Dealing Cards: Communication at CenturyLink Field, defending Wilson
TEMPE, Ariz. – In real estate, the three keys are location, location and location.
In the NFL, to win on the road, the three keys are communication, communication and communication. And there’s been no harder place to communicate than Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, where the Arizona Cardinals will play on Sunday to close out 2017.
“It’s the loudest in the NFL, there’s no question,” center A.Q. Shipley said. “There’s a lot of times you can’t hear the guy next to you so we got to do a lot of hand signals and what-not just to kind of communicate. It always makes it tough, but I think we always kind of do a good job of keeping the gameplan simple when we go up there.”
On Thursday, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin pointed to the team’s ability to run the football as a means to quiet the crowd.
In the Cardinals’ three wins at CenturyLink Field since 2013, they’ve averaged 116.7 rushing yards per game, hitting the century mark twice. By comparison, they gained only 64 yards on the ground in a 2014 loss.
Another important factor is protecting the football.
“That’s something that you can’t do against that defense,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “With the way our defense has been playing, we just got to get points; field goals, touchdowns, whatever we can muster we got to be able to do that.”
Still, it always comes back to the noise.
Since 2005, no stadium has produced more opponent false start penalties (163) than CenturyLink Field.
“I remember going up there a few years ago and being like, ‘I want to try and yell as loud as I can.’ I couldn’t even hear myself in the huddle, let alone try and break the huddle and get out there. So, we’re prepared for that. We’re fully prepared for an onslaught of noise for the entire game,” quarterback Drew Stanton said.
“We’ll try and mix in noise the next couple of days (at practice) to really hone in on those things, those specific things that we’re looking for and the looks, and just go out there and try and win one-on-one matchups.”
Defending Russell Wilson
Coming off its best defensive effort of the season, the Cardinals face perhaps their toughest challenge to date this week: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
“We’ve played him enough times to know what he’s capable of doing, how special he is,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.
Now, the Cardinals have done a good job of pressuring Wilson—they sacked him five times in their Week 10 matchup earlier this season—it’s keeping him contained in the pocket where they, and others, have struggled.
Case in point: Wilson’s 54-yard pass play to Doug Baldwin in the first meeting in which Wilson escaped no less than three defenders who had forced him deep into his own backfield. The completion led to a touchdown in a 22-16 Seahawks win.
“Russell makes it very, very difficult for defenses to prepare for him because it’s tough to prepare for those second-chance plays because you never know what the guy is going to do,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
“You rarely see them beat you on the initial play. It’s the second play, the eight-to-15 second plays that get teams. And that’s tough for anybody to do, so for us we just have to make sure that we’re extra cautious when Russell starts to scramble that we’re plastering our coverages the best way we can.”
The Arizona chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association presented its annual team awards following practice on Thursday.
Linebacker Chandler Jones won the Lloyd Herberg MVP award, while defensive lineman Frostee Rucker was honored with the Steve Schoenfeld Good Guy award; the latter of which goes to a player who is always readily available to the media.
The awards are named after two former Cardinals and NFL beat writers for the Arizona Republic.
Aiming for sack record
For Jones the goal each season is the same: Do better than last season.
Mission accomplished in 2017.
Jones’ 15 sacks, which lead the NFL, are four more than last season and just two sacks shy of setting a new franchise single-season record.
“That would be a great for our team and for me as an individual,” he said.
Of course, should Jones reach that mark — and even if he doesn’t, honestly — the bar has been set fairly high for 2018.
“Exactly because I know next year around training camp you guys are going to be asking me, ‘What’s your goal?’ I’m going to say, ‘Better than last year.’ (And) I’ll be like, I don’t know,” he said, pretending to mumble those final words under his breath, eliciting laughter from reporters.
“No, I’m kidding.”