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Paulie Pigskin’s Sideline Report: Cards shock San Francisco

Game Show – “A Brand New…Game Ball” ‘Tis
the season, right? Not the NFL season, but the season
where it’s better to give than to receive. With that in
mind, the game ball from the Cards win against the 49ers
(drum roll) went to… Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt. Ding. In
the postgame locker room, the players called a reverse
(role-reversal) and handed the game ball to the head coach
who just tied Don Coryell for most wins in team history.

“Well, that has a special place in your heart,” admitted
Coach W in our postgame radio conversation. “But, to be
honest with you, Paul, I hadn’t even thought about it. I
knew, because people had talked about it, but it was more
important to me that we get the win and it was all about
our team and what they did against a very good football
team today.”

Putting the “Foot” into Football? Or, Putting the
“Ball”
into Football:

Guess who was getting props on the Cards sideline for
playing thru pain? Answer – Dave Zastudil. That’s right,
the punter getting real-life respect for being a tough
guy. That’s no small feet, err, feat, considering that
punters are usually referred to as “specialists” (read:
non-football player). When I asked Zastudil whether he
was going to suffer a permanent crease in his bicep and
ruin his beach muscles, he made some comparison to Popeye
before the crowd noise drowned us out. (Note: yet again,
Paulie Pencilneck is asking Santa for a set of biceps.
Even if they’re torn, we’ll take ‘em.)

“Nice Hands, err, Block, Larry!”: Of course,
after the
punter & kicker (sorry, Jay Feely), the next demographic
of football player least likely to be labeled “physical”
has to be the “Diva Wide Receiver” demo, right? Except,
hang on. Don’t you dare place Larry Fitzgerald into that
category, lest he decleat you in the open field like that
Niners DB who was chasing Early Doucet (that is, until #11
smashcaked him with a blindside block).

“I was just holding my breath to hope I wasn’t going to
get a penalty because that would’ve been the worst thing,”
Fitzgerald said. “But I wanted to make that I got him
blocked. And Early had a clear path to the end zone…”

When I asked Doucet for his reaction to Larry “Road
Grader” Fitzgerald clearing a path for him? “That’s
great,” said Doucet during our postgame radio chat. “I’m
going to have to go back and check out the film and give
him his props for that. Anytime you get a guy like him
giving you a crack-back block, that’s big.” (BIG, BIG
block!)

By the way, with the news of Todd Haley being dismissed by
the Chiefs, I can’t help but think how impressed the
former Cards offensive coordinator would be of his former
pupil that he once (in)famously called “One-Trick Pony.”

“Walking Ladder”: Calais Campbell got a
chuckle out of
the latest Ron Wolfley moniker bestowed upon him –
“Walking Ladder.” That’s what happens when you bat down
two more passes (9 deflections total in 2011).

“Sometimes, it’s not even if you can get a good pass
rush,” said the 6-foot-8 Walking Ladder. “You want to,
but sometimes in situations where you know they have to
throw the ball, you just try to get in front of ‘em and
get my hands up and bat the ball down.”

Then, when I asked Campbell what he likes most about the
Cards defense, he responded instantly: “The way we
respond, that’s the biggest thing. When we give up a
play here or there, the way we respond is huge. Settle
down, regroup and keep playing football, that’s special.
And that’s something we didn’t do earlier in the year that
we’re doing now. Earlier, I felt like we went
‘quicksand.’ When something went wrong, then something
else went wrong, something else went wrong, etc. Now, if
something goes wrong, we line up and go back to work.”

“D” in Defense Stands for “Develop”: In
fact, in talking with various members of the Cards
defense over the past few weeks, a couple of themes
emerge. First, the defense has cut down on the big
plays. As one coach told me – “a big mistake now isn’t a
blown coverage, it’s a missed tackle.” The other big
difference is that the opposing offense has to account for
every member of the AZ defense as a potential pass rusher.
Not too long ago, with limited knowledge of the scheme,
only a handful of Cardinals defenders truly had the
ability to blitz.

Paulie Chicken: Finally, did I want to ask
Coach W about
his Harbaugh Handshake? Most definitely. Did I have the,
uh, gumption to pose the question. Dang. (Note to Self:
I need to get tougher, like a punter or a receiver…)