Post-Packer reaction

I suppose I should feel bad that I took so long to post about Sunday’s game between Arizona and Green Bay, but the truth is that I was so psyched up Sunday night I didn’t want to sit still long enough to write something up. Yesterday I resolved to avoid the blogosphere altogether, so that makes today Cardinals Day.

Where to begin? It was an amazing game. “Instant classic” was a phrase I heard a lot watching the highlight reels. I wasn’t able to watch the game live because I was at work, but through the magic of the internet I was able to see most of it after, as well as read a lot of reactions and watch a lot of highlights. (Related note: I love Ron Wolfley.) It was the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history. It was the first overtime playoff game won off a fumble recovery in NFL history. It was a game that featured the Hall of Fame-bound Kurt Warner slinging for 5 touchdowns and 379 yards with blistering accuracy and no turnovers. It was a game that featured a breakout performance from rookie runningback Beanie Wells, whose addition to the Cardinals gives me hope for a well-balanced attack as we continue into the playoffs. It was a game where Early Doucett and Ben Patrick picked up the slack left by an injured Boldin and still looked like the best receiving squad in the league. It was a game where the five big men of the offensive line protected Warner wonderfully, giving up only one sack to one of the most vicious pass rushes anywhere, while also opening holes for Wells. It was a game that featured a Cardinals offense that averaged a stunning 9.3 yards per play!

It was a game. What a game.

There are dark spots, though. We allowed 500 yards, 45 points, and about 700 first downs, including a couple 4th down conversions. Our secondary got torn apart, with DRC being the lone bright spot as McFadden and Adams looked completely incapable of making Rogers work for his big plays, and Rolle providing a hit-or-miss performance on coverage as well. McFadden was especially terrible, providing not a single bright spot all night. I hope we can replace him soon. This is my biggest concern heading into New Orleans next week – Brees will tear us apart if we put together a similarly lackluster performance. Michael Adams remains one of our best and worst defensive players, as he alternately has moments of genius and incompetence. His future here I think will depend on whether or not he can stop getting penalized and make better plays on the ball, as he certainly has the heart of a great player. Also, Neil Rackers’ uncharacteristic miss was one of the great heart-stoppers in Cardinals history, I think. Don’t do that again, please. Ever.

This definitely highlighted a lot of the strengths and weaknesses about the team and answered a few of the questions plaguing us at the moment – the first of which is that we obviously need to keep Dansby a lot more than we need to keep Boldin. Dockett is another one we need to hold onto. Whisenhunt also needs a contract extension – are you listening, Bidwell? Don’t let these guys go. It also further emphasized just how much Warner is the heart of the offense, and how much it will hurt if he does retire.

So we head into New Orleans with a steamroller of an offense and a defense that knows it needs to pick it up. Hopefully they do so enough to put a crimp in the Saints’ plans and can continue to keep Brees off balance, because if we can keep him from getting into a rhythm then we can pick apart their defense and come out with a big win. Here’s to another NFC championship for my boys in red!

[Also, for the record, courtesy of Revenge of the Birds: the reason Adam’s sack wasn’t a facemask was because Adams didn’t pull or twist the facemask (incidental contact is explicitly not penalized as of 2008), and it wasn’t roughing the passer because that can’t be called if the passer fumbles. The tuck rule is also irrelevant because the ball didn’t hit the ground.]

More football!

Well last night was a surprise.

The Eagles looked awful and the Cowboys looked phenomenal (albeit a bit sloppy on penalties) in their game last night, a Cowboys blowout that gave them their first playoff win since 1996. I don’t particularly like seeing the streak broken, but all good things must come to an end I suppose. If they keep up that level of play, then Minnesota had better watch out next week, because they’ll be in for a very tough fight. The Cowboys defense has been their strong side all year, but last night the offense stepped up to match the pace and blew right past Philly, which looked rather lethargic. I guess I was wrong about them being off-kilter. Biggest downside? Expect to hear lots of Tony Romo waxing poetic about his childhood idol, Brett Favre, this week. Ugh.

The Jets beating the Bengals was unexpected, but I really don’t think it will matter. Sanchez looked great, especially on paper, but I didn’t see anything that made me think they’ll stand much of a chance next week – unless overconfidence bites San Diego. It’s always a concern in the playoffs.

And of course, the Kurt Warner retirement rumors are circling, with ESPN being the latest to report this season is his last. I hope he sticks it out for one more year, regardless of what happens here, but I can respect that he’s considering it. Given his age, health issues, and career so far it’s not like he’s got any big reasons to stay beyond just loving the game. and I don’t want to see him turn into another Brett Favre. The game today will rely on our defense, I still think, and I still think we have a good shot at a victory if we play well (despite what everyone at work seems to think).

In the meantime, I’m THOROUGHLY enjoying seeing what looks like it will be an emphatic smackdown of New England by Baltimore. Go birds!


So it’s been a while since I’ve updated here, and I figured that was something I should change. And what better way to kick off the new year than by talking about football?

The playoffs begin this weekend. The AFC is in a strange position, with the only teams I feel really in contention being Indianapolis or San Diego; Cincinnati could be in that list if they played more consistently, but recently it seems like they’ve lacked the passion and stamina that is needed to beat a team like Indy if Payton Manning is at his best. NY and Baltimore are both good teams who haven’t shown enough to make me think they can get all the way (though I have a soft spot for the Ravens, so I can hope) and the Patriots will struggle to find any offensive rhythm without Wes Welker.

As for the NFC, we have a strange and wonderful scenario in which there is simply no clear favorite after the last few weeks of regular season play; the Saints have lost three in a row, with Drew Brees looking like he’s forgotten how to communicate with his receivers – Minnesota has showing glaring weaknesses, the biggest of which is revealed if they allow an opponent to gain an early lead – Brett Favre can’t handle being behind. It’s how Arizona beat them so handily in week 13, by pressuring him into making risky choices and careless mistakes.

The first round, in many ways, is the most interesting for me: Philly at Dallas should be a great game. After this weekend’s trouncing, a lot of the sportswriters are already writing off the Eagles as doomed, laying a lot of blame (as usual) at McNabb’s feet. Additionally, the Eagles are 0-4 against potential playoff opponents during the regular season, which makes many wonder if they are able to play consistently at a high caliber. I think they do. The Eagles have always been a scary team to play, even while being inconsistent, in many of the same ways Arizona has been the last two years: when they play well, they play amazingly well. Additionally, the games they lost don’t necessarily reflect the current situation; they lost to the Saints when the Saints were on fire – but New Orleans now looks like they’re running out of steam. They were barely beaten by the Cowboys back in week 9, although they were pounded last week by a relentless Dallas defense. Andy Reid learns from his mistakes, though, and I expect the Eagles will put up a tough fight and catch fire right when they need to. As for Dallas, I still have trouble believing the hype. The numbers look good and the defense looks phenomenal, but their offense still feels off-kilter to me. Maybe it’s personal bias against a rival team, or just a dislike of Tony Romo, but I’m hoping Philly keeps the Cowboys from posting their first playoff win since the 90s.

Now for my Cardinals. I can’t really look at last week as an indication of how we’ll do, as the game was mostly played by Green Bay starters against an Arizona second string, however, Green Bay looked really good – as they have for most of the season. And while we rested some of our starters, we didn’t rest all of them, and both Anquan Boldin and Calais Campbell are now questionable for Arizona’s first playoff game after sustaining injuries during Sunday’s game. The loss of either player would be a huge blow to the team, and while we’ve recovered from worse, it puts us in a very tough spot against a very formidable. At least DRC appears to be ready to play after his injury – although who knows if he’ll be at 100%. But even a wobbly DRC is a vast improvement over Michael Adams, as we saw quite clearly in the last regular season game.

The key will be to rush Aaron Rogers mercilessly, as we did with Favre. Green Bay’s offensive line is terrible, and Rogers has taken a brutal beating whenever teams press the blitz, which we didn’t even try on Sunday. After a few come-to-Jesus talks with the turf courtesy of Darnell Docket or Adrian Wilson, Rogers and the Green Bay offense should have a much harder time picking on our secondary. Combine that with a good outing from Kurt Warner and we can win the game easily – but if we don’t bring the full package, we will risk being humiliated at home.

Assuming we beat Green Bay we’d have a rematch with the Vikings in Minnesota. The weather will be a factor here, as Warner isn’t quite as used to the cold these days, and Favre always is just a bit sloppier when the ball is hard. If we can keep up the defensive pressure we did in week 13 while maintaining a steady offense, then we can easily beat them again, even on the road. They are a very tough team, but we know their game. We just need to get through the Packers first.


I really, really don’t like Vince Young right now.

That said, Leinart’s second half performance was surprisingly solid. I can’t help but feel that if he’d only found his rhythm a little earlier we could have had more of an offense and a win. Instead, we let the Titans go 3-for-3 on 4th down conversions and put together a last minute drive that was far too reminiscent of the Super Bowl for my tastes. Our defense still needs work, mainly in the secondary. McFadden is infuriating sometimes, he’ll switch between brilliant coverage and no coverage at all – DRC is the only cornerback that feels like he’s consistently trying. The defensive line put on a pretty good show, led by Dockett’s three sacks, but they also let through some key running plays, so it’s hard to say that they’re where they should be either.

Titans are a hot team and I had a feeling that the game wouldn’t end well with Warner out, so as heartbreaking as the end was I wasn’t entirely unprepared. The bright side to the game is I feel a little less dread when I consider that the previously-abysmal Matt Leinart is our backup quarterback. I guess that’s something.

The day can be redeemed a little if Baltimore hands the Steelerss their third straight loss, though. Go Ravens!

Sunday Wrapup

Another good football Sunday. Pitt lost again, Cards won again, so I’m happy. Warner’s a little banged up but they’re saying he’s fine, so that’s a relief. Also, if you didn’t catch the Lions – Browns game, do yourself a favor and dig up the highlights – Matt Stafford just proved he’s the genuine article.

And who could have possibly seen this coming?

The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday.

Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but “would explain what happened and why they did it.”

Ridiculous. I don’t know how anyone can justify this, but I guess that’s not the point. Also, there’s this lovely senator, who I think needs to have the word “representative” defined to him, preferably with a 2×4:

“If you get to the final point and you are a critical vote for health care reform and every piece of evidence tells you if you support the bill you will lose your job, would you cast the vote and lose your job?” CNN’s John King asked Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado on Sunday’s State of the Union.

“Yes,” Bennet bluntly and simply replied.

“If you knew for a fact your constituents did not want you to vote for this, would you do it anyway?” “Yes.” “Okay, string him up.”

Anyway, going to try to start working through these doctrinal issues over the next few days. I think posting one per week would be a good pace. Have a good night, y’all!