Tag Archives: John Brown

Arizona Cardinals Pause, Reflect, and Return to War

christmas-truce

Christmas Truce – The Illustrated London News

As dawn broke on Christmas morning, 1914, entrenched British troops on the Western Front of World War I heard singing from the German side, across no man’s land, accompanied by a brass band. Soon after, German soldiers rose and walked toward the British side, calling out “Merry Christmas.” Eyeing them with suspicion but noticing the troops were unarmed, British soldiers lowered their rifles and took to the field themselves, their linguists calling out “Fröhliche Weihnachten.” Plum puddings and cigarettes were exchanged, carols were sung, and a soccer game broke out. The “Christmas Truce” was a welcome respite from the brutality of the Great War.

The Arizona Cardinals are coming off their much-needed bye week, a ceasefire in the hostilities of a long NFL season. The Cards sit at a disappointing 3-4-1, but some wounds are healing, such as speedy WR John Brown’s achy legs after treatment following diagnosis of the sickle cell trait. All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu was expected to be out several more weeks with a shoulder injury, but the Honey Badger was observed prowling the practice field this week. He’ll miss today’s home game against the 49ers, but his progress is encouraging.

Another beneficiary of the week off may have been Chandler “The Cat” Catanzaro, the Cardinals’ beleaguered placekicker. Cats are not known for their kicking, except perhaps for certain European breeds, but Catanzaro performed well last year, converting every kick from 46 yards and in. This season he missed game-winners in weeks one and seven, the latter a chip shot against rival Seattle that now surely visits his dreams. Arizona GM Steve Keim could be forgiven if over the break he had auditioned former NFL kickers, a couple of Rockettes and a mule.

To clear his head, Catanzaro retreated home to South Carolina during the break to visit family and friends and to “self-medicate.” No word on the nature of the medication but Cardinals Nation is praying for its potency.

Coach Bruce Arians and his staff settled in over the bye week to review game video, noshing and gnashing and trying to solve the puzzle of an underperforming offense. The films are unlikely to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but they may reveal clues to a team that has fallen from number one in offense last season to 16th this year.

Even to the naked eye, the receiving corps has vastly underachieved after being one of the league’s most feared units last season. Michael Floyd has declared himself a top receiver in the NFL, but his numbers (19 catches, three TD’s, multiple drops) have yet to reflect that in the last year of his rookie contract. Larry Fitzgerald has gone 15 games without a 100-yard effort, his longest such streak since 2004.

Field General Carson Palmer simply hasn’t looked like himself all year. He’s been slowed by ailments and he hasn’t connected on the big plays that lit up scoreboards last year. The Cardinals aim for at least five “explosive” plays per game—22 yards or more—but that feature of their attack has been muffled so far. It doesn’t help that 6’8”, 321 pound offensive tackle Jared Veldheer is on injured reserve with a torn tricep, giving Palmer a tick less time to throw.

Arizona continues to lean heavily on running back David Johnson, the only player in the NFL with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game this season. And despite its share of injuries, the defense has sparkled, allowing the fewest yards in the league.

Arizona hosts the 1-7 San Francisco 49ers today at University of Phoenix Stadium, which may be just the tonic to settle the nerves. It’s a must-win game for a team still stocked with talent and with playoff aspirations. After today, the Cardinals set off on a lengthy road peppered with land mines—three early games in the Eastern Time Zone, a looming skirmish in Seattle, and five of their last seven contests away from the comforts of home.

After a welcome break, it’s back to business for Arizona today at 1:25 p.m. PST for the season’s second half. Cardinals Nation is hoping it only faintly resembles the first.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer is not Tom Brady

carson-palmer-over-concussion-eager-to-get-back-and-play

Ah, 2015.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer dominated opposing defenses last season—and players, coaches and fans clustered around his reflected glow like desert moths. He was the brightest light in a constellation brimming with talent and confidence. The Cardinals regularly occupied opponents’ end zones after precision air and land attacks, and Palmer drove the offense to a 30 points per game average. He finished with 35 touchdowns and a league-best quarterback rating of 104.6.

Enter 2016.

To the surprise of some, it now seems that Palmer is human after all. He has underthrown too many receivers this season, causing some observers to question his arm strength. And he has fumbled three times in his four games. There are murmurs that he has committed the great sin of being 36 years old in a young man’s league, and a glance at his birth certificate confirms it.

But savvy observers know that Palmer hasn’t hit full stride yet, nor enjoyed his full complement of weapons. The offense has missed the presence of Pro-Bowl guard Mike Iupati, who remains out. Speedy wideout John Brown was hurt early in the year and has yet to sync up with Palmer. And receiver Michael Floyd has vanished like Blockbuster Video, or perhaps civility in this political season. Floyd’s disappearance has put more pressure on Larry Fitzgerald to carry the receiving load.

Then there’s the unpleasant business of the Los Angeles Rams summarily slamming Palmer’s head into the turf in week four, putting him into the league’s mysterious concussion protocol and forcing him to sit out the October 6th game against San Francisco. His numbers this season are downright unPalmerian—six TDs against five interceptions—and the Cardinals have crawled out of the blocks with a 2-3 mark. But capable backup Drew Stanton led the Cards to a win against the 49ers, and Palmer is now back on the field.

Despite his slow start, faith in Palmer abounds, from GM Steve Keim to Coach Bruce Arians and all through the locker room. 36 years old? So what? Tom Brady is 38 years old, and he’s still performing at a high level on the field—and likely at home. Face it: Tom Brady married supermodel Gisele Bündchen and you didn’t. What did Brady do after being suspended for air pressure transgressions? Flew to Rome with Gisele and sunbathed nude, to the delight of the Paparazzi. What did Carson Palmer do when he missed time with a mild concussion? He studied the playbook.

Carson Palmer is not Tom Brady. And neither are you.

Still, Palmer has the resume, the tools, and the horses around him to lift the Cardinals out of their sluggish start and into contention.

Arizona hosts the New York Jets this evening under the lights. The Monday Night game has given Palmer an extra day to clear his head, and given the coaches more time to dig into the playbook and try to unearth remnants of last year’s offensive wizardry. Vegas likes the spot, installing the Cards as a touchdown favorite.

Fans have grown restless for the brand of success Arizona enjoyed last year. There is a faint gloom in the collective mood so far this season. The dust devils that swirl up from the desert floor seem more ominous. Cactus flowers seem duller.

Still—for Palmer, the Cardinals and their fans, there is hope. Stubborn, imperishable hope.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals: Dancing Under the Stars

The roof will be open Sunday evening at University of Phoenix Stadium. As the desert light dims and the stars wheel forth, Arizona fans will settle in for the premier clash on the NFL schedule as the 7-2 Cardinals host the 8-1 Cincinnati Bengals. It will be the second straight Sunday night contest for Arizona and it’s an opportunity for another prime time statement after the Cards trekked north to dispatch rival Seattle last week.

Arizona led 19-0 at one point and jogged to the locker room up 22-7 at the half. But despite the team underperforming of late Seattle is hostile ground, and the Seahawks have appeared in the last two Super Bowls. They clawed back after intermission and 69,000 fans howled when linebacker Bobby Wagner returned a fumble 22 yards early in the fourth quarter to give Seattle a 29-25 lead. But a cool Carson Palmer promptly led the Cardinals on an 83 yard TD drive, hushing the crowd, and Arizona went on to claim a 39-32 victory and a three game division lead.

Dance Party USA

Seattle enjoys a rich musical history (think Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana), and it seems the Cardinals felt this fertile region was the perfect venue in which to bust out some premium dance moves. Andre Ellington’s game-clinching 48 yard run served as the catalyst.

Backup QB Drew Stanton followed Ellington down the sidelines doing the windmill and some Frank the Tank Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot punches, and he completed the routine with a high-kicking Rockette flourish. It was trending on social media before he hit the showers. Watching the same play and not to be outdone, Carson Palmer broke out some fist pumps and then the camera caught him throwing a pelvic thrust toward the crowd, resulting in an $11,576 fine. Palmer said after the game his reaction was aimed at three friends of his in the stands. Three very special friends, presumably. YouTube viewers can reasonably argue whether Stanton’s or Palmer’s moves were more fine-worthy.

And don’t forget Cardinals receiver John “Smokey” Brown. After a 48 yard touchdown catch last season Brown unleashed an adrenaline-fueled, arm-flailing Harlem Shake maneuver, which appears at the end of a current NFL promo.

Current Matters

With a 7-2 record and a victory grip on the NFC West, the Cardinals and their fans have reason to dance. But coach Bruce Arians is the sort who won’t stop pushing his team to achieve until the Lombardi trophy is locked securely in a case and he’s taken it out and polished it a couple of times. Next up? 8-1 Cincinnati.

The Bengals stumbled last week in a surprising loss to visiting Houston, giving Cincinnati its first blemish of the year. Was Cincinnati exposed or was it a one-off? The evidence points more to an anomaly than a trend. As dynamic as Andy Dalton and the offense have been all year, the defense has held the last three opponents to exactly 10 points each. If it weren’t for the mighty New England Patriots, Cincinnati would be the class of the AFC.

35-year-old Carson Palmer has a history with the Bengals of course, having presided over years of mediocre squads. After suffering through a 4-12 campaign in 2010 and disagreeing with the direction the team was going, Palmer threatened to retire rather than take another snap with the team. This is a little like a two-year-old falling limp at the mall, refusing to walk another step, and swinging like a bag of potatoes when his mom tries to pull him to his feet. But anyone who endured those Bengals teams would find his position right and proper, and it seems Palmer knew his fortunes would improve if he headed west. After a stint with the Raiders, Palmer has found a home in Arizona and he’s leading a team with a shot at the title if everything falls into place.

These are high times for both Cincinnati and Arizona. Cardinals detractors will rightfully point to the alarming fact that Arizona has yet to beat a team with a winning record. But a Cardinals victory tonight would make a statement loud enough to sweep through the Valley of the Sun and perhaps all the way to New England.

Coach Arians might even do the Dougie.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation