Sunday, December 25, 2016

I'll Take It

Arizona beat the hell out of Seattle's offense in the first half. That changed in the second half, and the Seahawks started scoring points. Enough points to erase a 13-point deficit in the 4th quarter. Fortunately, Hauschka shanked the extra point, leaving the game tied. Arizona was able to keep Carson Palmer upright long enough to complete some passes (including one big one to David Johnson down the sidelines), and Catanzaro hit a field goal right down the middle as time expired. Arizona wins, 34-31.

Fox switched over to this game with about 3 minutes left, as Arizona was conducting an idiotic offensive drive. They threw on second down, and Fitzgerald went out of bounds, stopping the clock. Then they threw on third down, incomplete, leaving Seattle a timeout. Then the punt was crap, and Arizona got called for holding, so Seattle was practically in the red zone already. Watching the Seahawks score and listening to the announcers slurp Seattle was enough to make me hand the remote to my mother so I didn't put it through her TV.

But Arizona won! Hooray! They went 1-3 against the AFC East. They went 1-3 against the NFC South. But they will manage at least a winning record in the division this year. 3-2-1 at worst, 4-1-1 if they can handle the Rams next week. And the Rams just lost to the fucking incompetent, shitass 49ers, so Arizona better handle them.

Nice to see Arizona win a close game, something they haven't done much lately. I remember, alst year I think, seeing Bill Barnwell write something about how well Arizona was doing in close games under Bruce Arians, and that while records in those sorts of games tended to not be repeatable, maybe Arians really did have a knack. The Cards were something like 16-7 in games decided by 8 points or less his first three years. They're 3-5-1 this year. I don't know if it's regression to the mean, or just a sign of how they aren't good this year because they can't pull these games out. Chicken or egg?

David Johnson ran for 95 yards on 28 carries, not terribly productive (especially with one 30 yard rush in there), but an encouraging commitment to the run. Shades of their 17-10 win in Seattle in 2013, when they ran the ball 43 times. Johnson added about 45 yards in receiving. He's up to the 5th best single-season rushing total in franchise history, moving ahead of both Edgerrin James' good seasons, and one of Ottis Anderson's. He's got a good chance to have the 4th best, and maybe the 3rd best, if he can get 120 yards next week. He's also up to 20 TDs on the season.

I noticed Larry Fitzgerald is over 100 receptions again, but is averaging less than 10 yards a catch. No wonder they don't throw to their tight ends, Fitz is taking all those passing routes. Well, I trust him to catch the ball more than Jermaine Gresham, and I guess they really can't trust Palmer's line to keep him upright for longer passes. Although J.J. Nelson had himself an 80-yard reception in the first quarter. that was encouraging. With Michael Floyd gone, and John Brown struggling with injuries (not mention Fitzgerald's advancing years), they need to find some other receivers.

Anyway, there's a chance to get to 7 wins next week, and all they have to do is beat the bejeezus out of Jared Goff, and keep the Rams' defense from breaking Palmer in half. Seems doable.


Monday, December 19, 2016

No Defensive Players Survived. Or Showed Up

Arizona lost 48-41. Chandler Catanzaro sucks. He cost them the Miami game, the New England game, the Seattle game, and while technically his missed field and goal missed extra point (5th one of those this year) wouldn't have altered the outcome, losing 4 points didn't help matters.

Neither did the defense's complete inability to even slow the Saints down. They did manage to recover one fumble, and sacked Brees three times, but he threw for 389 yards and 4 TDs, so on the whole, you'd have to say he won that battle. The Saints also ran for 130 yards on 32 carries, and 2010 Arizona Cardinals' leading rusher Tim Hightower had two touchdowns.

On the offense side of things, Palmer had hs best game in a while, going 28-40 for 318 yards and two TDs. Kerwynn Williams added a 49 yard rushing TD, and David Johnson went over 100 total yards of offense for the 14th consecutive game. Which is an NFL record. And he holds the single season franchise mark for offensive yards, and touchdowns. He's going to have to pick it up running the ball if he's going to crack 1300 yards rushing, though.

The amazing thing is, thanks to blowing out the shitty Buccaneers and Jets earlier in the season, Arizona still has a positive point differential, despite their 5-8-1 record. Granted, it's down to +14 with two games to go, but that's better than they managed in their Super Bowl season, or two years ago, when Palmer and Drew Stanton blowing out their knees helped kill what had been a promising season.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Not Quite

Outside of a 56 yard run by J.J. Nelson, the Cardinals' offense was a trash fire in the first half of their loss to Miami. Palmer threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The Dolphins got some touchdowns, but as much because Palmer kept gifting them a short field as anything else.

Than Tannehill hurt his knee near the end of the 3rd quarter, the Dolphins' offense was placed in the hands of Matt Moore, and Arizona clawed its way back in. The tied the game with about three minutes left, forced a three and out at about the two minute warning. So with the ball, Palmer promptly dropped the first down snap and had to fall on it. They picked a few of the yards up on a short pass to David Johnson, and then Palmer underthrew Fitzgerald on third down. They punted, their coverage teams completely failed to get their asses downfield and the Dolphins started near the Arizona 40. Then Moore repeatedly torched Justin Bethel by throwing to Kenny Stills, and despite the Dolphins' best efforts to fuck it up, they kicked the winning field goal as time expired.

So Arizona is 5-7-1. Seattle is losing to Green Bay as I type. If that holds, Seattle will not have clinched the division yet, but let's be real: Arizona isn't winning the division. There's nothing they've done this year to suggest they can play well enough for three weeks to pull that off. They might have won this game, but Palmer couldn't stop giving Miami the ball, and couldn't do anything to get the ball downfield when he could hold onto it. He finished with 145 yards on 18 completions, but he was at about 7 completions for less than 50 yards well into the 3rd quarter. Catanzaro had a crap day kicking. He missed a field goal and two extra points, one of which was blocked and returned for two points. But as I said after the Seattle tie, Arizona never seems to have good special teams.

David Johnson did run for 80 yards, so he's up to 1085 on the season, on pace for 1335 yards, and had his 13th consecutive game with at least 100 yards of total offense. Next up, the Saints.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Progress Of A Sorts

Arizona beat Washington 31-23. All right! Which pushes the Cardinals back up to 5-6-1, meaning they are still technically in the running for a wild card spot. More pertinently, it hurts Washington's chances for one of those same spots, and that's always good.

Arizona didn't run the ball effectively at all, needing 24 carries to gain 88 yards. But David Johnson's 84 yards were enough to get him over 1000 for the season, making him just the sixth Cardinals' running back I've seen reach that mark. How sad. With 4 games left, he's on pace for a little over 1330 yards, which would give him the 4th best single season total in franchise history (behind Ottis Anderson, who holds the top 4 spots currently). He already has the 15th best single season total, and he's 29th in total rushing yards.

Carson Palmer had a good game. 300 yards through the air, no turnovers, only sacked twice, 3 TDs. Don't know if the offensive line stepped up their game, Arians schemed with more emphasis on protection, or if Washington's pass rush and secondary just suck. David Johnson and Fitzgerald continue to be the primary targets, combining for 19 catches and 169 yards. Given Fitzgerald's 7.8 yards per catch, I'm guessing Arians isn't having Palmer attack downfield as much, because the line can't hold up. Jermaine Gresham had 5 catches for 52 yards, and JJ Nelson caught one 42 yard pass.

The defense allowed 87 yards on 18 carries, but other than one 59 yard reception by Desean Jackson, mostly kept Cousins from hurting them down the field. He got intercepted one in the end zone trying to throw the horrible fade route to Jackson, and Calais Campbell obliterated some chump of a lineman to sack Cousins and force a key fumble late.

Looking to the remaining four games, they have Miami, the Saints, then Seattle and the Rams to close things out. The Dolphins just got humiliated by the Ravens, which could be good if it makes them fold, but bad if it makes them pissed and desperate. The Saints, Arizona might be able to pull of the strategy I hoped they'd use against the Falcons. With the division games, who knows. The Rams game will be ugly, because games with the Rams always are, the Seahawks game could be close, could be a blowout. The Seahawks have looked extremely vulnerable at times - losing to Tampa, tying Arizona - but they just trucked the Panthers, so I'm not sure what they are.