The Cardinals closed with length-of-field two-minute drill work. It was apparently cleared with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris, who with his staff monitors the players’ steps to make sure they don’t over-extend themselves. Larry Fitzgerald good-naturedly called Morris out for letting it happen. Then Fitzgerald delivered his normal “punishment” — a Fitz sneak-attack tackle.

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No. 2 cornerback again highlights the list of spots up for grabs

Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (left) is healthy and aiming to secure a starting job in training camp.

Even though there was plenty of roster turnover this offseason, the Cardinals won’t have many starting positions up for grabs in training camp. However, there is the big one– second cornerback – and plenty of other question marks as the coaching staff determines which players to keep on the active roster.

Here’s a look at some positions to watch as the Cardinals convene for their first practice on Saturday.

Cornerback – Patrick Peterson is locked in as the star cover man, as he’s been for several years. The revolving door on the opposite side continues. Justin Bethel was expected to claim the starting job last season but was hampered by a foot injury throughout the year and slid down the depth chart.

Brandon Williams was the starter for the first two games but was quickly overtaken by Marcus Cooper. With Cooper departing for the Bears in free agency, Bethel is back to being the favorite, with Williams his top competition.

Unless Williams really shines in bump-and-run coverage with the pads on, Bethel will likely secure the job. If neither stands out, the Cardinals could look to add a veteran in free agency or see if a darkhorse candidate on the roster emerges.

Wide receiver – Larry Fitzgerald anchors the group and J.J. Nelson’s role as a deep threat is cemented, but there is uncertainty beyond that duo. John Brown is a solid No. 2 wideout when healthy, and while he claims to have put complications from sickle cell trait behind him, that must be proven in camp.

Jaron Brown is coming off an ACL tear but looked good in offseason work. Chad Williams will be on the roster after the Cardinals drafted him in the third round, but it’s uncertain what kind of role he will carve out. Adjusting to the NFL from a small school isn’t easy, although John Brown proved it could be done.


Those five seem likely to make the roster, which may only leave one more spot for a lot of candidates. Brittan Golden is back to compete, while fellow veterans Aaron Dobson and Jeremy Ross are in the mix. The Cardinals also brought in several undrafted free agents with physical tools, and they will try to wow the coaches.

Quarterback – Carson Palmer is the starter, but there is some intrigue behind him because former top-10 pick Blaine Gabbert was signed this offseason. While he has been a bust in the NFL thus far, the Cardinals coaching staff is known for developing quarterbacks and will aim to unlock his potential.

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There’s one thing for certain, Arizona Cardinals fans are much more excited about the Cardinals future than outsiders are.

In fact, on ESPN and their futures rankings, the Arizona Cardinals future looks bleak as ESPN has the Cardinals ranked 22nd for their three year outlook:

It seems at least plausible that the Cardinals could undergo a major shift following the 2017 season. Carson Palmer will be a free agent and there’s no succession plan presently in place. Larry Fitzgerald also enters the final year of his contract. Their importance to the franchise — Fitzgerald is perhaps the greatest player in its history — cannot be overlooked. — Field Yates

This is quite the departure for ESPN, as the Cardinals have been fairly respected since Steve Keim and company took over:

2014: 16th
2015: 11th
2016: 7th

However, the ranking is not a surprise when the questions is about the next three years.

Biggest worry: Field mentioned it, but Palmer turns 38 in December and the Cardinals still don’t have his presumed replacement on the roster. Every hit Carson takes could be his last, and he took a beating in 2016, getting sacked 40 times and hit countless others. The Cardinals’ decision-making team should be worried sick about the future of the QB position in the short and long term. — Louis Riddick

This is a legitimate issue for 2018-2020. No one, including the decision makers know who is going to be at the helm in 2019 and 2020. And that all assumes that Palmer is behind center in 2018, which is no sure thing.

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Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and Larry Fitzgerald watch players during an NFL football organized team activity, Tuesday, May 30, 2017, at the Cardinals’ training facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Arizona Cardinals will begin training camp in a couple of weeks, and unlike last season, they do not really do so with Super Bowl expectations.

That’s what happens when you go from winning 13 games in 2015 to seven in 2016 before losing some key players to free agency.

NFL insider John Clayton told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station, that he felt Calais Campbell was the biggest loss, but added it hurt to lose Tony Jefferson, D.J. Swearinger and Marcus Cooper.

“The good thing is the defense, which was No. 2 last year, is going to drop, but is it going to drop to No. 5, is it going to drop to No. 10?” he asked. “I think it can drop to No. 10, but still, the offense can generate enough points to kind of compensate for that.”

That’s the trick, and though Clayton believes the Cardinals have the talent to persevere, he said the challenge of making it back to the playoffs is tougher now than before.

But as Clayton said, even with the defections it is not as if the Cardinals are completely devoid of talent. Carson Palmer is still the quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald is still around to catch passes, while David Johnson, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Chandler Jones and Markus Golden are set for big seasons.

Add it all up and you have an interesting squad who you could see being very good, but also taking another step back.

Time will tell what happens but regardless of which direction things go, a certain theme will accompany 2017. With Palmer and Fitzgerald both having pondered retirement, this may be the Cardinals’ last legitimate shot at a deep postseason run for a while.

“I think so, yeah,” NFL insider John Clayton told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Friday. “Because when you look at the losses from last year — that’s the sad part, because if this is going to be it — you’ll have to make a quarterback transition, you lose a Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver, and maybe, who knows, I think it’s year-to-year with the health of Bruce Arians and you hope he stays on.

“But if he does make a quarterback transition, you’d love to have him as the one that’s doing that. Yeah, I think it does say that the window is this year.”

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the refreshed Revenge of the Birds! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post.

Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

Onto the stories.

I wish I could have a cooler “Why I am an Arizona Cardinals fan” story than I do.

Something miraculous or inspiring, such as being taken to a game at a young age, experiencing the team in the Sun Devil Stadium days with the scorching sun hitting the hot metal benches while Jake Plummer led a comeback win.

I didn’t.

Or having a family history dating back to two generations of Cardinals fans. Maybe even being a doey-eyed child waiting in line for a Larry Fitzgerald autograph up in Flagstaff, the scent of ponderosa pines all around.


I remember that I used to root for the team to tank as a child for their draft pick to go higher than it would be already.

That sucked.

No, my story as to how I became a Cardinals die-hard is less interesting than many. But by no means less passionate.

As a young child, I wasn’t really into football. In part because I didn’t quite grasp the complexities of the game and was never born athletic. Ask my father and he’ll still tell you the story of the time he tried out for the football team at his local high school in Fremont, Michigan.

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is unhappy about the Arizona Cardinals being scheduled to play in this year’s Hall of Fame game.

The Cardinals will face the Dallas Cowboys at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 3, two days before this year’s class, including former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, is enshrined.

Fitzgerald isn’t looking forward to the idea of possibly starting training a week early and having a fifth preseason game. He tweeted his contempt for the extra game on Thursday. But Fitzgerald, an avid golfer, found consolation in traveling to Northeast Ohio in late summer: the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone will be played at Firestone Country Club in Akron, about a 24-mile drive north of Canton.

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