Monday, November 28, 2011 @ 11:25am
My twitter feed was filled with posts about how the NBA
lockout had come to an end.
Upon reading the news, my reaction was simple and, maybe,
a little unexpected.
Sure, it would take something incredible to elicit a
different response, since the lights were off and I was
about to hit the hay.
However, as the lockout dragged on through the summer and
into the fall I legitimately found myself not really being
concerned with the game coming back. Of course, on a
professional level I couldn't be more pleased to have
another team to cover and something else to write about,
but on a personal level I didn't find myself missing the
game like I did back in 1998.
Maybe that comes with me growing up a little since then.
After all, I'm no longer the same kid who would find at
least a small part of every game - all 82 plus playoffs -
but still, I was a little shocked that the sport and team
I loved the most as a kid were placed on the backburner as
Even now, nights that would have been otherwise reserved
for the Suns are filled with adult-like chores and, when
done with those, other forms of entertainment. There has
been no void, no real loss. No Suns game? Fine, I'll go
and watch Dexter, Homeland or one of the
other fine shows on TV these days. Already done with
those? Maybe the Coyotes are on.
I'm not the only one who feels this way, either.
Point is, the NBA will have to earn its way back into
people's lives, and the problem, at least the way I see
it, is that there is no Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin or
Kevin Durant to look forward to seeing at the US Airways
Center. There's not even a LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe
Bryant or Dwight Howard. There used to be an Amare
Stoudemire, but we know how that turned out.
What there is, in actuality, is a Steve Nash, and as great
as he is we learned last year that health and an
ineffective supporting cast can make even the best look
Then again, maybe Marcin Gortat develops into one of the
game's better centers, Jared Dudley continues to improve,
Channing Frye further cements himself as a pretty good
player and Grant Hill returns and continues to defy Father
Time. More likely, however, is that we will get a repeat
of last season's mediocrity, with the team simply treading
water and going nowhere.
Even with the league coming back, chances are good
excitement over Phoenix Suns basketball will be slow to
return, especially with the type of team that is expected
to take the court. As of now many Suns fans just waiting
for the day when the team hits it big in the lottery or
sees a new ownership group take over.
The NBA nearly lost an entire season, but would it have
really been missed?
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 @ 6:00pm
"I want to win the Rose Bowl at the University of
Want to win the press conference at Arizona? Talk about
going to the Rose Bowl and making beating Arizona State a
Rich Rodriguez did both Tuesday as he was introduced as
the new football coach at Arizona Tuesday, and after
wading through all the clichés, platitudes, jokes and
anecdotes there was one simple, undeniable fact:
Arizona football is relevant again. Or for the first
"We had great interest in the position, and the name we
kept coming back to throughout was Rich Rodriguez," Byrne
It is apparent athletic director Greg Byrne set out to hit
a home run with this hire, and Rodriguez represents a
You see, it's worth remembering the fact that this is the
University of Arizona, so there was no chance an Urban
Meyer, Nick Saban, Les Miles or anyone of the sort would
be interested in the job.
No, Arizona was either going to get a hot shot
coordinator, a successful head coach from a smaller school
or a retread who, for whatever reason, is looking for a
new job. Arizona tried the coordinator route when it hired
Stoops, and that didn't work out as hoped. So why not go
with someone who had big-time success in a big-time
conference not long ago?
"I had a long discussion with Urban Meyer during this
process," Byrne said of the former Florida coach. "He
said, ‘Greg, if you hire Rich Rodriguez you're getting one
of the five greatest minds in college football. That would
be an incredible hire for the University of Arizona.'"
Sure, Rodriguez does not come without some baggage. He
left West Virginia under shady circumstances, was kicked
out of Ann Arbor after just three years and has had run-
ins with the NCAA over compliance issues.
But he's also won. A lot. That's more than could be said
for pretty much every coach who has been hired to lead the
Still, some are concerned with his lack of experience
coaching out west, thinking he will struggle to land
recruits because he's unfamiliar with the area.
Rodriguez said he will hire coaches with west-coast ties,
and the guy already has familiarity with an Arizona high
school called Chaparral, and they've been known to produce
a quality player or two.
And Rodriguez has been known to produce some exciting
"You'll see a passionate team, you'll see a team that's
committed, you'll see a team in great shape and you'll see
a team that plays hard," Rodriguez said.
Sunday, November 20, 2011 @ 10:45pm
I owe Jake Plummer a beer.
As someone who has been in the sports journalism
profession for a while now, there are few times I'm left
pretty much in awe of an athlete I talk to. However, my
chance meeting with Jake Plummer over the weekend did
You see, earlier in the week our own Doug and Wolf
interviewed Plummer, and at the time I couldn't help but
think that the former ASU and Cardinals QB seemed to have
a good head on his shoulders and was someone who, to be
honest, was amazingly content with his life.
I wrote a story and left it there, figuring no more would
come of it. I was wrong.
Spending Territorial Cup eve in Tempe amongst friends (who
just so happened to be ASU fans), Plummer walked into the
bar we were at and stopped to chat for a bit. The
conversations ranged everywhere from ASU athletics
(Plummer had no idea I was a Wildcats fan, more on that
later) to life in general.
Paying attention to every word, everything Plummer said
made sense, much of it in a "wow, I hadn't really thought
about it that way" kind of way.
Jake offered to buy a round for everyone, talking about
how he is 36 and retired so it wasn't an issue to pay for
a few drinks. We all thanked him, and then he realized I
was wearing my Arizona hat. Oops.
Telling him I was also a Cardinals fan, Plummer joked that
he wouldn't have bought me a beer had he known where I
went to school. We chatted a bit about the rivalry - this
year's game, especially - and agreed that we just wanted
to see a good game Saturday evening.
Now, maybe that's because I expected the Wildcats to lose
and just hoped it would be mildly entertaining. Naturally
I'd love to see the ‘Cats destroy the Sun Devils and
leaving little doubt or time to worry about the outcome.
Regardless, it was certainly interesting to discuss the
rivalry with someone who had actually played in it.
Plummer was complimentary of Arizona QB Nick Foles, saying
"he can really wing it," and really didn't seem to have
any hate for the school.
Maybe that's the benefit of having made a lot of money
playing in the NFL, retiring in your 30s and living a life
out of the spotlight. He knows that no matter what happens
in the game life does go on. And let's be honest here, if
we've learned anything over the last few weeks in college
football, the fact that there are more important things in
life than football has to be at the top.
I'd like to think I already knew that.
Don't get me wrong, I'm stoked the Wildcats pulled the
upset. Saying otherwise would be a lie, as the last couple
days have certainly been better because of the game. That
is my school, you know.
But as Plummer seems to have learned, everyone who has an
interest in the "Duel in the Desert" is a sports fan at
heart, and that's a bond we all share, regardless of what
color you were wearing at the game.
And maybe that's the most important thing I can take away
from the weekend. Besides, of course, a win for my alma
mater, a year's worth of bragging rights and a really old
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 @ 9:23am
The 85th "Duel in the Desert" is upon us, and for the
first time since Alex Zendejas kicked an extra point into
his own lineman, Arizona and Arizona State will face off
on the gridiron.
My 2-8 Wildcats visit Tempe to face off against the 6-4
Sun Devils in a game that, outside of the state of Arizona
(and let's be honest, even inside the state), doesn't
really mean much.
So, it goes without saying that I cannot wait for this
In fact, in a way I'd rather this game not happen. I'd
rather this column not happen. But the schedule makers
insist that this one be played, and the bosses (or karma,
really) are making sure I write this. My just desserts for
writing some ASU hit pieces, perhaps?
I don't know, but I
don't think anything I've written
deserved the kind of
season I've watched the Wildcats play.
At any rate, the game is going to happen and I'm already
knee deep into this column, so no point in quitting now. I
wish the Wildcats had the same mentality.
I'm going to be honest with you: I don't see myself
leaving Sun Devil Stadium a happy person Saturday night.
No, I fully expect the Sun Devils to more closely resemble
the team that had people talking about a contract
extension for their coach than the one that lost the last
two weeks. The Sun Devils, after all, still have something
to play for. The Wildcats? Not so much. In fact, most are
referring to this as Arizona's "Bowl Game."
Have you seen the Wildcats in bowl games the last couple
While you may think the Sun Devils haven't lived up to
expectations, the team from the Old Pueblo has found a way
to really underachieve, and that's saying something when
few expected anything substantial out of them.
Big losses to Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon put the
team in a hole they could not dig out of, but on the
bright side at least Arizona can hang its hat on the fact
that they were tied with the ninth, sixth and tenth ranked
teams during their games. Yes, 0-0 at kickoff counts, and
you can't take that away from me or the team.
Losses at USC and Oregon State cost head coach Mike Stoops
his job soon after, and save one amazing night in Tucson
against UCLA (how did that happen, by the way?), the beat
has just gone on as the beatings have continued. Only now,
instead of losing to some of the best teams in the
country, the 'Cats have taken suck to an entirely new
level, being non-competitive at home against Utah and on
the road against Colorado. Yeah, the same Colorado team
that had exactly 0 Pac-12 wins prior to playing Arizona.
Do the Wildcats have one more good game in them? Can they
go to Tempe, pull off the upset and let me leave a college
game with a smile on my face for the first time since
October 23, 2010? (Yes, it's been more than full calendar
year since I saw an Arizona victory in person.)
Now, you can say "anything can happen in a rivalry game"
all you want, but the truth is only twice since 1978 has
the team with a losing record beaten one with a winning
So while I'd like to point out many reasons why I think
Arizona can win this game, there really is only one: ASU's
Apparently the Sun Devils have just a handful of healthy
defensive backs, and the fact that the team got torched
for 494 yards by freshman Connor Halliday last week in
Pullman should give plenty of optimism that senior and UA
record-holder Nick Foles can do the same.
With receivers like Juron Criner, Dan Buckner, David
Douglas and Gino Crump to throw to, Foles has tallied the
third-most passing yards in the country to go with his 23
touchdown passes. The passing game can be elite if the
offensive line can keep the QB vertical. They haven't been
able to do that often enough this year, and ASU's much-
maligned defense could easily right the ship Saturday.
Remember, there's a reason the 'Cats are 2-8 and,
undeniably, the worst team in the conference. No matter
how bad you think the Sun Devils are right now, I promise
you ain't seen nothing yet.
Sunday, November 13, 2011 @ 10:11pm
Much of the talk after the Cardinals' improbable 21-17 win
over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday has been about the
quarterback position and what is now a bona-fide QB
Or is it?
Quarterback A has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for
an average of 7.5 yards per attempt, has a 1:1 touchdown
to interception ratio and has been sacked an average of
3.4 times per game. His QB rating stands at a solid 77.8.
Quarterback B has completed 54.7 percent of his passes for
an average of 7.2 yards per attempt, has a 2:1 touchdown
to interception ratio and has been sacked an average of
3.5 times per game. His QB rating is 84.1.
Quarterback A is Kevin Kolb, and it's worth noting that
the only thing he did to earn the starting QB job is get
traded for and sign a contract extension. Nothing he's
done on the field makes him seem like a better option than
Quarterback B, John Skelton, which is why the second-year
pro should be the starter going forward.
It's not that Skelton is Tom Brady circa 2001. He's done a
solid job the last two games - both wins - but is hardly
the reason for the victories. Skelton has played a
significant role, and that is something no one can ignore.
At least, they shouldn't. The Cardinals shouldn't.
Most pointed to the defense and special teams as why the
Cardinals beat the Rams a week ago, and they were right.
The QB didn't mess things up, but he was hardly brilliant.
He wasn't brilliant in Philadelphia on Sunday throwing a
pair of really bad interceptions, but he was resilient in
leading touchdown drives after each turnover. He was
clutch, leading scoring drives of 84, 89 and 87 yards,
including some ridiculous throws on the game-winner. He
was the first Cardinals QB to win away from Glendale since
September of 2010, and is now responsible for four of the
team's eight wins in the post-Kurt Warner era.
Why ignore that?
The common theme for most seems to be the Cardinals made a
hefty investment in Kolb and would be foolish to bail on
him now. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a second round pick
and a big contract extension was the price to bring the QB
to Arizona, and the Cardinals owe it to themselves to try
and make it work.
Well, the trade happened and it's not getting reversed.
Why let one mistake lead to more? I believe the term is
"sunk cost," and the team should not worry about the past,
rather it should focus on the future.
Monday, November 7, 2011 @ 10:37am
John Skelton, winner.
The Cardinals' fifth round pick out of Fordham last year,
Skelton has started five games for the Cardinals, winning
As ESPN's Mike
Sando notes, that gives the QB the highest win
percentage among Cardinals QBs in the Ken Whisenhunt era.
Of course, it would be foolish to give all the credit to
Skelton, as he's been aided by outstanding defense and
special teams in wins over some pretty lousy competition,
including Sunday against the hapless Rams. And it's not as
if he's been lighting the world on fire with his arm, as
he's completed less than 50 percent of his passes and
thrown just three touchdowns in six games.
But the 6-foot-6 signal caller showed poise in his first
start of 2011, a fact that was not lost on head coach Ken
"I think that was the most important thing [Sunday],"
Whisenhunt said. "He missed a number of things."
Whisenhunt pointed to the pair of safeties Skelton took,
but noted that young quarterbacks tend to make mistakes.
Skelton is just 23, after all, and the team's starting
quarterback, 27-year-old Kevin Kolb, was responsible for
giving an opponent two points just a couple weeks ago.
It's all just part of the growing process.
"He made some really good throws for us," Whisenhunt said.
"I think that if he has to play more, he'll even get
better with more time."
Skelton probably will, and it's worth wondering how high
his ceiling is. Because with his size and mobility
(Skelton rushed for 38 yards) along with his willingness
to stay in the pocket and step up when necessary, it would
appear the Cardinals have something to work with at the QB
If nothing else, the team has confidence with Skelton
"That guy is really confident in the huddle," said Andre
Roberts, who resurfaced Sunday for five catches and 55
yards. "He is a leader. Whenever we put him in the
situation, he gets it done."
All that said, there is no chance Skelton will supplant
Kevin Kolb as the team's starter. No, Kolb is the guy this
year, especially considering the investment the team made
in him and the fact that it would be premature to toss him
aside after just seven starts.
Besides, even while earning the win Skelton was
inconsistent, completing 20 of 35 passes for 222 yards and
one score against the Rams. He made some poor throws but,
conversely, made some passes that made you go "wow." That
includes the fourth quarter touchdown strike to Larry
"Just peaks and valleys I think," Skelton said when asked
to rate his performance. "We had some positive drives that
we didn't finish."
That's going to happen with a quarterback making just his
fifth career start, and the running game - other than what
Skelton provided - was virtually non-existent Sunday.
But that didn't matter in the end, because the Cardinals
got the win and the fans got to see another QB run the
show. Was he great? No. Was he bad? No. Was he good enough
to make the Cardinals reassess what they have at that
Sunday, November 6, 2011 @ 6:12pm
For the first time since Week 1, fans leaving University of
Phoenix Stadium did so with smiles on their faces. Their
joy, while measurable, paled in comparison to how the
Cardinals reacted in their locker room, 19-13 winners over
the St. Louis Rams.
The cheers could be heard from a couple rooms away.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things all it means is the
Cardinals are 2-6 instead of 1-7, but the fact that they
won - especially the way they did - was certainly worth
smiling over Sunday. Because really, how many times does a
team win on a walk-off punt return, as receiver Larry
Fitzgerald called it?
"You have no idea how hard it's been coming up here six
weeks in a row trying to put something positive on
losing," a smiling Fitz said. "It's a great feeling to
come out of here with a W today."
And he wasn't about to apologize for the team reacting as
if this was something more than one 1-6 team beating
"We haven't won a game since Week 1, we were elated," he
said, talking about the finish. "You can't hold it in."
The last six weeks have not been easy on the Cardinals.
Some of the losses have been close, others not so much. No
matter how it happened, each one left players and coaches
having to explain what went wrong, talking about how they
were close and that they were not going to give up on the
And while a win over a team that notched its first win of
the season one week ago will not a season turn around, you
better believe snapping a losing streak and winning a
close game will give this team new life.
"Emotionally for your team it gives you a lot to build off
of going forward," a hoarse Ken Whisenhunt said. "The
belief in our guys defensively now on how to run our
scheme is going to go up exponentially.
"Offensively it's much easier to correct your mistakes…
when you have a win."
And there is plenty to correct.
The offense, in the first half, was downright offensive.
Arizona mustered just 58 yards - total - and trailed 9-3.
John Skelton was just 6-of-11 for 65 yards, Beanie Wells
had just two yards on seven attempts and some Cardinals
fans had to be yearning for the days of the Derek
Anderson-led offense. Hey, at least you could chuckle when
an open receiver is overthrown by 15 yards, whereas Sunday
the Cards were just missing on some plays. No running
game, an inconsistent passing game and a pair of safeties
(yes, really, two more) left the Cardinals trailing 13-6
heading into the fourth quarter, with the seven point
deficit looking rather insurmountable.
The game seemed like something we'd seen over the last six
weeks, but then something strange happened.
The Cardinals started making plays.
John Skelton, who got the start at QB for an injured Kevin
Kolb, led the team on a nine-play, 84-yard touchdown drive
to tie things up, throwing for 47 yards and rushing for
another 28. The final 13 were on a beautiful pass to
Fitzgerald, with No. 11 scoring for the first time since
The defense held the Rams on the next drive, stuffing
Steven Jackson twice when he needed just one yard for the
first down. The second time was on fourth down. No points
scored, game still tied.
That helped set the stage for Patrick Peterson's game-
winning punt return in overtime, the final play in a day
filled with just enough for the Cardinals to get the win.
"We've had guys step up and make plays, periodically,
through games, but we weren't able to close some games
out," Fitzgerald said. "Today guys really stepped up.
"Blocked field goals, the fourth down stop, punt returns;
a lot of guys made some plays."
Indeed, this win was a team effort.
The defense was strong all day, not allowing the Rams to
reach the end zone. The offense came alive when it
mattered most, with Skelton leading the way. Special teams
was just that, blocking what would have been the game-
winning field goal for St. Louis and then, finally,
scoring on Peterson's 99-yard return. In overtime.
"The team has some character," Whisenhunt said. "What you
have to do is you have to win some of these games like
this in order get on a roll, in order to make a turn,
hopefully that's the first step in that [Sunday]."
It's the team's first step forward in nearly two months,
and don't ask them to feel bad about doing so with a
Sunday, November 6, 2011 @ 1:19pm
13:30 left in overtime
Cardinals force the Rams to punt, got good pressure on
Bradford. Punt is returned 99 yards for a touchdown. I see
you, Patrick Peterson. Wow. Cardinals win 19-13, losing
Start of overtime
Rams win the toss and will receive. First one to score in
overtime wins. First one to score advances record to 2-6,
so honestly, do they even win? We'll find out.
End of regulation
Block! The Cardinals burst through the line and block
Brown's kick, preserving the tie and sending this game to
:12 left in fourth quarter
Patrick Peterson flagged for pass interference at the 32,
Rams have the ball with time for one more play. They give
it to Jackson who rushes to the 24. Sets up a 42-yard
attempt for Brown, who has been perfect on the day. Will
be the final play of the game.
:15 seconds left in fourth quarter
Check that, timeout is given back due to some rule I've
never heard of. Rams throw incomplete, 3rd and 6.
:18 left in fourth quarter
Mike Adams down after making a big hit. Cart comes out to
take him off the field. Rams have the ball on Arizona's 37
but are now out of timeouts. Can look down the field but
must get out of bounds. Still a long field goal from here.
:51 left in fourth quarter
Punt isn't great, Rams begin at their 36. They have one
1 minute left in fourth quarter
No conversion, Cards pick up 8. Zastudil on to punt, has a
chance to pin the Rams back deep.
1:07 left in fourth quarter
Skelton sacked, fumbles, recovers, loses 16. 3rd and 26
for the Cardinals. Ugh.
1:41 left in fourth quarter
Rams run Jackson to the left, stuffed for a one yard loss.
Fourth and two they go for it, run left again, and don't
pick it up. Cardinals get the ball back on their own 33.
No timeouts left but not a long way to go to get into
1:54 left in fourth quarter
Cards call timeout after the Rams pick up nine, third and
one. Game on the line with this play?
2 minutes left in fourth quarter
The stage is set, so to speak. The Rams have the ball at
Arizona's 42, are a first down away from being within
field goal range. the Cardinals have a pair of timeouts
left, so a couple first downs would mean the Rams get the
last possession. It's 2nd and 10, the defense really has a
chance to step up here.
4:38 left in fourth quarter
The Cardinals defense, which has been great this half, has
a chance to really do something here. The Rams only need a
field goal, can the Cards get a stop? If so, can they get
it with enough time left for the offense to have a chance?
4:51 left in fourth quarter
I stand corrected. Skelton puts together a fantastic
drive, mixing some nice throws in with some outstanding
runs. He caps it off with a perfect pass to Larry
Fitzgerald for a 13-yard touchdown, tying the game up.
8:34 left in fourth quarter
Rams punt is fair caught at the 16, where the Cards will
begin their next three-and-out. Presumptuous? Perhaps. But
hard to expect otherwise right now.
9:59 left in fourth quarter
Four plays, two yards, one punt. It was a good one, but
Michael Adams is called for fair catch interference,
meaning the Rams will start their drive at the 27.
11:18 left in fourth quarter
Defense comes up big again, forcing a punt. Cardinals
start their drive at their own 34. Only 66 yards to tie it
up, right? Only...
13:29 left in fourth quarter
Cards drive stalls after a LSH drop and a missed route by
Andre Roberts. Zastudil punts it to the 10, where the Rams
will begin their drive. They appear to have the most
insurmountable seven point lead ever right now.
13:44 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals have the ball at the Rams' 41, moving the ball
and looking moderately competent. Can it last for another
41 yards? Arizona called a timeout, let's hope they don't
need it later.
End of third quarter
Skelton with a couple nice throws and the Cardinals have
the ball on their own 37. Only need another 63 to tie this
Interesting game for Skelton. He's made some bad throws
but also some very, very good ones. Good pocket presence,
poor accuracy. Would be helped by a running game.
1:24 left in third quarter
Defense does a nice job forcing the punt, Cards begin
drive at their own 5. Anyone up for a third safety? Didn't
think so, let's hope the Cardinals feel the same way.
3:31 left in third quarter
Ever see two safeties in one game? Well, now you have.
Skelton called for intentional grounding in the end zone,
Rams now up 13-6. Seriously, who didn't see this coming?
One way or another we knew this game would feature bad
3:38 left in third quarter
Cardinals defense makes a stand, forcing the Rams to punt
after an incredibly strange drive. As bad as Arizona has
played, the Cards are a touchdown away from taking the
lead. Of course, that would require the team to actually
score a touchdown. Drive starts at the Arizona nine.
7:24 left in third quarter
Oh yeah, that two yard line? Same end zone whee the Cards
got called for a safety two weeks ago against Pittsburgh.
Why is that relevant? Well, Skelton was sacked in the end
zone, score two more for the Rams. 11-6 in a game that is
as bad in person as you'd think it is.
8:11 left in third quarter
Cardinals defense gets the job done after a rough start,
forcing a punt. That's the good news. The bad news is the
punt is downed at the two, meaning the Cardinals have a
long way to go. I'm intrigued.
Still 10:30 left in third quarter
Kickoff goes out of the end zone for a touchback. Rams
will begin drive from their own 20, and the Cardinals
could sure use a stop.
10:30 left in third quarter
Skelton makes some excellent throws to get the Cards down
the field but the offense stalls and Feely boots a 38-yard
field goal through the uprights to make the game 9-6.
Skelton note: he rarely seems to be under pressure today.
Not sure if the line is doing a better job than they have
with Kolb or if the fact that he just stays in the pocket
and makes his reads doesn't give the illusion of pressure.
Either way, I'm impressed with the guy's pocket presence.
14:54 left in third quarter
Cards get the ball and will start from their own 22. To
say the offense was abysmal in the first half would be an
understatement. No running game, iffy passing game. Need
Josh Brown kicks his third field goal of the game, this
one from 41-yards outmaking it 9-3 as we head into the
Is anyone surprised with just how bad this game is? They
1:56 left in second quarter
We're at the two minute warning and the Rams have the ball
at their own 44. I'd say they're driving but in this game
you never know. Defense really needs to get a stop at
some point on this drive and make sure the score is no
worse than 6-3 heading into the half.
3:40 left in second quarter
Daryn Colledge does his best impersonation of a turnstile
and gets Skelton crushed in the backfield on 3rd-and-9.
Play comes after Skelton nearly gets Fitz broken on a pass
play. Cards punt.
5:20 left in second quarter
Cards burn a timeout before getting chance to run what may
have been an awesome play. Patrick Peterson was lined up
in the backfield next to Skelton. Yes, Patrick Peterson.
Skelton finds Andre Roberts on the next play. Roberts,
ladies and gentlemen, is your leading receiver today.
7:02 left in second quarter
Adrian Wilson blows up Jackson in the backfield on 3rd-
and-1, Rams forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal.
Rams up 6-3 now. The score between the two teams last
season here was 19-6 Rams. Lots of field goals then.
Stoked to be seeing more of the same today.
10:45 left in second quarter
Bradford looks good, Rams are moving the ball. Cards
defense needs to come up with some sort of play here.
13:13 left in second quarter
Cards drive stalls after Beanie Wells can't convert on a
3rd-and-1 run. Wait, is it even really considered a
"drive" if the team only gains nine yards? Anyway, Rams to
start from their own 31, best starting field position of
the day for the visitors.
End of first quarter
We've played 15 minutes in Glendale and the score is 3-3.
Honestly, who could have seen that coming?
Anyway, some quick thoughts:
Bradford looks pretty good for a guy who hasn't played in
a couple weeks.
Skelton doesn't look bad, either. Not great though, needs
to get his timing.
That's about it. The game is 3-3, you know.
b>:22 left in first quarter
Rams go with a flea-flicker deep to Lloyd who, not
surprisingly, can't outrun Patrick Peterson. The rookie
makes the interception and the Cards have the ball at
their own 10.
3:04 left in first quarter
Cards go three-and-out. Oops. Skelton a little late on the
third down throw, preventing Doucet from having a chance
to get the necessary yardage. Punt puts the ball at the
Rams' 13 to begin the drive. Defense didn't get much rust
and Bradford seemed to find his timing.
4:33 left in first quarter
Stephens-Howling takes ball out from deep in the end zone
and gets it to the 17. Should have taken a knee. Am I the
only one who has been less impressed with Hyphen's returns
this year? The new rules seem to have hurt him.
4:38 left in first quarter
Josh Brown comes in and kicks a 48-yard field goal to tie
the game. Defense was OK -- got a little pressure -- but
not really enough. Bradford got going, that's bad. Can
Skelton do the same for the Cards?
6:40 left in first quarter
Rust gone? Bradford looking impressive, avoiding pressure
and delivering strikes to Lloyd and Gibson. Not what the
Cardinals wanted to see.
10:44 left in first quarter
Rams begin drive No. 2 from their 15. Sam Bradford, who
ruined the battle of the backups by actually playing,
looked a bit rusty on the last possession. Rams will have
to rely on Steven Jackson (as does my fantasy team), but
you have to think the Cardinals know that...
10:56 left in first quarter
Cards drive stalls at the St. Louis 9, as Skelton throws
incomplete on a couple balls. So far, interesting. He
tall in the pocket, didn't scramble (didn't have to) and
even found Andre Roberts. Jay Feely's FG gives the Cards a
14:00 left in first quarter
Late start with the notes today. My alarm clock thought we
were on daylight savings time. Who does that, anyway?
As for the game, Cardinals lose the toss but hold the Rams
to a 3-and-out, forcing a punt. Arizona will start its
drive at the Rams' 37, great chance to get off to a fast
start...with John Skelton under center.
Friday, November 4, 2011 @ 12:28pm
My career as a sports fan peaked 10 years ago, on November
That was the day my dad and I decided against going to Sun
Devil Stadium to watch this abomination of an "NFL game",
instead deciding the game downtown was more important.
You know, Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
Indeed, I was fortunate enough to have a ticket for the
game, and what transpired that afternoon is easily the
greatest moment in my sports fan career.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way, either.
Now, I'd be lying if I said I remember it all vividly,
because I don't. Eighteen at the time, I was perfectly
aware of what the game meant and the all, just, you know,
a lot's happened in the 10 years since (including college)
so you'll have to forgive my fuzzy memory.
One thing I do remember is the anticipation. You see, my
dad and I had tickets for Game 7 - and only Game 7. There
was no guarantee that game would happen but, to be honest,
I really just wanted the team to win the series. Do it in
four, five, six - I don't care, just win the damn trophy.
But as Byung-Hyun Kim continued to choke away games at
Yankee Stadium the possibility of a seventh game grew
stronger, and after the 15-2 beatdown in Game 6 it was a
reality. Game 7, here we come.
The entire day was spent waiting for the game. Who cared
about Sunday school. Hell, who cared about the NFL (is it
weird to use the word "hell" right after talking about
Sunday school?), the Diamondbacks were about to play the
Yankees in a one-game, winner-take-all showdown.
The pitching matchup could not have been any more
delicious, as it was Curt Schilling vs. Roger Clemens. The
D-backs pitcher had carried the team through the
postseason and was going to make his third start in the
series, whereas Clemens was very much at the top of his
game. It was like the Super Bowl, only for baseball. It
Not to be cliché, but the atmosphere in the building was
nothing short of electric. From Jessie McGuire doing the
national anthem to the white pom poms everyone was
rocking, it was nothing I had ever seen before.
And through five innings the game was what we should have
expected: a classic pitcher's duel.
Schilling and Clemens were tossing shutouts, making
hitters look foolish for even thinking they might get a
The D-backs took the lead in the sixth inning when Danny
Bautista doubled in Steve Finley, but was thrown out going
for third leaving the D-backs up by just a single run. The
lead evaporated the very next inning, helping to set the
stage for one of the greatest finishes ever, and it began
with a devastating moment.
Alfonso Soriano hit a home run, and this was before he was
Alfonso Soriano. The second-baseman hit a homer to
left field, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the eighth
inning. I remember wondering how Schilling, who had been
so great, could give up a home run at that moment. Replays
would show the ball was at Soriano's ankles and it was not
a pitch he should have been swinging at, but that didn't
The air had literally been sucked out of the building, and
Schilling exited to a standing ovation. Everyone was
appreciative of the job he did, but in reality the general
thought was "that was it" for the 2001 Diamondbacks. It
was about that time it started to rain -- yeah, rain -- as
the roof was open and the weather, like the game, had gone
south. Mystique and aura? You almost had to start
believing. It wasn't until Game 6 starter Randy Johnson
entered the game a couple hitters later that excitement
started to build again. I mean come on, the guy threw 104
pitches less than 24 hours earlier and now he's back on
Johnson got the final out of the inning, but then reality
once again set in.
The Diamondbacks were down 2-1 and now had to deal with
the prospect of Mariano Rivera…again.
Maybe this would be the time someone finally gets to the
Yankees star, right? Not exactly.
Rivera struck out the side in the eighth, and it seemed
like the Diamondbacks were one inning away from losing the
World Series. At home. In front of their fans.
But Johnson retired the side in order in the top of the
9th, and the stage was set.
Now, we all know what happened next: Mark Grace singled,
Rivera threw Damian Miller's bunt attempt into centerfield
and Jay Bell's sacrifice didn't work. It was first and
third with one out, and Tony Womack stepped up to the
Womack doubled a 2-2 pitch to right field, tying the game.
At that point I knew the D-backs were going to win. I
think the rest of the stadium did, too.
Craig Counsell was hit by a pitch and Luis Gonzalez
stepped up to the plate. That season's hero, it was only
fitting that he delivered the game-winning hit.
The stadium erupted with a mix of excitement and surprise,
as Valley fans really didn't know what winning a
championship was like. We learned that day, and it was
Does it get any better than that? I have my doubts.
Monday, October 31, 2011 @ 10:55am
The word "hubris" is defined
as "an excess of ambition, pride
etc, ultimately causing the transgressor's ruin."
We've seen it lead to the demise of one excellent coach in
the Valley, and I fear we're watching it happen again
Indeed, Ken Whisenhunt appears to be going down the same
road already traveled by Mike D'Antoni, one that leads a
once highly-regarded coach out of town simply because he
was too stubborn to do what was best for the team and,
Before D'Antoni's time in Phoenix ended he was supposedly
asked to actually devote practice time to defense and work
to develop a bench. Having won 232 regular season games
over the previous four seasons, Mike felt like he knew
what he was doing and that his system worked. Many thought
his "system" was Steve Nash, but it didn't matter. He took
being asked to change personally and decided he no longer
wanted to coach in Phoenix because of it.
He hasn't found success since.
Fast forward to today and you'll see similar patterns with
Coach Whiz is arguably the most successful head coach the
Cardinals have ever had, but none of that matters now as
the team has followed a 5-11 season with a 1-6 start. The
idea that Kurt Warner was the sole reason for Whisenhunt's
success seems to have some merit, as Arizona changed from
playoff contender to "Same Old Cardinals" the day No. 13
But there's more to it than that. In fact, the signs were
visible as early as the 2010 preseason.
The day Whisenhunt decided he was done with Matt Leinart
was the day the clock on his time in Arizona started
ticking away. Leinart may very well be the worst
quarterback in history, but Whisenhunt decided to not let
the man prove it on the field and instead demoted the
presumed starter during the preseason, which infuriated
the former Heisman Trophy winner. The decision to go with
Derek Anderson was 100 percent Whisenhunt thinking he
could make someone who had completed 44.5 percent of his
passes the previous season a legitimate QB. He would
succeed where everyone else had failed. And why wouldn't
he feel that way, his system worked for Kurt Warner.
Wrong, but it wasn't the coach's fault. The system works,
we were told, and it was all about players making
Once thought to be a brilliant coach who adapted his
system to the talent he had, Whisenhunt is proving to be a
guy who would instead prefer to force the talent to fit
his system. Bad idea.
But that would all be fixed if the team could find a real
quarterback, which they did this past summer. However, six
weeks into the regular season there is already talk about
Kevin Kolb's footwork being a mess and the QB being slow
to pick up the system, issues we heard Leinart had, too.
It's a little understandable for Kolb, given the lack of
an offseason, but if that's the case why throw so much at
the QB so soon?
The same is happening with the defense now, which is on
its third coordinator in four seasons.
Problem is the defense still can't stop anyone, and star
players like Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson are
struggling to make any sort of positive impact. While
Wilson's decline could be attributed to age, the guess
here is Dockett's is more because he's simply being used
incorrectly. In this system. Which Whisenhunt wanted.
This is Coach Whisenhunt's fifth season at the helm and
thus far he's compiled a 33-38 record. Of course, he's
just 6-17 since Warner retired, with the losses coming by
an average of 14 points a game. The team has barely been
competitive at times, something that is inexcusable in
today's NFL and shocking given how talented this team was
just a couple years ago. And many of their issues --
especially on the offensive line -- have been around since
the day the coach was hired.
ESPN's Ron Jaworski said last
week, as far as the Cardinals' struggles are
concerned, that "it's either poor coaching or dumb
It's likely a combination of both, which ultimately falls
back on the head coach.
Unfortunately like D'Antoni, Whisenhunt is a smart guy,
one who should be able to see what the problems are and
work to fix them. Clearly D'Antoni needed to improve the
team's depth and defense, and it's obvious Whisenhunt
needs to adapt the system to the players he has until he
gets the players he really needs.
That hasn't appeared to be an option, and so far it has
cost the Cardinals some games. A little more stubbornness
from the coach, though, and it will likely cost him his
Monday, October 24, 2011 @ 1:26pm
It is no secret that the Arizona Cardinals offense is
struggling, as one needs only look at Larry Fitzgerald's
statistics to see there are some issues.
31 receptions, 505 yards, two touchdowns. Not
embarrassing, but not great. And, as we all know, Fitz is
great. So what's the problem?
Well, it's not that the team isn't trying to get him the
ball. The Pro Bowler has been targeted a team-best 52
times this season and his receptions have been good for 23
first downs, meaning the Cardinals are looking for him
often and in important situations.
And it's not like Fitzgerald is struggling with a bad case
of the dropsies, as he's been credited with just two this
season. Stack those up against all the amazing catches
he's made this season and you realize No. 11 is still at
the top of his game.
But why is he just 17th in the NFL in receptions (tied
with Tampa Bay's duo of Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow)
and in a 34-way tie for 20th in touchdown catches, with as
many scores as players like Kellen Davis, Preston Parker,
Daniel Fells, Jason Hill and Ben Obomanu?
There are a lot of reasons, but the lack of a proven No. 2
wideout opposite Fitz is not one of them.
Indeed, many have pointed to Early Doucet and Andre
Roberts as the reason for Fitzgerald's muted stats, with
the idea that teams are able to double team the star
because they are not concerned with anyone else on the
They remember the days when Anquan Boldin and Steve
Breaston were also on the field, helping to lead one of
the most potent passing attacks in the league. Fitzgerald
put up monster numbers those seasons, emerging as one of
the game's most feared players. While it's true those two
made the passing game better, but they really didn't do
much for Fitzgerald.
To wit: Anquan Boldin missed four games in 2007, and
Fitzgerald tallied 31 catches, 432 yards and two
touchdowns in those contests. The Quan missed five more
games the next year, with Fitzgerald compensating by
hauling in 28 catches for 528 yards and seven touchdowns.
Boldin missed just one game the following year - his last
with the Cardinals - and Fitzgerald responded by catching
nine passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in a road win
over the Bears.
Seven catches, 108 yards and one touchdown per game. Not
exactly struggling. Yet now his problems should be
attributed to the other wideouts on the field?
The biggest difference in the passing game, from then
until now, is the player whose job it is to get Fitzgerald
the ball. Kurt Warner was great, and he found a way to get
the ball to his stars. If Fitzgerald was open, Kurt didn't
miss him. If Fitzgerald wasn't open, Kurt wouldn't miss
him. Kevin Kolb can't say the same, because while he's
connected on some big plays, there have been a few times
this season - and Sunday against the Steelers - where the
QB just failed to deliver a catchable pass. That's not on
Fitz, and it's certainly not on the other receivers.
Even with Kolb's struggles Fitzgerald's average of 16.3
yards per catch would easily be the highest of his career,
so it's not as if the 4-11 connection is a complete
disaster. It's just not where it needs to be, though fault
does not lie with the team's other receiving options.
The truth is Early Doucet has done a nice job opposite
Fitz, with 26 catches and a pair of scores, the tight end
trio of Jeff King, Todd Heap and Rob Housler has done a
good job getting open and the running game has been enough
of a threat so that teams can't solely game-plan for
And while defenses are certainly bracketing Fitz to keep
him in check, he is not the first star wideout the league
has ever seen, and yet somehow stars like Calvin Johnson,
Steve Smith and Roddy White continue to shine, and none of
them play opposite another great receiver.
Right now Fitzgerald is on pace for just 83 receptions
this year, a total that would represent his lowest since
2006, when the team stunk and he played in just 13 games.
But with Doucet heading for what could be a 70 catch
season and Arizona's tight ends will finish with more
receptions than any season in recent memory, it would
really be unfair - if not inaccurate - to point to
Fitzgerald's teammates as reason for his "struggles."
Sunday, October 23, 2011 @ 12:55pm
And that will do it, Steelers win 32-20. Will have more
from the locker
room, should be, uhh, fun.
2:59 left in 4th quarter
Steelers have the ball and are driving, though its all of
They are going to win this game and the Cardinals will
lick their wounds as
the 2011 season continues to slip away.
3:53 left in fourth quarter
Kolb hits Doucet for a two yard score after the team puts
a nice drive
together. Two point conversion fails, Steelers up 32-20.
Going to be too
little, too late I'm afraid.
6:46 left in fourth quarter
Steelers add another field goal and make it 32-14. This
game is over, folks,
but feel free to stick around and keep reading.
In all seriousness, this is just an all-around awful
effort, especially from the
offense. You'd have hoped for a better effort after the
bye but alas, no. This
team just isn't good. Hot seat, Coach Whiz, Coach Whiz,
10:56 left in fourth quarter
An awful pass, a screen play gone awry (shocking, I know)
underthrow to an open Fitz lead to the Cardinals punting
the ball away, and
a good return (aided by a non-called holding) gives the
Steelers the ball at
the Arizona 40. Fans are starting to head for the exits,
can't say I blame
11:25 left in fourth quarter
Stephens-Howling takes the kickoff from six yards deep in
the end zone to
the 13 yard line. Guy has been killing the team on returns
Cardinals really need a touchdown here, preferably in a
timely manner. Do
they have it in them? Honestly, I doubt it. The Steelers
know Arizona will be
one dimensional and tee off on Kolb.
11:30 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals defense holds the Steelers to a field goal,
which makes the score
29-14 guests. Game isn't over, but would take an
incredible fourth quarter
effort from the home team to even have a chance.
End of third quarter
The Steelers have the ball, a 26-14 lead and a chance to
put this game
away here on this drive. They are at midfield and, well,
look less awful than
Kolb looks bad, the defense looks mediocre and the
Cardinals, well, look
like a team ready to be 1-5.
3:42 left in third quarter
If some of the air was sucked out on that touchdown the
rest is now gone
due to a safety. Kolb is called for intentional grounding
in the end zone,
Steelers now lead 26-14 and will be getting the ball. This
dangerously close to being blown wide open.
3:54 left in third quarter
The answer was no. Pittsburgh got the first down and,
aided by some
slipping Cardinals, scored on a four yard pass from
Sanders. Steelers take a 24-14 lead with just under four
minutes left in the
third, kind of sucks some of the air out of the building.
6:20 left in third quarter
Steelers are driving, just past midfield, facing a 3rd and
5. Not picking up
huge chunks of yardage on this drive. Can the Cardinals
9:26 left in third quarter
Kolb moves around in the pocket, hits Stephens-Howling,
who gets a block
from Jeff King and races 73 yards for the touchdown. PAT
makes it 17-14
Steelers, and the Cardinals get the shot in the arm they
12:06 left in third quarter
Cardinals force the Steelers to punt, will begin their
first drive of the half
from at their own 11. Did the offense get something going
on the last drive
before the half? We'll see.
Steelers get a field goal at the end of the half as their
drive was slow,
sloppy and disturbing. Penalty after penalty helps
Pittsburgh drive down
the field, with Patrick Peterson looking like a confused
Steelers lead the game 17-7 at the half and are set to get
the ball to begin
the third quarter.
1:20 left in the second quarter
Alfono Smith scores on the one yard touchdown run, as he's
in the game
for an injured Wells. Wells, we found out, suffered a
sprained knee and is
questionable to return. That news makes my fantasy team
questionable to win today.
At any rate, Arizona gets a much needed touchdown and now
Team put together a good drive with the help of the
advantage of some penalties.
Still time left in the half, does Pittsburgh try to add to
their lead? We'll see.
2:54 left in second quarter
The Cardinals still have the ball! Arizona's drive has
been aided by a couple
of Steelers penalties on third downs, now it's up to the
Cards to make
something happen. The ball is on Pittsburgh's 10 and a
touchdown here is
Beanie Wells is on the sideline with some sort of injury,
so that's not good.
5:50 left in second quarter
Kolb hits Fitz on 3rd and 2 for a first down, nice play as
the team is driving.
Arizona desperately needs a score here. Again.
8:09 left in second quarter
Roethlisberger hits Wallace down the sideline for a 95
yard TD, Richard
Marshall burned on the play. Talk about a swing, Kolb
misses what should
have been an easy TD and the Steelers score on the very
next drive. #SMH
8:30 left in second quarter
Promising drive ends after Kolb misses a WIDE OPEN Rob
Housler down the
seem, where a completion would have been good for six, and
to a not-looking Fitz on third down. Kolb really doing his
Anderson out there, missing guys, showing frustration and
11:17 left in second quarter
Cardinals allow a first down but force a punt, holding
penalty on the return
means Arizona will start its next drive from the 25 yard
showed signs of life last drive but really needs to put
some points on the
14:19 left in second quarter
Cardinals drive stalls after Kolb takes a sack on third
down. Had some time
but maybe nobody got open? Still would like to see him
step up in the
pocket and buy some time. The guy needs to learn some
Punt pins Steelers at their own six, defense really needs
to force a turnover
(or three and out).
End of first quarter
The first quarter ends with the Cardinals trailing 7-0,
though they have the
ball near midfield.
This drive has been aided by a great catch by Larry
Fitzgerald, who makes
me wonder how any QB can look as bad as Arizona's have the
when he's there to throw the ball to. Unreal.
As for the Cardinals, they don't look too good. Need to
get something on
this drive to have some momentum, but the running game is
nowhere and the defense looks like it will give up some
2:53 left in first quarter
Steelers ultimately forced to punt, though the Cardinals
will begin the drive
on their own six yard line. Offense needs to do something
here, if only to
help with field position.
6:31 left in first quarter
Steelers are driving. Cardinals gave them the ball back
after Kolb overthrew
a wide open Fitzgerald, instead hitting Troy Polamalu in
the numbers. He
dropped it but the Cards still punted away, and a 3rd and
long is converted
by the Steelers when the Cardinals failed to cover Antonio
Trainwreck, thy name is Cardinals.
9:39 left in first quarter
An Adrian Wilson facemask penalty combined with some nice
Pittsburgh drive, and the Steelers take a 7-0 lead on a
13-yard pass from
Big Ben to Heath Miller. The good news is no one seemed to
get beat in
coverage on the play. The bad news is nobody seemed to be
to defend the tight end. There are great starts and then
there is this.
12:46 left in first quarter
Kolb gets blitzed, throws to Housler. Ball is tipped and
awful start for the Cardinals. Steelers take over at
Arizona's 31. Oh boy.
10 seconds to kickoff
Cardinals win toss, elect to receive. Offense, which has
struggled, gets the
first against a banged up Steelers defense.
10 minutes to kickoff
Steelers come onto the field to a chorus of...cheers?
Plenty of yellow towels
being waved inside University of Phoenix Stadium, meaning
this could be a
long day for Cards fans if the home team struggles.
Thursday, October 20, 2011 @ 12:51pm
Note from the author: the column you are about to read
was not easy for me to write. As an Arizona fan and alum I
die a little inside every time I defend anything related
to Arizona State, but my duty as a columnist pushed me to
this point. I'm sorry, Wilbur.
This has not been an easy week for Vontaze Burfict.
The Arizona State linebacker, regarded as one of the best
players in the country and a top NFL Draft pick whenever
he chooses to go pro, has been a constant target for
Doug Franz, Bruce Feldman, Mark May and Bob Davie all spoke this week about the
junior's struggles, with the conversation ranging from his
falling draft stock to dumb penalties costing his team.
They're all right. They're all wrong.
On the season the linebacker has 36 tackles, four sacks,
one interception, a few passes defensed and a handful of
personal foul penalties. He's been more role player than
star, just one member of a defense that has helped the Sun
Devils reach a 5-2 record and take a stranglehold of the
But, as my
colleague Vince Marotta pointed out, the player is
just not living up to the hype. That doesn't make him a
bad player, just not the guy fans expected - or wanted.
Football, as we all know, is an emotional game. Burfict is
at his best when he's playing mean, a terror opposing
offenses have to not only gameplan for, but be wary of
even after the whistle blows.
It's why Sporting News named him the "meanest man in
college football" before the season and the entire package
- dumb penalties included - was good enough for most
people because even with his faults Burfict was just a
damn good football player.
But the emotion of seeing Burfict draw what were some
admittedly questionable flags in Oregon combined with the
thought of him underachieving has caused analysts and ASU
fans alike to turn on the player who, in all honesty, is
still the team's best pro prospect.
Think about it: how many people, all of a sudden, are
touting QB Brock Osweiler as the next great NFL QB? Too
many, really. The junior has been solid, but not great.
He's tossed 15 touchdown passes against eight
interceptions and completed 66 percent of his passes for
an average of 7.60 yards per attempt.
Osweiler's QB rating is 142.8, which is good enough for
43rd in the country. His 15 touchdown passes tie him
for 18th and his eight picks are the seventh-most in FBS,
just behind such great passers as Denard Robinson and Sean
Does Osweiler have potential? Absolutely. Has he been
great this year? No, but it's amazing what expectations
can do for one's perception, seeing how most of the
conversations have praised the QB but trashed the team's
Expectations can be a real, well, you know.
The good news for Burfict is that there are still seven
games left for the linebacker (yes, I'm assuming ASU
reaches the Pac-12 championship game and then a bowl game
after that) to step up his level of play and add to his
resume, and his team's success should give him a little
leeway as far as what people really think of him this
Because, when you really get down to it, Burfict has gone
from being a great player on a lousy team to a decent
player (who has the ability to be great) on a good one.
Is that really worth criticizing?
Monday, October 17, 2011 @ 10:39am
The Phoenix Coyotes have a new marketing campaign this
Hockey the Hard Way
And with that the franchise the Valley kind of wants to
keep around opened its home slate against the team that
they used-to-be-but-didn't-want-to-be-again with a
satisfying 4-1 victory, one the Coyotes led from wire to
wire in front of a packed house with an announced
attendance of 17,132.
That said, don't kid yourself. Not every seat in
Jobing.com Arena was occupied and the team will not have
that kind of support every game. But a fast start combined
with a reeling Cardinals and idle Suns could lead to more
fans checking out what's happening in Glendale.
One would hope, at least.
"Obviously every single athlete wants to play in front of
a crowd," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "We all have
egos and we enjoy it. It is one of those things like that
when there is energy in the building our first shift was
an example of having a little ‘jump' and it is a lot of
credit to the crowd."
That crowd, of course, had a chance to turn the other
direction Saturday, as the arena had a strong contingent
of Jets fans. Chants of "Go Jets Go" could be heard before
the game, and a rough start could have been trouble.
Given the fickleness of Arizona fans - especially with
hockey - head coach Dave Tippett went into the game a
little concerned with how things could turn out.
Thirty-four seconds into the game the Coyotes took a 1-0
lead and those concerns began to subside simply because
the home team shut up the visiting fans.
"Scoring on the first shift certainly helps get our crowd
in the game and helps dissolve some of the emotion coming
from the Winnipeg fans," Tippett said.
In a way this game was about the fans, too, as the Coyotes
faithful not only watched their team win a game, but were
able to enjoy a victory at Winnipeg's expense, a cathartic
experience for some after the events of last summer.
Jets fans, for a while, thought the players in the red
sweaters were destined to wear blue this season, as
Winnipeg's quest to land the NHL - again - led to many
believing the owner-less Coyotes would be moving north.
The Desert Dogs stayed put, though, with Atlanta's
Thrashers instead relocating and becoming the Jets. So the
‘Peg has its team, albeit a last place one, and the Valley
gets to hold onto a sport that it should want to have
around, especially right now.
Think about it: the Coyotes are the only Valley team that
can say it has been to the postseason the last two years,
and has done so without stable ownership or the ability to
really do all they can to win. GM Don Maloney has done a
hell of a job and, even with the team losing goalie Ilya
Bryzgalov, has a squad that could again surprise and make
a playoff push.
And if by some miracle the team can land an owner by the
trade deadline don't be surprised to see some moves that
transform the team from nice story to team no one wants to
face in the postseason.
But there's still a lot of hockey to be played between now
and then, and it's important to note how much energy and
emotion the home team played with in their latest win.
"It's our home opener, so as much as it is you really want
to beat whoever you play it's your home opener and you
really want to start the season off right and give
your fans something to be excited about and I think
tonight was a step in that direction," Doan said.
Where they are ultimately heading is anyone's guess, but
no matter how they get there chances are it won't be easy.
Just how they like it.
Thursday, October 13, 2011 @ 1:31pm
Culture is a funny thing with regards to sports.
Like chemistry, a winning team tends to have it good while
a losing team tends to struggle.
One of the greatest clichés in all of sports, part of the
Cardinals' resurgence was attributed to the change in
culture brought by Ken Whisenhunt.
Just more than one full season removed from a playoff
game, are the Cardinals back to the Dave McGinnis-era of
one heartbeat, three wins?
Those teams didn't really expect success, and that
attitude was reflected in the team's many poor
Following the latest rough game by the 2011 Cardinals,
Kevin Kolb pointed to an issue with work ethic and desire,
something Todd Heap may have confirmed.
"I think it's a different culture and it's something that
we need to change," Heap told Arizona Sports 620's Burns
and Gambo earlier in the week, discussing the difference
between Baltimore, where Heap was, and Arizona, where he
is. "There are certain teams and certain organizations
where - and it's not an organization - but…where you know
that everybody on that team expects what's going to happen
"And when it doesn't happen it's like the worst thing in
the world. I think we need to get to that point where we
expect - where everybody in that locker room - expects
what's going to happen on Sunday."
Fans may be back to expecting the worst, but the players
hoped thought the franchise was
Then again, the quote can be taken any number of different
Is the tight end giving us canned athlete response, saying
culture needs to change if his team is struggling? You
know, the standard "I left a good team and joined a bad
one, the culture must be to blame" thing?
Or, perhaps, could there actually something rotten in the
state of Denmark? Is it possible that the Arizona
Cardinals, thought to be long past their days as the place
where careers go to die, have regressed back to being the
"Same Old Cardinals?"
If so, it sure didn't take long.
"We fought the same battles when I was in Arizona," Kurt
Warner told Burns and Gambo, noting that it happens
wherever a player goes. "You have to find ways to be able
to do it."
Warner and the Cardinals found ways before, but since he
retired the Cardinals are struggling in that department,
meaning either the players aren't terribly good or the
coaching staff is struggling to do its job.
Does a team need to have a positive culture in order to
win games or does winning beget the right attitude? The
Cardinals are going to find out, one way or another.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 @ 9:48am
"We have relieved Coach Stoops of his duties as head
football coach at the University of Arizona."
Many a Wildcat fan has been hoping to hear director of
athletics Greg Byrne say those 17 words for a while, and I
joined their ranks just one week ago.
Needless to say, as an Arizona alum and fan, I'm
comfortable with the decision.
The team's 1-5 record on the heels of last season's
collapse isn't what concerned me. Yeah, it would have been
nice to see the Wildcats play better in most of their
losses, but few teams in the nation would have done much
better than them during the stretch.
And to be honest, Stoops' sideline antics didn't concern
me one bit. When the team is winning he is a "fiery
leader" and when it's losing he's "out of control." The
difference has nothing to do with his demeanor, only the
quality of his team's play—which, since the end of October
last year, has been rather poor.
The games have been mostly blowouts on national TV. Not
good, but guiding the Cats to three consecutive bowl games
was worth a little slack, as the only reason fans are
upset with the team losing so much is because they're at a
point where they expect to, at the very least, compete.
Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, USC and ASU all beat
Arizona during the Wildcats' 10-game FBS losing skid, some
of them doing so twice. While there is no shame in losing
most of those games, the ways in which the losses happened
42, 24, 48, 30, 36, 37, 37, 56, 48, 37. Those numbers
represent the amount of points the Wildcats have allowed
during their losing skid, dating back to last season, good
for an average of 39.5 points per game. Mike Stoops may
have made a name for himself as a defensive coordinator
but you'd never know it from those numbers.
Friday, October 7, 2011 @ 6:06pm
So that's it.
The 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks, who put together a season
as memorable as any the team has had in its 14 years of
existence, are done. No more rallies, no more comebacks,
no more GibbyBall.
Friday in Milwaukee the team had chance after chance,
opportunity after opportunity, and after pulling a classic
in the 9th inning, the Snakes just ran out of magic in the
It stinks, but it's OK.
Arizona went into the series as an underdog, facing the
team with the best home record in the National League and,
maybe not surprisingly, lost all three games in the
Did the D-backs play a good series? Not really, but they
competed and had a chance, and that's all you can ask for
out of any team and more than you would have asked for of
this team heading into the season.
And it is a time like this where we must remember just how
far the Diamondbacks have come in such a short period of
time. Just last season they lost 97 games, and now we're
upset they lost in Game 5, on the road, in the NLDS?
Shows just how far the Diamondbacks as a team - and we, as
fans - have come. But the key, especially right now, is to
think of not where the team has come from, but instead
where they are going.
Paul Goldschmidt will begin the year with the team and
playing first base. Stephen Drew will return healthy, and
he'll be joined by Justin Upton, Miguel Montero, Chris
Young and Gerardo Parra.
They were fourth in the NL in runs scored this season, and
that was with a patchwork lineup that was short on stars
and filled with players who, to be honest, probably
shouldn't be starting for a team that won 94 games.
But that shows just how complete a team this was, as their
pitching staff was every bit as good as the offense. And,
like the offense, it too will improve.
The bullpen solidified, Kevin Towers and Co. can spend
their time filling out the starting rotation, which has
the potential to be as good as any in the Major Leagues.
Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter are firmly
entrenched, and Jarrod Parker, Trevor Bauer and others
just waiting for their chance to make an impact at the
Major League level.
And they will.
The Arizona Diamondbacks made the playoffs in 2007 and,
after losing to the Colorado Rockies in the NLCS the
feeling was that the team was real close, and traded away
half the farm system for players they thought would push
them over the hump. The trades were so bad it took the
franchise years to recover, but there will be no such
maneuvers this time, as the pieces to win are either in
place or on the way.
Besides, they're even closer now than they were four years
The Diamondbacks had to fix the bullpen, which they've
done. The rotation needed to be strengthened, which it is.
The young hitters finally started playing like the stars
many thought they'd be and, maybe most important, the
culture has changed. Organizational advocacy has been
replaced with GibbyBall, and that's here to stay.
The important thing to take away from this season isn't
that the Diamondbacks fell just short, rather realize they
took a giant step back to relevancy. No longer a doormat
in the NL West; this team will be in the conversation for
division titles and playoff spots for the foreseeable
What happened this season was only the beginning. Buckle
up, the ride only gets more exciting from here.
Thursday, October 6, 2011 @ 12:04am
It wasn't going to end, not on this night.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, facing elimination for a second consecutive
night, came out of the gates swinging. And hitting. And scoring.
The home team plated 10 runs in total, and if this was the last time Valley
fans got to see their team, what a way to go out.
"I think it means a lot, it means a lot to the fans," said Ryan Roberts, who
hit a grand slam in the game. "They come out, they want to see us win,
especially down 0-2, they want to see us come back."
And come back they did, in a way that sent a message to the Brewers and
the rest of Major League Baseball.
It's not just that the team turned what was a best-of-five series into a one
game, winner take all battle. It's that, left for dead by many, Arizona did not
roll over for the Brewers, but instead did what they've done all season: find
ways to win ballgames.
Tuesday night it was rookies Josh Collmenter and Paul Goldschmidt leading
the way, while Wednesday's stars were Roberts, Chris Young and half the
"I always like to say, everybody's been doing a little something," catcher
Miguel Montero said.
He couldn't be more right.
Eight different players recorded a hit for Arizona while six pitchers all
recorded at least one out. Runs were driven in by Roberts, Young, Aaron
Hill and Colin Cowgill.
"An all-around team effort, you know, you never know, you can't script it
out - ever," said Micah Owings, who pitched two scoreless innings of relief.
"For us to just keep fighting, you know where we're at and keep playing the
best that we can, that's all we can ask for."
Well that, and one more win.
Because of that the team's focus immediately shifts back to Game 5, as
Friday will feature a rematch of Game 1 starters Ian Kennedy and Yovani
Gallardo, only this time the Diamondbacks have the momentum, if you
believe such a thing exists in baseball.
"Yeah, absolutely," Roberts said of having momentum now. "You can come
home and get two wins, it's big for our team."
At the very least, coming home and playing in front of a packed house gave
the Diamondbacks an edge they didn't have in Games 1 and 2.
"We've played good here and on the road, but we obviously didn't show
that in Milwaukee," right fielder Justin Upton said. "We got our confidence
here at home in front of our home fans.
"We just need to take that confidence back to Milwaukee."
That will be the trick, as this series is now a best of one with the Brewers
having home field advantage and a pitcher in Yovani Gallardo who the D-
backs have scored just three earned runs off of in 21 innings of work.
"He's mastered us pretty good so we're going to have to think about how
we approach him," D-backs Manager Kirk Gibson said of Gallardo. "We
have to change something different than we have before. He's very
He is, and there's a good chance Friday's tilt will see a few less runs scored
than Wednesday's, as the D-backs will be sending their own ace to the hill.
The confidence in Kennedy runs so deep that when asked about having to
face Gallardo, rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt praised is own guy.
"We've got Ian on the hill so both teams will be full of confidence," he said.
"It should be a fun game."
If by "fun" Goldschmidt means "stressful" and "intense" he may be on to
something. However, D-backs fans can have confidence knowing this
game was thought about long before it became a reality.
"As we sat and laid it out, if we can get to Game 5 in their environment with
our No. 1 guy against their No. 1 guy, you couldn't ask for anything better,"
You really couldn't. One game to determine who advances to the NLCS,
with a pair of stud pitchers on the hill backed by offenses that are capable
of putting up big numbers.
Getting the win and keeping this dream season alive would mean becoming
the first team to come back from a 0-2 deficit to win the NLDS. Given that
this team has a penchant for coming back, it wouldn't be a surprise to see
them add another notch to their already impressive belt of
But no matter what happens Friday, if Wednesday's win was the swan song
for the 2011 Diamondbacks, the Valley can certainly feel good about its
But they're not done yet.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet," Gibson said. "We didn't come here
to win two games and not win the series."
And while the team will be packing for five days on the road in case they
have to head to Philadelphia for a game Sunday, the important thing is still
having games to play.
"Hopefully we keep doing it and bring the victory home," Montero said. "I'm
not ready to go home yet, I'm not ready to stop playing."
Tuesday, October 4, 2011 @ 11:36pm
Perhaps it's fitting that the players who helped save the Diamondbacks'
2011 season didn't begin the year with the team.
Trailing the Milwaukee Brewers two games to none, D-backs manager Kirk
Gibson sent rookie Josh Collmenter to the mound and gave Paul
Goldschmidt the start at first base, placing him fifth in the batting order.
Both delivered in the 8-1 win. Big time.
A player whose results tend to belie his stuff, Collmenter tossed seven
innings, allowing just two hits, one run and walking two. He struck out six.
Doing his part, Goldschmidt had a pair of hits: an RBI single in the first
inning and a grand slam in the fifth.
Neither played like overwhelmed rookies, and it started with the pitcher.
"He obviously has great character," Gibson said of Collmenter. "He was very
composed [Tuesday] and threw strikes, kept them off balance; it was what
Then there's Goldschmidt.
"When you're making the lineup, how you want to decide where you put
people," Gibson said, "you guys know how I feel about Goldy, you know the
big hits he's had this year."
Indeed, this is not the first time either player has come through for the
Diamondbacks and, while it may be their most important contribution yet,
their respective careers are just getting started.
And that's exciting.
Collmenter, 25, and Goldschmidt, 24, give the D-backs more than a
chance here in the present as well as hope for sustained success in the
While no one can say with certainty how things will ultimately play out, it's
important to note what you saw Tuesday at Chase Field began more than
seven months ago in spring training.
"The way we started out in this spring, with those guys in our camp, they
didn't break camp with us but we tried to lay it out how we were going to
approach this and expose them to as much as we could," Gibson said of
Collmenter and Goldschmidt. "And then when they both came up we put
them right in the fire."
That fire never burned hotter than it did Tuesday night, and neither
Collmenter nor Goldschmidt could have responded any better.
Goldschmidt, who already homered once in the series, added to a legend
that began in early August, hitting his grand slam after the Brewers elected
to walk the bases full ahead of him.
"If [Marcum] makes a good pitch we're probably not talking about it and
probably got out," Goldschmidt said. "And so it just ended up being good
timing for us."
The slugger became the first Diamondback to hit a grand slam in the
postseason and was the first rookie to accomplish feat since 1999.
Then again, seeing Goldschmidt, who had already homered off the likes of
Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, take Shaun Marcum deep wasn't necessarily a
surprise. But watching Collmenter, whose fastaball consistently sits in the
high 80s, shut down a hot-hitting Brewers team?
Hell, even the pitcher said he probably exceeded his own expectations.
"My goal was to give the team a win," he said. "Whatever I had to do to just
keep the team in the ballgame and give us a chance to win down the
Yeah, well, that will do, Mr. Collmenter. Pitching the way he did not only
validated all the work he's put in this season, but the belief the
organization had in a guy who, to put it bluntly, wasn't exactly a top
"I give [Diamondbacks GM] Kevin Towers all the credit in the world,"
Gibson said. "He told me about Josh Collmenter last year in the Arizona Fall
League and like not many scouts would be on this guy. And then this year
when we watched him pitch in spring training, we have this thing, he says,
‘I'm on him.'"
A 10-10 regular season record with a 3.38 ERA, including two good starts
against the Brewers, led to the idea of giving the rookie the nod in an
"When we discussed who's going to start Game 3, KT had a lot of input and
he was on [Collmenter]," Gibson added. "And he was right."
Both prospects are just the tip of the iceberg for a team with an
embarrassment of riches in the minor leagues, and that the D-backs
struck gold (pun intended) with these two bodes well for the future.
"Those guys have shown a ton of composure and a ton of ability almost
against maybe some of the odds that some of the people thought they
could do," Gibson said.
No matter how or when they got here, the fact of the matter is you can't
help think this won't be the last time Collmenter and Goldschmidt come
through for the team on a big stage.
Monday, October 3, 2011 @ 3:29pm
The Arizona Cardinals don't know how to run out the clock.
They can't run a screen pass, either.
Both issues have cost them this season.
Whatever the reason for the latest loss, fans make it a
point to find someone to blame. It was the defense in Week
2, the offense in Week 3 and, it would seem, the coaching
staff in Week 4.
But anyone looking for significant changes is going to be
"I look at it that it's a growing process that we're going
through with this team," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt
said Monday. "We're close. We're better than we were last
week. We've got to stay the course and continue to work
Pick the loss, pick the season, and pick the press
conference: Ken Whisenhunt has said those words many,
many, times. Right about now fans are tired of hearing it,
just as it's likely the coach is sick of saying it.
But that doesn't give the coaching staff a, for lack of a
better word, pass.
Especially for calling a screen when the team was trying
to mount one final drive to regain the lead and win the
game. Not surprisingly, as has been the case this season,
the play fell apart and ended with QB Kevin Kolb taking a
critical sack on the play.
"The timing was a little bit off," Kolb said of the play.
"It's pretty well documented that our screen game needs to
get better and that was a perfect example of it."
So why run it in such a crucial situation?
"It was set up, it was ready to go," Whisenhunt said. "We
didn't execute it perfectly, but in that situation you
have to get the ball out. If it goes it's a big play."
But it didn't go for a big play, at least, not in the
Cardinals' favor, and Arizona, instead of maybe talking
about a thrilling come-from-behind win, was left trying to
explain how they let another game slip away.
The common themes in each loss have been defensive
meltdowns, shaky play-calling and an inability to complete
passes when the team needed it most.
Those issues would be enough to cost a coach his job,
especially if the 1-3 record turns into 1-4, 1-5 and 1-6,
but that's not going to happen in Arizona.
Ken Whisenhunt is not going to get fired, no matter how
much some fans may want to see a change, Ray Horton will
be given time to implement his defense, the offensive line
will not see a new coach anytime soon and Kevin Kolb won't
transform into a veteran signal-caller overnight.
Instead the hope seems to be that time will, if not heal
all wounds, cure their ills. Even a tired excuse can have
some legitimacy, and this Cardinals team is still
Pointing to the lack of an offseason as reason for being a
little behind, the team has shown enough glimpses,
according to Whisenhunt, to make everyone believe they can
turn this thing around.
"I think that we played better defensively, except for the
last part of the game this week, going against a very good
offense," he said. "We shut down the run game and we ran
the ball very well, we've improved the run game."
Then again, convincing others the team is improving may be
a tough sell, especially as the team has lost its last
three, so sooner or later the team will simply need to
start winning, as close losses just don't do anything for
"I feel for our players, I feel for our fans because we're
not where we want to be," Whisenhunt said. "After last
year that's very frustrating, but the thing that I'll say
is yes, you have to have patience because if you look at
our games there's no question in my mind that we're
close, and that's the way that we look at it."
As the cliché goes, close only counts in horseshoes and
hand grenades, and there is no column in the standings for
"almost won." Thus, it's about time for the Cardinals to
go from a team finding its way into one that has
discovered how to win.
"I'm not going to tell you it's a work in progress because
I'm tired of saying it," Kolb said. "Just ready to get it
done and win some games."
Sunday, October 2, 2011 @ 6:15pm
Two weeks ago the Cardinals had a chance to put together a game-winning drive against the Redskins, only to fall short after Chansi Stuckey
coughed up the football.
One week ago the Cardinals had a chance to, at the very least, get a game-tying field goal attempt, only to see a Kevin Kolb interception end that
drive and the team's chances of winning.
Sunday, in the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium, the
Cardinals had a chance to rally for a win even after letting a two-score
fourth quarter lead slip away, only to see the drive stall at the Giants'
Final score: Giants 31, Cardinals 27 - and thousands of groans along the
It's not that you can point to any one reason for the team's loss, as there
The defense allowed the Giants to score two touchdowns in the game's
final four minutes, turning a 10 point advantage into a four
Kevin Kolb had his second straight poor game for the Cardinals,
completing just 20 of 34 passes for 237 yards and one interception, as well
as a red zone fumble in the first quarter.
The referees even deserve some blame, as a Victor Cruz fumble just before
the game-winning touchdown was negated due to something about the
receiver "giving himself up" on the play.
Whatever the reason, Arizona fell to 1-3 and faces a daunting schedule --
and plenty of questions.
"This is three games in a row when we had the ball in our hand at the end
with a chance to do something and we haven't been able to do it,"
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Indeed, I wrote a couple of weeks ago Kolb would lead the team to
a win the next time he
had a chance to.
Swing and a miss.
And, just like I wrote last week, it's too early to give up on
While 1-3 is bad it is by no means the end of the season. Not yet, anyway.
And, for the optimists out there, the Cardinals could use their struggles
today - and over the last three weeks - as learning experiences.
At least, that's what Kolb said the team has to do.
"You get better every time you do it but it is frustrating, especially in this
case to see them do it then we didn't back it up," he said about putting
together a game-winning drive, which would be his first.
And the team is right when they say it's about what they do to themselves
as much as what other teams are doing to them.
Take the first quarter as proof, when Arizona recovered a fumble on New
York's 16-yard line and mustered just seven yards before kicking a field
goal. The next series saw the team drive to the Giants' 17, but a Kolb
fumble prevented another score. Another first quarter drive ended with a
field goal, and instead of being up big Arizona had just a 6-0 lead.
That's not good enough if they want to beat good teams.
"That's the difference in the game right there," Whisenhunt said of the red
The difference? Maybe. A difference? Certainly. And that's why, even
though things seem bleak, there is a chance the Cards can still turn this
Provided, of course, the season doesn't jump off the tracks quite yet.
"Who wants to go and lose, first off, and lose the way we're losing," guard
Rex Hadnot said. "You can tell that it hurts the guys, but we're definitely
going to keep fighting. There's great leaders on this team, there's great
coaches that won't let us go into the tank."
That feeling is there because, as it is, most in the locker-room feel the
damage is self-inflicted, and if the team can keep improving the wins will
"It's one thing to go into a game when you don't have a clue and you just
get beat from the start," defensive lineman and captain Darnell Dockett
said. "That's not the case with this team."
It's not. The team is just good enough to be bad. Or is it just bad enough
to be good.
No matter, while Sunday will be remembered as a brutal day in Glendale,
there were some positives to take away from the game.
After all, Beanie Wells may have had his official coming out party against a
tough Giants defense, racking up 138 yards and three touchdowns. The
third pushed the Cards' lead to 10 with just over five minutes left, giving
the team a chance to finish off an impressive win.
And Larry Fitzgerald, who threw a key block on Wells' final score, caught
eight balls for 102 yards, including a 47-yard reception that saw him
literally take the ball away from a defender.
In the end it was all for naught.
"You see good teams around the league that when the game is close, they
are able to find a way to finish," Fitzgerald said. "The margin for error of
winning and losing in the NFL is very small."
Indeed it is, and even if by the slightest of margins, the smallest mistake or
just a random bad bounce (or call), the Cardinals have found themselves on
the wrong side of the scoreboard three weeks running.
"I felt like we should have won the last three games and each game we had
a chance to win at the end and we didn't," defensive end Calais Campbell
said, noting how frustrating it is. "We want to win those games and we
know we can win those games."
Sunday, October 2, 2011 @ 1:01pm
:51 left in fourth quarter
Kolb throws incomplete trying to force the ball to Fitz, that will do it. A
collapse the likes of which has not been seen since, well, a while. Cardinals
will lose 31-27 and be kicking themselves.
2:35 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals will begin the drive on their own 24, down four and needing a
win in the worst way. A loss in this one would be huge. Does Kolb have it
in him? I fear he doesn't.
2:51 left in fourth quarter
No fumble, ref's explanation does nothing for me. Confused. Manning hits
Hakeem Nicks for the long TD and suddenly the Giants take the lead.
3:10 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals pass twice after the Wells run, forced to punt. Awful playcalling,
reminiscent of the disaster in D.C. Giants take the short punt and complete
a pass, looks like there may be a fumble on the play. At the very least there
is a ton of confusion. Cards may catch a break here.
3:32 left in fourth quarter
Wells runs for three and the Giants call a timeout. Does the offense have it
in them to finish the game on the field? Need some first downs.
3:37 left in fourth quarter
Well that stop didn't happen. Giants march down the field and score on a
two-yard Manning TD toss, bringing the game to 27-14 with a decent
amount of time left. Cardinals will need to eat up some clock, don't want to
see New York get the ball again. #canttrustthisdefense
5:16 left in fourth quarter
Beanie Wells gets TD number three, a two-yard run where nobody wearing
blue touched him. Career day for the guy. Cardinals lead 27-17 and are
basically one stop away from ending this one. I think.
5:20 left in fourth quarter
Have I mentioned how good Beanie Wells has been today? He's running
mean against the Giants and a big run of his puts the Cardinals in position
to score. Alfonso Smith came in for a couple carries, was tackled at the 2
but the Cards felt the need to waste a challenge on the play.
Wells has over 100 yards for the second time in his career, and he's not
done yet. Maybe a third TD run of the day coming up here?
8:25 left in fourth quarter
Defense forces a huge three and out, gets the offense the ball back with
the lead still in tact. Move the ball, keep the ball.
10:48 left in fourth quarter
Cards take to the air and Kolb is picked off by Antrel Rolle. To sum up Kolb
today, the word I'd use is "terrible." Playing very poorly, and it's a shame
because the running game and defense are there. Giants take over at their
own 42 down by three.
12:07 left in fourth quarter
Giants drive finishes with a Jacobs touchdown run from one yard out.
Cardinals still lead 20-17 but this game is far from over. Offense needs to
prove it can move the chains, something it really hasn't done today. Beanie
Wells, who has 80 yards on the day, will finish with at least 100 if the
Cardinals win. Book it.
End of third quarter
Giants driving but Cardinals head into the final period up 20-10. Defense is
playing reasonably well, offense has done just enough -- so far. Kind of
feels like the offense will have to score some more points in this one.
2:55 left in third quarter
Campbell sacks Manning, Manning fumbles ball, Dockett recovers. Two
straight handoffs to Beanie result in another TD for the Cardinals and the
PAT gives Arizona a 20-10 lead. Defense playing big today.
3:42 left in third quarter
Comedy of errors leads to a Cardinals punt. Among the issues were a false
start on Kolb and intentional grounding. Offense looks bad when the ball
isn't in Beanie's hands. Concerning.
7:24 left in third quarter
Cards defense holds as the Giants O-line holds. Dockett playing like an
animal, pretty much having his way up front. Cards receive the punt, nice
return by PP21 is aided by some holds. Arizona starts drive at own 17, see
if they have some momentum here. Beanie, anyone?
10:24 left in third quarter
Cardinals drive down the field and score on a one-yard Beanie Wells run.
Nice job by the running back, looks healthy. Kolb, on the other hand, still
not particularly sharp. Threw a bomb to Fitz that, quite frankly, would have
been an interception had it not been for No. 11's greatness. Also just not
seeing open receivers. 13-10 Cards lead, but a personal foul after the TD
run leaves Arizona kicking off and the Giants with a good chance at great
14:55 left in third quarter
A.J. Jefferson with a nice return on the opening kickoff, but a delay of game
penalty pushes the Cardinals back a bit. Offensively, Arizona stunk in the
first half. Sans Beanie Wells they got nothing going but are still in this
Giants drove down and kicked a field goal to take a 10-6 lead, but may
have lost their kicker in the process. Patrick Peterson, who was offsides on
the FG, also was penalized for roughing the kicker as he just crushed
Lawrence Tynes on the play.
Arizona heads into the half down 10-6 and, to be honest, I wouldn't feel
good if I'm a Cards fan.
1:08 left in 2nd quarter
Cardinals force a three and out and this game is, well, still up for grabs.
Arizona starts drive from their own 20 after punt.
1:49 left in 2nd quarter
Well, so much for that. Cardinals go three and out, Kolb looks bad and
takes a sack in the series. If you can even call what that was a "series."
Giants get the ball at midfield and have a chance to really take control of
2:48 left in 2nd quarter
Giants put together an impressive drive that ends with a 13-yard TD run by
Bradshaw. Helps my fantasy team but not the Cardinals. Arizona has
dominated this half but now finds itself trailing in the game. Have some
time to mount a drive, do so and have momentum going into the
7:57 left in 2nd quarter
Cardinals move the ball well, even picking up a fourth-and-one along the
way. Some nice plays, but overall nothing special. Still, drive ends in a field
goal and the Cardinals lead 6-0. Kind of feels like they should be up more
-- like they need to be up more.
End of 1st quarter
Cardinals moving the ball some, Beanie looking strong. Team needs him to
play well to have a chance, and so far the Red Birds are out-physicaling
their opponents. Nice to see.
2:17 left in first quarter
Giants move the ball a little but ultimately have to punt. Arizona will start
at their own 12 yard line, needing a few first downs to help the field
position game. Offense, where art thou?
7:56 left in first quarter
Kevin Kolb scrambles, is hit, and fumbles the ball. He has fumbled at least
once in each of the team's four games. That can't happen yet continues to
do so. Cardinals lose out on a chance for at least three more points and
momentum returns to New York's sideline.
11:34 left in first quarter
Another three and out for the Giants, Cardinals defense still playing strong.
Getting to Manning, stuffing the run...who are these guys?
13:02 left in first quarter
Beanie runs for -1, a short pass to Fitz and a throw away by Kolb equals a
three and out for the Cards. Jay Feely hits a 27-yard field goal to give
Arizona the early lead, but you'd like to see them punch it in after the
turnover. Can't afford to not capitalize on opportunities like that against
14:37 left in first quarter
Cardinals D comes out ready, forces a fumble and recovers at the Giants
16. Ahmad Bradshaw coughed it up, Rhodes forced it. Good start for the
Cardinals, bad sequence for my fantasy team.
Giants win the toss, elect to receive. See if the Cards D can build off last
week's game in Seattle.
And, if you didn't already know, the Cardinals are wearing their alternate
uniform today. It's a good look for the team, though they haven't exactly
been successful in them.
3:00 to kickoff
About three minutes to kickoff and the fans, well, are not exactly here.
Stadium is about 65 percent full, maybe. Late arrivals? Still tailgating?
Enthralled by Cincinnati/Buffalo?
We'll see, hope they show up soon.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 @ 1:18pm
It's too early to throw the towel in on the 2011 Arizona Cardinals.
Three games is not enough time to really know how good or bad they may be, and even though the team has found ways to lose each of the last two games, chances are this team will have a say in the race (or stumble, really) towards the NFC West title.
However, it was tough to wake up Monday morning and feel good about the Arizona Cardinals.
To wit: While the team is just a couple plays away from being 3-0, they could just as easily be 0-3. And the schedule, thought to be marshmallow-soft in the early goings, is about to get a lot tougher.
And with a home date against the Giants, a road tilt with the Vikings and then games against the Steelers and Ravens, the Cardinals could easily find themselves 1-6 before hosting the Rams on November 6.
Once thought of as a game that could decide the division, it may very well be each team's last chance to salvage a season on the verge of complete collapse.
But we're not at that point, not yet anyway.
There is still time for the Cardinals to fix their problems, and that's the good news. The bad news, though, is one of the issues has plagued this team for the better part of forever: the offensive line.
The line is not going to magically improve -- if it even improves at all -- simply because what you see is what you get. There is some talent, but for some reason it just hasn't manifested into anything special.
So expect to see Kevin Kolb run for his life and hear "false start, number 75, offense" throughout the season, because the team isn't going to find anyone better to play and doesn't seem anxious to find a better coach than Russ Grimm.
However, even with their struggles the running backs have found some holes, meaning it's not totally unlike the Maginot Line: not perfect, but far from completely ineffective.
Given that their greatest issue has been pass protection, it's worth noting that some of what looks like poor blocking can easily be attributed to Kevin Kolb and his penchant for bailing on the pocket too soon.
That can be fixed. It should be fixed. It needs to be fixed.
The Cardinals' new QB has just 10 NFL starts under his belt, with only three as a Cardinal. While you'd expect a 27-year-old to have better pocket presence, lack of starts be damned, it would be unfair to deliver a verdict on Kolb's abilities until we see more of what he can or can't do.
In all honesty the same can be said for the team's secondary, which has been torched by opposing offenses and in the media.
But like Kolb, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson will improve, and as long as fans are patient they'll ultimately like what they see.
And maybe that's really how you have to look at the 2011 Arizona Cardinals. While flawed, there is enough talent to win an awful division, and as long as the team can scratch out a few wins over the next couple of months could be in line to make a late push. With so many young and inexperienced players you'd have to hope - and maybe even expect - gradual improvement throughout the course of the season.
Friday, September 23, 2011 @ 11:46pm
The word team president Derrick Hall used to describe it
all was "magical,"
and you'll get little argument here.
Friday night at Chase Field, in front of 42,606 screaming
fans, the team
nobody thought much of before the season began clinched
its first division
title since 2007.
And they did it the Diamondbacks way, rallying from a
"All year we fight through it right to the end," a
Not like this is the end for these Diamondbacks. Sure, the
NL West title
guarantees them a spot in the postseason, but there are
still five games to
play before the real test begins.
And, while the team is still fighting for seeding, the
guess here is none of that matters -- at least Friday
night, as the unlikely champions get to celebrate the
fruits of their labor.
"Nobody counted this team in, everybody thought they were
a bunch of
overachievers," team president Derrick Hall said.
They still might be, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have
way into the playoffs, and if I'm the Phillies, Brewers or
Braves I want no
part of them.
It's not that this is a supremely talented team with a
rotation that will shut
you down and a lineup that makes a pitching coach cringe.
The team is, however, a group of players that will
scratch, claw, and
pretty much fight until the 27th out, meaning they are
never out of a game.
That type of attitude will go a long way in the the month
of October, and it's exactly what makes this an especially
"This is a team," Hall mused. "The comraderie of this
cohesiveness, the culture."
All that was changed over the last year, a remarkable
turnaround for a
team that I, just like every other so-called "expert," gave little chance of
winning the division.
Then again, we weren't alone. Hall said he thought manager
Kirk Gibson was "a bit
crazy" when he spoke of getting to the postseason in
pitcher Daniel Hudson admitted he didn't really see this
"You don't really know what to expect with so many new
faces coming in
spring training," he said. "But everybody kind of rallied
around each other
and said ‘let's prove these people wrong' so we did that
Maybe that's part of what makes this team so fun. They are
a loose group,
seemingly playing with nothing to lose.
But it hasn't been easy. Of course, it couldn't be easy.
"It's been a whirlwind season, you know, the peaks and
valleys we've gone
through, the adversity, losing Stephen [Drew] and having
the young guys
step up," pitcher Joe Saunders said, "and then KT bringing
different pieces, we've all melded together and I think
that speaks volumes
for how good of a team we are."
And they're not done yet, not by a long shot.
This team, while understandably excited about what
night, does not have the appearance of a team that is
content with what
they've accomplished to this point.
"We still have work to do," closer J.J. Putz said. "We'd
love to catch
Milwaukee and be able to host an opening series here,
treat our fans to
that, I think that would be special."
While "magical" may be the word used to describe what has
the desert, maybe there's nothing supernatural about it.
Perhaps this is just
what happens when talent meets confidence, as the
to be brimming with both.
Monday, September 19, 2011 @ 4:49pm
The Cardinals had the ball on their own 20, trailing the Redskins for the first time since about midway through the third quarter.
In his career, Kevin Kolb had engineered all of zero game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. His team down 22-21 with just 1:45 left, this would have been a good time to lead his first.
The Cardinals thought it was going to happen.
"We really did," the QB said when I asked if the team was confident they were about to embark on such a drive. "The look in the huddle was great and it's really unfortunate we didn't get an opportunity."
Chansi Stuckey fumbled after a 12-yard pickup, ending any opportunity for the Cardinals to rally and win an early-season road game. Thing is, just like the team, I was confident Arizona was going to march down the field and score.
It's amazing what having a quarterback does for a mindset.
I've been slow to jump on the Kolb bandwagon, refusing to purchase a ticket while others were busy lining up a few months back. Unproven, I saw the Cardinals paying a fortune for the guy because he was "the best QB on the market," even if the market was known to be rather thin.
And while the secondary certainly misses Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (and their coverages, really), it's impossible to argue that the team is worse off because of the trade.
Hell, through two games the new QB has completed 61.4 percent of his passes and thrown for 560 yards, with four touchdowns and just one interception. He's connected on big plays and taken hits, and you better believe his teammates appreciate both.
"It means a lot," tight end Jeff King said. "You know you can follow a guy into war, into battle with somebody like that as your leader.
Strong words, but not the only endorsement.
"He's a tough guy and I'm excited to have him back there," running back Beanie Wells said. "I'm proud to say he's one of my teammates."
Was I wrong about Kolb? Well, don't consider this to be my mea culpa. We're not at that point quite yet.
It's too soon to say with any certainty, but I'll admit this much is true: simply having him on the roster, especially in place of what the team had last season, has impacted the team in a far greater way than I ever anticipated.
Because one can see, to a man, how much everyone in that locker room respects No. 4.
That goes a long way, as belief in the QB is vital to the team's success, and it was missing all of last season.
And maybe that's why the optimism over Kolb should not come as a surprise. When you are following in the footsteps of someone who kept tripping over himself, simply walking in a straight line would be good enough for most.
But you can tell it's more than that with Kolb and this team. Whether it's his ability to find and connect with the open receiver, make big plays downfield or just keep getting up after taking big hits, it's obvious the team has faith in their leader.
Give him another chance in the game's final minutes, and chances are good the QB will reward them with the first game-winning drive of his career.