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All-Access with Bruce Arians: Fitz should be fine, running game is not

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, we’ll highlight some of the most notable quotes.

“The injury report. Troy Niklaus, we’ll wait and see. He’s doubtful for this week with a high ankle sprain. We’ll continue to monitor that and see how long of a loss of time that’s going to be. Larry (Fitzgerald) has got a grade 2 MCL and should be able to play this week. We’ll see how sore he is Wednesday and how much it limits him and we’ll go from there. Everybody else just normal bumps and bruises; nothing to really report.”

How big of a setback is that for Niklas?

“It’s huge. He’s very frustrated, and we all are for him because he was starting to get on a pretty good roll. He’s just been hampered all year with these things (injuries). Hopefully, it won’t end his season.”

Does that mean Darren Fells moves up the tight end depth chart?

“Yes.”

What did you see from the offensive line when looking back on the film?

“Very good job in pass protection, not so well in run blocking. I thought it was one of our best pass protection games, but we still had way too many mental errors in the running game. Negative plays that killed some drives. That’s two weeks in a row we had too many mental errors in the running game. This is a very tough front to run on this week so we’ve got to get it cleaned up. But overall, I thought they played really, really well in the passing game.”

How would you grade out Drew Stanton’s play overall?

“I thought he played extremely well. He came out focused and ready to play. Obviously, he stared down the first interception. He thought he had something and the backside linebacker read his eyes and he just stared it down too soon. The second one was a good play (by the defender). It was man coverage and he dumped his guy. And Drew assumed he was going to cover his guy. And you never assume anything.”

How would you compare your secondary, especially the depth, with the Seattle secondary?

“Very comparable. They’re both outstanding corners. Safeties are outstanding players on both teams. I think they’re two of the better secondaries in the league.”

Seattle’s safeties seem to be able to man cover as well as any cornerbacks?

“Yeah, they’re very flexible. I think Earl Thomas is one of the better ones in the league. Cam (Chancellor) is a very heady player. He’s not a man-to-man guy, but he’s a very heady player in zone. They play a lot of zone.”

Where did the pass rush come from all of a sudden?

“They’ve been getting close all year. It’s just a matter of feeding off the crowd. The noise level in the stadium makes it hard to block because you can’t communicate. Hopefully, we can continue that on the road.”

Does Alex Okafor’s return have something to do with that?

“Yeah, Alex has played very well. He’s playing very hard, and he’s being very disruptive. That’s been a really nice addition, getting him back.”

Were you happy to see Michael Floyd make an impact again?

“There’s never enough balls to go around, so everybody is going to want to know why Larry’s numbers are down. Mike caught some damn balls. There ain’t enough for everybody. But it was good to see Mike make two big plays.”

Your decision late in the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-11 to throw rather than run?

“A first down ends the game. For me, the offense needs to kneel down at the end of the game. We don’t need to have our defense out there. It’s your job to finish it. When you trust your players, it’s not a high-risk thing. Larry got exactly on the sticks. Drew made a nice throw. We had really good protection. So to me it wasn’t a high-risk situation. It was just a matter of going to win the game.”

How would you evaluate the rest of the schedule?

“Hard as hell. Everybody is in it. Atlanta is, what, either tied for first now or a game out with their record. The Rams are still technically in it. Kansas City is in first place. Everybody that we play right now is do-or-die. It’s extremely difficult.”

Has it been easy to keep this team grounded?

“We’ve got great leadership in the locker room. They know it’s a daily process. There’s nothing that’s won yet. You still have to come to work Wednesday or it’s all going to be gone. The only thing is it just ratchets it up even more because each game is bigger now.”

Did you ever think you’d have a three-game lead in the NFC West going into this final stretch?

“No (laughs). No.”