Sunday, December 25, 2011

Add another one to the Cardinal's Worst Moments list.

I'm not saying that Early's Jello legs cost them the game.  That's missing the bigger picture by a long shot.  I mean that offense was at its worst for 3 quarters, and they got extremely lucky to even be in the game.  But still... why is it a Cardinal principle to lose in such a way that every looks around and says, "Have you ever seen that before?  I think that might be the most embarassing way to lose I've ever seen."  I also wonder if their is a script writer for the Cardinals who keeps trying to one-up the last miserable finish to a game.  Oh, and once again, they lose when it matters. 

I don't know how that defense does it.  They just seem to keep this team in games.  Especially when the offense continues to put them in bad field position.  This is the one positive identity of this team.  Dockett is still creating havoc, Campbell does stuff that doesn't always show up in the stats, and NT keep clogging the middle like they're supposed to.  Washington played great again (in spite of two highlight reels he wants no part of), Lenon is solid, Schoefield is getting better every week, and Acho is officially a 4th Round steal (yes, I know, I predicted that.  But I also predicted Carter wouldn't make the team.)  Peterson played well until he got hurt (sit him for the year, take no chances), Marshall and Jefferson are doing fine, it was good to see Rhodes back again (sit him for the year, take no chances), and Wilson should get comeback player of the year (I am so glad I was wrong that he was washed up).  Ray Horton deserves tremendous accolades for his work on this D.  Is this about the time all Cardinal fans start getting worried that their star coordinator is going to get hired by another team?

I'm officially off of Whiz's back over the defense.  He let Horton do his thing and it has paid off huge.  I can forgive the philosophical mistakes they made early, (by putting way too much of the playbook in and starting the old timer LBs over the kids) .  I don't believe that a team has to start out the season clicking, but I do believe they have to click for more than half of it.  And this defense ranks as one of the best in Az Cardinal history for its second half performance.  I thought Whiz's arrogance and ineptitude was getting to Horton, but I'm glad to be wrong.  Plus, it took some time to rid themselves of the stain that was Bill Davis. 

Speaking of bad defensive coordinators: do you remember Clancy Pendergast?  You know, the guy who loved to play defense one way for 58 minutes, shut the opponent's offense down, then change the defense to a prevent D for the last 2 minutes and then lose the game.  Oh how I miss that guy.  So I was thinking about Mike Miller and I thought he should really look into what got Clancy fired AFTER he took a team to the Superbowl.  You see, Mike seems to have Clancy's philosophy in reverse.  Stink it up for most of the game and then change the offense to a 2 minute offense to catch up.  Of course, every nitwit fan with an IQ two standard deviations below the norm is wondering why they don't try the 2 minute offense from the getgo.  I mean, if Whiz isn't going to do a sensible run offense, then why not just throw ALL the time.  Yes, I mean ALL.   Shotgun, empty backfield, 4 wide with TE protection, and just let 'er rip.  What the heck.  It couldn't be worse than the dreadful offense that they sling out week after week in the first half.  It makes you wonder what kind of game planning is going on for 6 days. 

And its not just that Skelton isn't executing.  For sure, that's a problem.  But they waste time with that "running game" they have and it turns out to be useless.  Their running game doesn't set up passes.  It doesn't punish defenders.  It doesn't get them first downs. They only run because they feel like they have to.  Not because they want to.  If its one thing I've learned about Whiz, its that he hates running the football.  He hasn't done it since he left the Steelers.  Its like we all know that there's a running game there, but it really doesn't do anything.  So why have it?

Just run from shotgun like Kurt Warner did with Marshall Faulk and the Rams.  Whiz seems to think that his QBs should play like Kurt anyway, so give Skelton the same offense.  What could it hurt?

This offense reeks of having no consistant identity.  I can't believe Whiz hasn't got it through his thick skull that his offensive philosophy sucks with these players.  Its stunning.  And this is why he got hired in the first place: he was a great offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.  How bad is it that you're specialty is offense and its your defense thats saves your butt every week?

Side thought:  On the first 4 passing plays against the Bengals it went: 13 yard gain, sack, interception, sack.
The first 2 running plays went: gain of 6, gain of 4. 

I want so badly to root for Ken.  I really do.  But without Horton this year he wins how many games? 4? 5?  If he's lucky.  In fact, I'd say he only wins for two reasons: because they have good talent on this team, and because of his defense and special teams.  Prove to me that he's done anything good with his offense in the last 2 years.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I'm torn.  I can't tell whether I'm happy about the seven wins this year or pissed at how poor the offense is playing in the first half of games.  First off, let's clear up that it isn't Skelton that's the problem.  In the first half of the Cowboys game, Kolb was terrible.  They adjusted at halftime and thereafter were stellar.  Skelton of course, is gaining a reputation for that, but the pattern dictates that its a game preparation problem and not a personnel problem.  The blame then falls in the lap of the coaching staff.  They have not game planned well, and are paying for it for the first 30 minutes.  However, they also deserve all the credit for the second half adjustments they've made.  Like I said, I'm torn.

They say winning is everything.  That's not true.  If you win now and that develops bad habits that will cause you to lose more in the future, then winning is detrimental to your growth.  My concern for this team is that the winning blinds them to their goal of domination.  For example, in the Cleveland game there was no doubt that they should have ran over them.  The Browns are one of the worst rush defenses in the league.  And yet the Cards did very little in the run game.  So they relied on the pass, against one of the best pass defenders, and were successful.  A lot can be said about that, but allow me to focus on the first point; that is, why can't they run the ball on the Browns?  A strong mentality is vital in the NFL.  To the point, the Cards don't have one of those when it comes to running the ball.  We saw it in the second half when they threw the ball on almost every play.  The result was a win, yes, but at what cost?  This is destroying all that they've established over the year in the running department.  And that will keep them one dimensional, which only works if you have a HOF QB.  As for the Browns, the Cards should have beat them by 10+ points and utterly dominated the time of possession.  Instead they squeaked out a win. 

I'm sure you'll call this talk negative, but isn't the goal to win a Superbowl?  To win a Superbowl, you don't barely beat the Rams and Browns in overtime.  You crush them.  You send a message to the league that you will run them over.  The Saints are doing it right now through the air, and the Packers were until they lost all of their O-line.  Are the Cards really trying to be those teams?  If they are, well, they might win.  But will it win them a championship?  I highly doubt it.  Their best bet is to continue to establish the run and develop Skelton for the future.  He will get more comfortable as they develop their identity. 

And that's what I'm most frustrated about.  The Cards are winning, but they are doing it with no identity(on offense).  That is, unless you can call sucking in the first half and then recovering in the second an identity.  They need to put it all together.  But they aren't right now.  They aren't the dominant team they should have been in week 3 or 4.  Instead they are a mess that's winning.  Mark my words, when Whiz finally pulls his head out and figures out what's best for this team, he'll dominate.  Not just win.  And I'll give him what their identity should be.

Offense:  Establish the run early and commit to it for the entire game, which sets up play action pass, mix in some slants for Roberts, HB screens for Hyphen, and FIND Fitz, especially the fade to Larry in the endzone.

Defense:  Stop the run, pressure the QB, and maintain a solid red zone presence (which they are doing right now).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cards vs. Niners 12/11/11

Cards 21 Niners 19

Wow!  I mean wow!  Where has this team been all year?  It is so much more fun on Sundays when your team plays well.  Hats off to Whiz for keeping this team together after such a bad start.  Its true that his offense has major problems, but when your defense is playing this well, you’ll be in most games. 

Speaking of the offense, that’s two weeks in a row where they have stunk it up in the first half, only to come out guns blazing in the second.  A glass half empty guy might accuse Whiz of poor game planning in the first, but a glass half full guy would say he made great adjustments in the second half.  I’d go with the latter position.  It’s very difficult to win games against great teams, and S.F. (and this pains me to admit) is a great team.  They play exceptional defense and run an effective offense.  So I’m gonna give credit to the Cards for adjusting.

Normally at this time I’d be screaming that they didn’t run enough.  I was thinking before kickoff that I they should actually throw more today because S.F. run defense is so stellar.  I’m glad they committed to the run enough to gain some TOF, but didn’t rely on it too much.

Kolb never had a chance.  My biggest concern when they traded for him is the concussion history.  (Well, that and his 73.2 QB rating)   Behind this line I was very concerned that he couldn’t take the inevitable beating as the starting QB.  This will be an ongoing issue. 

Skelton played poorly in the first half.  Against this D it was to be expected.  However, he lit it up in the second.  What continues to impress me is his coolness in the pocket.  He had guys draped all over him and he plays like they aren’t even there.  Many times he inexplicably broke tackles to make a play. (Unfortunately one of which was a terrible decision to throw across his body for an INT.)   He also makes big gains on the ground, without taking a big hit.  Yes, he did fumble on one, but that was just a great defensive play.  Today I got a major confidence boost that he can be a good QB.  As I’ve screamed since day one, he needs a great run game and defense to help him, but this Cards team has the making of both. 

The O line played well again, but were utterly dominated at the run game.  S.F. is the number one run defense in the league so I’m not going to berate them too much.  They did only gave up 2 sacks, but Skelton should be credited with avoiding 3 others.  They gave John enough time to win the game so they deserve some credit.  Keith got hurt again.  He’s playing through some tuff stuff, but I don’t see him finishing the season.  I can see the Cards taking a LT in the first round of the draft next year and moving Brown back over to the RT.  Keith just can’t stay healthy and Bridges isn’t the answer either.  Hadnot had a killer block today to spring the ball carrier for a big gain. 

Fitz was amazing.  Again.  His TD catch was ho-hum for his career, which means that it was a highlight for everyone else.  He just gets it.  His block to free Doucet for the TD proves once again how valuable he is without the ball.  Doucet played well enough, but dropped a couple of balls.  Roberts disappeared for most of the game but made the game winning TD catch in the 4th.  The TE’s continue to disappear, which is frustrating after the great start they had this year.  I can’t believe they aren’t used more.

Do they have a defensive coach of the year?  Because if they do Horton should be up for the award.  Although, I’m not surprised that this D is so good.  I’ve had to endure the absolute ineptitude from Clancy Pendergast and Bill Davis for years, all the while believing that Dockett, Campbell, Wilson and co. would be great if given the right coordinator.  Well, they found him.

The D line was once again amazing.  They continue to put pressure on the QB and bat down passes.  Campbell is going to earn big dollars this off season for all that he does to make this team better.  Dockett is almost as good as he was in 2008, and he’s playing in a less glorifying position.  Carter continues to make plays, even though Eason is starting.  I love this line.

The LB’s are playing so much better.  Only once did I see them make a huge mistake (I’m almost positive Paris Lenon overran his gap which allowed Gore to run for the TD).  All three of the young ones played well.

The DB is where I’m truly shocked.  They are playing so well, everyone is forgetting how bad they were to start the year.  Wilson is the real gem.  I know he’s a HOF safety, but he’s playing well in all positions again.  I thought he was done after the start of this season, but he is playing like a HOF run stopper and a very good pass defender.  PP21 shut down Crabtree, which is saying something considering the results the last time they played.  Johnson is continuing to play well at free safety.  He’s still not as good as Rhodes, but he’s playing like a solid backup.

Special teams didn’t do anything amazing.   They were adequate enough.  I think it was Rashad Johnson who stopped Ginn from getting in the end zone on the punt return.  S.F. only got a FG out of it and lost 4 points.  That’s big considering the Cards won by two. 

I’m optimistic that Whiz has turned this around.  I’m not sure what he’s going to do with Kolb and Skelton.  He really has a tough decision to make.  On July 28th, after the trade I said, “My guess is that Kolb will have repeated injuries and Skelton will play well when he's out.  Thus creating a QB controversy that Coach Whiz will deem "a good situation to be in".”  I take that back.  This isn’t a good situation to be in.  If I were him, I’d probably start Kolb.  Only because they paid him the money as the future of this team.  But you can’t deny that Skelton is a winner.  And Kurt Warner is the only other Cardinal QB that had that tag attached to him.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cards vs. Cowboys 12/4/11

Cards 19 Cowboys 13

Don't tease us Whiz.  Its not fair to actually run an offense like you did in the second half and make us think that you finally get it.  Running the ball and throwing to 'other' WRs as a steady diet is not like you and I'm concerned you've abandoned that stellar offense you have so carefully guarded over the last 2 years.  Of course, its all too late (a standard in Cardinal philosophy: win when it doesn't matter), so I'm not too excited.  However, this does bode well for their future. 

The offense was a tale of two halves.  The first half was abysmal.  They netted 49 total yards.  Kolb was sacked 4 times and all of them had a deer in the headlights quality to it.  They passed almost exclusively and did it poorly.  The second half success was driven by their ability to run the football.  It started there and gave Kolb the security to throw under less duress.   Beanie ran well, and the line looked solid on the run.  Fitz was the usual, while they finally threw to someone else.  Roberts had 111 yards and made some huge catches.  Housler even made a guest appearance. 

Kolb played terrible in the first.  Kolb played terrific in the second.  I'm going to give him credit for just the second because they finally gave him an offense he could be successful in.  As I said from the beginning, he'll be good if he gets better play calling. 

Speaking of the play calling, it seems I'm not the only one puzzled by the questionable play selection by the Cards offense.  Dockett voiced his opinion and said ,"we got a running style team...we got some bulldogs up front.  Run the ball."  Maybe Whiz is finally listening to reason.

Oh, but I can't give him full credit for 'getting it'.  Monday, on the that terrible sports show on 620 in the evening, Ken actually said the following: (paraphrased)  We can run the ball better when the defense plays well, because it keeps the defense off the field.  It allows us to control the game from a running stand point.  And yes, I think he was serious.  That of course runs contrary to the philosophy of more than 100 years of football that states: a good running game controls the game clock, which allows the defense to stay off the field, keeping them fresh.  You have to appreciate the subtle difference here.  The latter states that the running game helps the defense, Whiz is saying that bad defense kills the running game.  I could write a dissertation on how wrong his perspective is, but I don't want to do that here.  I will say what he truly means though; the reason the running game has sucked since he's been here is because his defense played so bad.  Really?  I wonder what Dockett would say about that?

The real player of the game was the entire defense.  They are playing like one of the best D in the NFL.  The Cowboys offense had been explosive before this game and the Cards shut them down to 13 points.  Once again, Dockett and Campbell played amazing.  The LBs locked into Murray and shut him down.  And the DBs all played at a high level.  Jefferson played O.K., but you can tell he isn't confident.  PP21 keeps showing signs that he is going to be a top five corner soon.  Horton is looking more and more like the real deal.  I'm in love with this defense.  If the offense can ever establish a real running game this team is going to be really really good.  Really.