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All-Access with Bruce Arians: Cardinals chunk plays off play-action return vs. 49ers

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) is knocked out of bounds by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Keith Reaser (27) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Bruce Arians, Cardinals head coach

TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians meets the media the day after every game, often times explaining injury situations as well as anything else he may have seen the day before.

Here in this space, with help from the Cardinals’ media relations staff, we’ll highlight some of the most notable quotes from his session, which comes after the team’s 23-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

He began with an opening statement:

“Really, there’s nothing injury-wise. Got a couple of guys who are sore. They’ll be day-to-day – Larry (Fitzgerald), Alex Okafor. But, it looks like they all have a chance to practice Wednesday or Thursday. Tyrann (Mathieu) should be day-to-day. So, we should have everybody back for this ballgame. We haven’t made a decision yet as far as who’s coming off of IR. We’ll wait and decide later.”

On whether Mathieu’s availability for next week’s game depends on what he’s able to do:

“Yeah, we’ll just see how he is. His strength’s back. It’s good. So, he’ll be cleared to go and I want to see him practice and see how he looks.”

On Mathieu working on the side last week without a knee brace and if that will remain the case:

“It’s about the time we had talked about the brace leaving, so I’m not sure. Again, that’s going to be up to him. But, this was about the time we figured that it would be off.”

On the silver lining of Mathieu missing time is that he’s been able to rest:

“I don’t know if there’s any silver lining when he’s not playing. But the knee, I don’t think, needed any rest. It just needed time.”

On how close Mathieu was to playing yesterday:

“Probably about 80 percent.”

On Fitzgerald getting an MRI and whether that indicates that his injury is more serious than initially thought:

“No, it’s just precautionary. We’ve got three guys in the MRI tubes. We don’t think any of them are serious. We get about 15 a week.”

On whether he’s included on that list of people needing MRIs:

“Yup. Sometimes.”

On getting David Johnson matched up against the 49ers linebackers:

“Well yeah, they were playing a ton of man-to-man. In the red zone especially, he had a history of playing man-to-man and we felt we could get him matched up on 50 (Nick Bellore), and we liked that matchup. Sometimes it would be Eric Reid, and we liked that matchup too. It just so worked out at the end of game, we had an audible, two plays called, versus that matchup, we’re going to do a sprint out and get David one-on-one and we got the matchup we wanted.”

On what the 49ers specifically did to bottle up the Cardinals run game:

“They kicked our butt. They had their safeties down in there. They did a couple different stunts we hadn’t practiced. A different front, but nothing we hadn’t seen all year. We just didn’t block very well.”

On what the Cardinals defense has been doing well the past few weeks:

“Playing with a lot of passion. Disappointed that we gave up that touchdown on dump coverage on a scramble, but tackling very well. We did have, I think, eight missed tackles in this game, which is a little bit high for lately, but we’ve been tackling extremely well. I would get say getting off the field on third down, but we didn’t do that very well this game.”

On whether he thinks the Cardinals passing offense is back or whether yesterday’s performance was a product of the defense it played against:

“Both. I think it’s back, but we had seven explosives in the passing game, which we had not been getting. We get teams that want to stop the run, you should be able to beat one-on-one and get your matchups. So yeah, I thought Carson (Palmer) was spot on other than the one interception late in the game.”

On what kind of pass defense the Cardinals will face on Sunday against the Vikings:

“Very similar. They play a lot of mixture of zone and man. They’ve got a great blitz package. Mike Zimmer is one of the top guys of the double barrel. We’ll call double barrel two guys in the middle and they’ve got every blitz out of that package known to man.”

On his thoughts on having five of the last seven games being on the road:

“Can’t even think about five out of seven; just think about one. If we just think about one at a time, we’ll be fine. This is a great new stadium. Very, very loud. So, we’ll have our hands full.”

On how much of the chunk plays yesterday were due to Michael Floyd stepping forward:

“It was huge. Mike (Floyd) had a great game. He made those great catches that we’ve been missing.”

On whether as a play caller he’d like to be in a position where opposing teams try to take away either the run or the pass:

“You still want to stay balanced. We were throwing it because we were having a lot of success. Again, we had base defense out there. We threw a lot of play-action, so the pass rush was limited rather than on third down where we struggled a little bit.”

On how he would evaluate the Cardinals offensive line play yesterday:

“In the running game, poor. In pass protection, fairly solid. I thought John Wetzel played a really solid game. But the other guys can all play better.”

On whether he lumps the tight ends in with the rest of the offensive line when grading the line’s play yesterday in the running game:

“Totally. That was a big part of it. And, they had a good matchup. They were putting 300-pound defensive ends on our tight ends, which they’re going to see a lot, and we didn’t handle it very well.”

On whether it’s a concern that the run game hasn’t gotten going in the last couple weeks:

“Yeah. Yeah, because of those interior problems.”

On how to fix those running game issues:

“Just keep practicing.”

On Earl Watford’s play:

“I thought Earl played better in this game. Pass protection was better in this game than it was in Carolina. It was very poor in Carolina. But, he was better in this game. We can still handle stunts better on that side with he and D.J. (Humphries) working together. It just takes some time.”

On whether Palmer took too much time holding on to the football yesterday:

“A couple times. Obviously, on the sack-fumble, the ball should have been gone right away to David. And, both of those sacks in the red zone. But yeah, he sacked himself a number of times.”

On what goes into his decision of who to bring off of IR:

“Injuries. Injuries in positions with depth. We don’t talk about Alani Fua, but he’s one of those other guys too that was a core special teamer who played 25 plays a game in special teams.”

On whether next week is the first time players coming off of IR can practice:

“Actually, this week.”

On how Justin Bethel and Marcus Cooper played yesterday:

“I thought Justin played solid. He should have had help in the middle in the post on that long pass. There should have been a safety in the middle, who jumped an under route that was already covered. Coop struggled at nickel a little bit in this game. He’s better on the outside. Hopefully, we’ll have Ty back and we can put him at his normal position.”

On what goes into the team’s mentality that it can put together that one drive that will lead to a score:

“We talked a lot about—that was a big emphasis in spring and training camp, was two-minute offense because so many games come down to those situations. We looked at every drive, the entire season last year in training camp. We had a lot of two-minute situations, so there’s a lot of confidence when we get the ball in those situations.”

On how close to perfect the team’s two-minute drive at the end of the game was:

“I don’t know if it could have been any better unless we scored a touchdown. We stuck a run in there against nickel defense that should have popped and we got whipped at the point of attack and gained one yard. But, I thought the audible—Mike Floyd made a great, great catch on a scramble. Carson did a great job of scrambling out of there. So, without scoring a touchdown—at the end of the half, I thought it was better because we got it to the one and we threw it to our fourth option and he couldn’t hold on to it.”

On what Mike Zimmer is showing the league about hiring older assistant coaches as head coaches:

“Experience counts. Experience counts, and you’ve got to have some scars. You can’t just jump out there and know you have all the answers.”

On what kind of team the Vikings are having lost four in a row after starting the season 5-0:

“I think injuries have hit them hard. Having not really studied a whole lot of film yet, the little bit I’ve watched, they’re still playing really, really good defense. Most of the injuries have occurred on the offensive line for them, and obviously, you lose Adrian (Peterson).”

On whether he hesitates to tell Johnson to not bounce outside when running after he’s had a great deal of success doing that:

“Don’t do it on 2nd-and-1. You know what I mean? Just get the one yard and don’t get a holding penalty. Yeah, there are times when you cram it and there are times to be creative.”

On whether Andre Ellington’s increased involvement in the offense early in the game was by design:

“Oh yeah. I would’ve liked to have given him another series. With Larry—he had practiced in Larry’s spot at receiver all week. So, that gives us more depth in case Larry is hobbled.”

On whether he knew Palmer’s 16-yard run was the longest of his career and his thoughts on the run:

“I thought it was really good. It took a long time. It took a lot of time off the clock, but it was good to see him get out of there and get down. He obviously has worked on his sliding.”

On whether he enjoyed calling a game like yesterday’s where the passing game got the entire offense going:

“That never matters to me. Whatever’s working, we’ll go with it. Up there, the running game was we just kept feeding David and Drew (Stanton) hit some big chunks. It was nice to see the chunk plays back in.”

On whether there are any young players on his roster who he thinks can help the team in November and December:

“Yeah, I think Brandon Williams has had a great three or four weeks of practice. I would have liked to have gotten him in that game, but Justin was playing really well and we didn’t need to. He played good on special teams. Robert (Nkemdiche) was inactive, but the rest of the guys, I hope I don’t see, because they’re all offensive linemen and they’re backups.”

On how he would assess his team’s chances of catching up to the Seahawks after they won last night:

“Hey, it’s up to Seattle. We’ve got to take care of ourselves, they’ll take care of themselves, and hopefully, there’s just one game apart when we get there.”

On whether the defense is carrying this team more than he would like at this point in the season:

“I don’t think so. They gave up too many points yesterday to be carrying us.”

On whether he fully expects to see Fitzgerald play at Minnesota this Sunday:

“I would be shocked if he misses a game at home.”

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