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Keim Time: ‘Guys stepped up all across the board’ vs. Seattle

Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson (31) is congratulated by Jermaine Gresham after scoring against the Seattle Seahawks in the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals general manager

The 2016 season hasn’t gone the way the Arizona Cardinals thought it would.

Bruce Arians’ team won’t make a third straight postseason appearance and is assured of a losing record for the first time since 2012.

But Arizona’s 34-31 win over the Seattle Seahawks Saturday at CenturyLink Field serves as a consolation prize. Not only did the Cardinals get their third win in four tries in Seattle (the rest of the league has managed three wins in that span), but they hurt the Seahawks’ chances to claim the two-seed and a first-round bye in the NFC Playoffs.

As he does every Monday morning, Cardinals GM Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM to recap his team’s performance and look forward to what lies ahead for his team.

Despite what’s happened this season, that did feel good Saturday, right?

“It always feels good to win. But to win in a hostile environment against a good football team that also has some talent with some of the guys we won with. If you told me back in August we would beat Seattle in Seattle with John Wetzel and Earl Watford as our starting tackles, Evan Boehm as our starting right guard, you know, it would certainly make me wonder. Those guys stepped up to the challenge. B.A.’s message all week was ‘we know what they’re going to do, they know what we’re going to do and it’s going to be a street fight. Make sure you’re up to the task, or you’re gonna get your butt whipped.’ And our guys came to play.”

How did the Cardinals’ offense get away with that patchwork offensive line and only give up one sack?

“There were a few times when they got pressure, whether it was blitzing or they ran some defensive line games, but for the most part, those guys did an excellent job. I thought Evan Boehm, other than a few times he turned guys loose due to a lack of experience, from a physical standpoint, he did excellent. He’s a natural knee bender, he’s got some feet, he showed some lateral slide and really did a nice job on Michael Bennett. And those guys on the outside, Earl and John, they certainly held their own.”

What was the difference in this game offensively as opposed to the defensive struggle these two teams staged in Glendale earlier this year?

“Well, there were some guys that stepped up and it was really all across the board. There were times you’d see a critical first down made by Brittan Golden, a guy who started out the season as the fifth wideout and a special teamer. And then J.J. Nelson stepped up and had an excellent game. And you can’t say enough good things about David Johnson and the things he does for our offense. I thought Carson played exceptional, other than a few throws he’d like to have back, I thought he played extremely well and made excellent decisions. The one guy who really doesn’t get a lot of credit, he had one penalty that really hurt us and moved us out of field goal position, but a guy who doesn’t get talked about a lot is Jermaine Gresham. He has been exceptional this year, in my opinion, in his ability to set the tone in the run game. Some of the things he does, whether it’s deuce blocks with the tackle, or just when Jermaine is blocking a 290-pound defensive end at 260 pounds, his physicality, his mindset, his passion for the game is something that has really excited me this year.”

Is Carson Palmer better at this point of the season than he was in September — especially when it comes to throwing the deep ball?

“Yeah, I don’t know what it is. There was a point in the season where we started giving him Wednesdays off to make sure that he heals properly and that he has some time off off, kind of like a pitch count. But he’s a competitor and he’s a true pro. So, like I said, he’s been very, very good the last several weeks. And other guys around him have stepped up, like we’ve talked about, and that’s been good to see.”

How did rookie Harlan Miller play in his first NFL game in relief of Tony Jefferson?

“It was interesting because when B.A. came into my office on Friday and I let him know we were going to put Tyrann Mathieu on IR, he told me that if Tony or D.J. Swearinger went down, we’d be in trouble just from a depth standpoint. And sure enough, first play of the game, Tony Jefferson is out. Harlan Miller trots on to the field, and to his credit, the guy’s never played safety before. Coach Nick Rapone and James Bettcher and those guys did a nice job of keeping in him position where he made a couple of plays and didn’t hurt the team. He’s another young guy who stepped up and had been on our practice squad earlier in the year and has worked every week and continued to grow and get better.”

Is it a stretch to think that J.J. Nelson could be a number-two receiver?

“I’m not sure what his ceiling is. I just know that he’s a big play guy, especially with his foot speed and his ability to accelerate on the deep ball. He can by dynamic in that way, whether it’s reverses or taking the top off. J.J., the one thing he’s done, is become more physical. Daryl Drake has done a great job with our receivers, especially blocking downfield, and working with those guys and challenging those guys each week. But J.J. continues to grow and get better, which is hard not to do when you have a future Hall-of-Famer in the room.”

How concerned are you with John Brown and how important is this offseason in getting him back to the player he’s been in the past?

“There’s always a concern when you can’t put a finger on exactly why something is happening or what a player is going through. But John is a guy we’ve had a lot of success with in the past. As soon as the offseason starts we’ll send him to some specialists and make sure he’s getting all the proper care that’s needed and making sure he can put his best foot forward moving ahead. He’s a guy we’re counting on and we know what kind of player he can be and should be in this league. I know he’s frustrated, we’re frustrated, but again, I think big things are ahead of us in store for John Brown.”

How surprised would you be if Larry Fitzgerald announced he’s retiring?

“I don’t know, I was too busy talking to him after the game and all he wanted to talk about was how much money we’re going to pay David Johnson, which we can’t do under the new CBA rules, but he’s a beauty. He’s a piece of work and probably one of the only guys that can get away with that in our locker room. But he still loves the game and he’s still playing at a high level, so there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a guy who should play next year. Again, that’s up to Larry and that’s something only he’ll be able to answer.”

The special teams played well vs. Seattle — that had to feel good.

“They did and that had to be a confidence booster for that group as well, a group that has been maligned, and rightfully so. They stepped up to the plate. The new punter had a few nice punts to get us out of bad field position and Chandler Catanzaro, obviously stepped up and made the winning kick, which was great to see for him. They did a nice job and hopefully that’s something we can build on moving forward.”

Sio Moore had 14 tackles — what do you have in him?

“He’s a guy that we felt was the best out there on the street. Our personnel department does a great job with Terry McDonough and Quentin Harris and those guys, they have always been well-prepared and been ready to go when we have a body needed. Sio was a guy who has played in the past for Oakland and Indianapolis and he’s a high-motor player, he’s instinctive and he certainly plays with passion. It was exciting to see a few times in space, when Russell Wilson ran that read-option, that he was able to make the play.”

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