Tag Archives: Seattle

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: No Evidence that David Johnson is a Cyborg

Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) carries the ball after a catch in the first half against the Green Bay Packers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

One can be forgiven for thinking that Arizona Cardinals third-year running back David Johnson was created in a covert Midwestern lab by some mad genius. Johnson is a chiseled, 6’1”, 225 pound cyborg who rose from the corn fields of Northern Iowa to take his place among the NFL elite.

I have no evidence that Johnson’s a cyborg. It’s just a hunch, and even Cardinals GM Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 this week, “You wonder if he’s real.” Johnson has the power to run over you, the speed to run around you, and an instinct to burst through just the right crack in the line and then jump-cut to the outside, buckling the knees of would be tacklers and leaving them strewn all over the field. In 2015, Johnson became just the fourth player in NFL history to post 500+ rushing yards, 400+ receiving yards, 500+ kickoff return yards and 13+ TDs in a season, joining greats like Maurice Jones-Drew and Gale Sayers.

Oh, and he only started five games all season.

Johnson is averaging five yards per carry this year and a hefty 13.3 as a receiver. He has rushed for an NFL-high eight TDs in the first six games. He is one of the most elusive backs in the league and even if you can get your hands on him, he’s averaging three yards per carry after first contact.

Scouts didn’t see this coming. Johnson was selected 86th in the 2015 draft out of the University of Northern Iowa. The school enjoys a strong liberal arts tradition, and publishes The North American Review, a celebrated literary magazine whose past contributors include Mark Twain, Henry James, Joseph Conrad and Walt Whitman. The university is not, however, known for producing pro athletes; one could pen the complete list before Usain Bolt breaks the tape in the 100-meter dash.

The well-spoken Johnson made the dean’s list twice, and since being drafted he’s acquired a wife, a house and a dog, and the couple is expecting their first child in late January. He’s doing it all, on and off the field.

The franchise has piled heavy expectations on Johnson this season, and he’s shouldered them with an easy grace. He’s lifted the spirits of Cardinals fans who are still drifting on memories of last year’s aerial circus, with ringleader Carson Palmer spinning floaters and bombs to a skilled and speedy receiving corps that lit up scoreboards all over the league. This season Palmer’s numbers have dipped across the board, and with the exception of Larry Fitzgerald the pass catchers have been hobbled by injuries and under-performance. As a result, Arizona is leaning more heavily on the ground game. Johnson’s out front, carrying the ball and the banner.

UNUSUAL SIGHTING
Patrick Peterson is one of the toughest shutdown corners in the NFL, and seems to be part man, part beast. Now there’s proof: https://twitter.com/AZCardinals/status/788139269256654848/video/1

MONDAY NIGHT MASTERY
The defense swarmed over the NY Jets last Monday night with barbaric urgency. The Cards held the Jets to only 33 yards rushing and a single field goal. That performance and Johnson’s three TDs were more than enough for a solid 28-3 victory. Arizona has won two straight to pull even at 3-3 on the season, righting a foundering ship after a 1-3 start. Arizona is now 10-3 in prime time games under coach Bruce Arians.

BRING ON THE SEAHAWKS
Buoyed by their Monday night performance, the Cardinals will play under the lights again tonight when they host rival Seattle in a pivotal division matchup. A Cardinals victory would pull them within a half game of the division lead and extend their winning streak to three. A Seahawks win would give them a 2.5 game margin in the division. The Seahawks boast the league’s #1 defense, and QB Russell Wilson has found his footing after suffering ankle and knee injuries early in the year. He’s hitting on 66% of his passes and Seattle has averaged 30 points in its last three games. Arizona has to find a way to shut down the Seahawks and gut out a win in what may be a low scoring game.

The Cardinals have been a cordial host to Seattle in recent years, allowing the Seahawks to win their last three games in University of Phoenix Stadium. Frustrated cornerback Patrick Peterson was at a loss for words when asked why this week. “Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question,” he said. Coach Arians offered an explanation: “They beat the s— out of us.”

The players are hell-bent on halting the recent home slide against Seattle, and they’ve drawn a line in the desert sand. The biggest challenge will be to get the running game going, which has been thoroughly squelched in the recent home losses to Seattle.

Maybe David Johnson will somehow run wild against the Seahawks’ punishing defense. If he does and Arizona wins, as far as Johnson’s devotees are concerned he may as well just keep on running to Canton, OH and install himself as the first living exhibit in the NFL Hall of Fame.

He has the talent to get there someday. Why wait?

–  Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Jets turnover another one to the Seahawks- Week 4 review vs Seattle

Frustration and panic are beginning to set in among Jets fans after another ugly loss. This one comes at home making the Jets 0-2 at home and 1-3 overall. We knew it was a tough early schedule but the Jets are really shooting themselves in the foot at this point. Week 1 should have been a win, and it’s scary to think how much that 1 point could come back and bight the Jets in the backside. So what went wrong, let’s break it down, I’m going to switch up formats this week a little bit, instead of pointing out individuals and individual units, I will look at some of the bigger issues ( maybe point out one or two individuals).

The demons that plague the Jets

Discipline– Penalties are a little bit of a worrisome issue in this season. What was a disciplined and cool headed team last season, seems to have lost some of that composure. We are seeing more pre-snap penalties, and stupid behavior after plays. We are nowhere near the animal house like behavior of Rex Ryan’s teams towards the end of his tenure, but this is one area the team can improve to help their chances of winning the tough close games. For example in the one point loss to the Bengals in week one the Jets had 7 penalties for 95 yards. While Folk catches a ton of the blame, 95 yards of penalties shouldn’t be ignored.

Accountability– Turnovers have been a huge factor in the Jets losses this season. The disturbing part is people are not being held accountable for these crushing and game killing mistakes. In the game against the Chiefs Jalin Marshall fumbled a kickoff which went the wrong way for 6. He was back on the field for the ensuing kickoff. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 6 interceptions against the Chiefs, and another 3 in this past Sundays loss to the Seahawks. He is still the teams unquestioned starting QB. I’m not saying we should be in full panic mode and start a QB controversy, but this is an area that deserves reevaluation and hard scrutiny.

Ryan Fitzpatrick– Fitzmagic has turned into Fitztragedy! Not going to go into too much detail here, but things are getting scary. Over the past 2 games Fitzpatrick has a stat line of 43 of 85 for 449 yards with 1 touchdown to 9 interceptions. Bad reads and miscues are partially to blame, but there is a disturbing trend emerging. Fitzpatrick is trying to be a hero when playing from behind. Even after disastrous turnovers the Jets have stayed close in games, the team picks up the slack, but Fitz continues to try to be a gun slinger and eventually time runs out. If he played soundly and took only what the defense gives him instead of trying to force issues the Jets would have had a chance in both these games.

Game-plan– It is the job of a good coach to plan around the talent of his players. Since no team boasts the top players in every position it is important to maximize the the talent of your stars while scheming around the weaknesses of the team. The Jets secondary has once again become an issue, big plays are going over our heads every week and something needs to be done about it. Calvin Pryor has taken a lot of the blame, but as a unit they seem to be consistently caught out of position. Bottom line is the the plan here needs to change.

Things to look forward to

The young guns– While the veterans are still getting the praise (and the blame), the young guys are starting to make names for themselves. Quincy Enunwa is coming into his own in his third year, becoming a reliable option in the passing game as well as a very competent blocker in the run game. The young linebackers are refreshing to see, flashing speed while they fly across the field. This is a group to be real excited about because once there NFL knowledge gets to where their athleticism is the Jets defense will have an incredibly stout and productive front 7.

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Arizona Cardinals: Enjoying the View

Follow me on Twitter: @ericforgaard

Riding the momentum of last season’s 11-5 record, the Arizona Cardinals stand alone atop the NFC West after two games. Arizona is putting up nearly 40 points per game and has yet to allow a sack. Is it time for misty-eyed fans to book passage to the Super Bowl? Will a beaming Coach Bruce Arians throw the championship banner wide to the wind Feb. 7 in Santa Clara?

Early season success can be ephemeral, good fans. Just when everything’s going well, you might dust off your Remington pump-action shotgun for a relaxing day of waterfowl hunting and accidentally kill the last Yellow-Billed Cuckoo in Maricopa County. One mustn’t confuse winless New Orleans and Chicago—the Cardinals’ first two foes—with, say, Green Bay and New England. One must maintain perspective.

Still, Arizona supporters are tantalized by the early results.

Last season, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had the Cardinals defense performing at a high level, and the unit was largely responsible for that shiny 11-5 mark. The rest of the league took note, and the New York Jets hired away Bowles as their new head coach. The Jets have given up an NFL-low 17 points through two games and currently sit tied atop the AFC East with New England.

How have the 2-0 Cardinals made up for the loss of defensive wiz Bowles? Offense. Pure, adrenalized firepower.

A peek at the numbers bears this out.

Last season the Cards had 32 rushes of ten yards or more. This year? Nine in the first two games. Rookie David Johnson is toting the ball at a robust 8.4 yard clip after five touches, and he took his lone reception to the house from 55 yards out. In Chicago last week Johnson ran back the opening kickoff 108 yards for a score. Carson Palmer has completed passes to eight different receivers, five of whom have scored touchdowns. And 32-year-old Larry Fitzgerald’s game has acquired a youthful sheen. He’s averaging nearly 100 yards receiving per game and has scored three times.

But on to current business.

Arizona hosts a NFC West division scrap against San Francisco today. The 49ers were an off-season train wreck, when Coach Jim Harbaugh’s, um, resignation touched off a flurry of retirements and player cuts. Still, the team looked solid in a 20-3 win against visiting Minnesota in week one. But this was followed by a near-biblical 43-18 smiting at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, and the murmurs in San Francisco rose audibly.

Today’s game will be played under clear skies, and scenario-runners’ forecasts are equally sunny. Remember, Seattle has limped out of the gate 0-2, but should take care of Chicago today, and 1-1 St. Louis has to contend with high-flying Pittsburgh. When the dust clears Sunday evening, optimists feel that the Cardinals might sit at 3-0 and enjoy a two game lead over every team in the division.

Today’s matchup against the 49ers exudes the essence of a key early season test. To the hardcore Arizona fan, it smells like victory.

Eric Forgaard

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