I wish to express my condolences to the family and friends of Sean Taylor, Washington Redskins safety.
Barely past the halfway point of the season, the mention of the playoffs seems to be a universal trend for teams in positions to make the postseason. Obviously, New England, Dallas, Green Bay, and Indianapolis are oft-referred teams who seem perfectly poised to earn a playoff berth. Which leads to a discussion of whether teams with lesser records should even be giving the playoff picture any consideration.
For a team like the Cardinals who have very little playoff experience; the last time they made the playoffs was in 1998.
As a result, new coach Ken Whisenhunt is trying to keep his team focused on the here-and-now business of winning each successive game. After all, they are merely a contender for a wildcard spot at the present, with Seattle maintaining its current one-game lead over Arizona. Such short-term goals are imperative to keep the Cardinals focused. One major area needing focus, according to Whisenhunt, is the penalty problem. Successful teams commit fewer penalties. And particularly with younger guys, the postseason’s glitz and glamour is enticing: good thing there are veterans like Kurt Warner around who can keep these guys’ feet on the ground and head in the game.
For now anyway.
(The epitome of focus.)
Ever seen an 85-yd FG??
Well, I have. During Cardinals training camp in Flagstaff, AZ (elevation 7000 feet – take THAT Jason Elam!) I had the pleasure of watching Neil Rackers kick several 70+ yarders. Amazing!
After Rackers’ missed FG Sunday against San Francisco, I figured we all needed some reminding about how good he actually is….
Some Neil Rackers factoids:
1. Was selected with the 3rd pick of the 5th round by the Cincinnati Bengals, fresh out of the University of Illinois.
2. 2005 was a great year: he was awarded with ESPN’s “Fantasy Kicker of the Year,” was selected to the Pro Bowl, and kicked his 40th FG of the season (against Indianapolis), setting a new NFL record.
3. Earned 11 varsity letters in baseball, soccer, and football – an Aquinas-Mercy High School record (in his native St. Louis, MO.)
4. Joined the Cardinals in 2003 (mid season.)
5. In 2004 he set a new franchise record with 23 touchbacks and kicked 5-50+ yd FGs, including 3 in ONE GAME (v. Seattle, 10/24/2004.)
6. 2006 marked his 2nd consecutive 100-point season.
(Sources: nflplayers.com, wikipedia.org)
Cardinals 31, 49ers 37
Coming into this game, Kurt Warner had never lost to the 49ers in 7 starts (jinx!) That said, despite an impressive 484 passing yds for Warner and 2 TDs, turnovers cost the Cardinals a shot at staying a mere one game behind the division-leading Seattle Seahawks, coming off a win Sunday.
2 INTs by Warner and the nail-in-the-coffin fumble in the endzone by Warner in OT sealed the Cardinals’ fate this week. Not to mention a rare missed-FG attempt by Neil Rackers during the OT period.
With Alex Smith’s injury, Trent Dilfer looked right at home in Arizona, completing 256 yds and 2 TDs. Last season great Frank Gore showed some glimpses of last year with 214 yds and 2 TDs, and the 49ers 8-game losing streak came at the expense of Arizona, who has lost 4 games this season by only 7 points or less.
On the bright side, Larry Fitzgerald had a wonderful outing, recording 2 TDs on 156 yds. Edgerring James rushed for 78 yds, and Marcel Shipp got his first TD of the season courtesy of Tim Rattay’s handoff, who joined the festivities during a goal-line stand in the 2nd quarter. Rattay also tossed a TD to Ben Patrick in the 4th quarter.
The Cardinals fall to 5-6 in the NFC West, and host the tough Cleveland Browns, fresh off a win and leading the AFC in the wildcard race, next week.
Adele Harris, the NFL’s first minority female executive and long-time Cardinals’ community relations director passed away November 16th in Glendale at the age of 65, after working 26 years in the Cardinals’ franchise.
Loved and respected by all with whom she came in contact, Harris was instrumental in her tireless work with the Arizona NFL Youth Education Town, or YET, an organization to instill a successful mindset with at-risk kids, which currently has 15 centers scattered about the country.
Referred to as the epitome of a ‘people person’ and an invaluable contributor to the Cardinals’ relocation efforts from St. Louis to Arizona, the consensus is that her spirit will endure through the contributions she has made to the lives of young people as well as the rest of those who had the pleasure of working with her.
(Photo courtesy of Tim Koors, AZ Republic)
(Source: Gladysiewski, Greg. “Harris Passes Away.” azcardinals.com)
At 5-5, Arizona has its best after-10-game-record since 1998, and is looking for its first 3-game winning streak since late 2002. Next up for the resurgent Cardinals is division rival San Francisco, currently 2-8, who defeated the Cardinals week one this season.
Arizona hopes that revenge will, in fact, be sweet, particularly since the 49ers have suffered their share of offensive injuries this year, putting them on a downward slide of 8 straight losses.
A huge benefit for the Cardinals is their remainder of home games – 4 of their remaining 6 matchups are at home, as opposed to division rival Seattle, currently a game ahead of Arizona, who has 4 of its final 6 games on the road.
Key for Arizona is to maintain the spectacular play of its defense. Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle, and Calvin Pace have been impressive recently, placing the Cards’ DST 9th in the league for yards given up, 10th against the pass, and 13th against the rush.
(Sources: nfl.com, azcardinals.com)
Cardinals 35, Bengals 27
The 3 INTs by Antrel Rolle propelled the Cardinals to a much needed on-the-road victory to keep them close in the NFC West.
Kurt Warner showed no signs of his lingering elbow injury, tossing a pair of TDS to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. But, once again, it was the Arizona defense who won this game. Carson Palmer tossed a career-high 4 INTs, 3 to Rolle and one to Karlos Dansby (last week’s NFC Defensive Player of the Week), plus a recovered fumble of Chad Johnson by Terrence Holt, upping the turnovers by Cincinnati to 5.
Despite a whopping 11 penalties for 101 yds and time of possession under 30 minutes (27:33), when all was said and done, the Cardinals walked away with the W and a 5-5 record, currently a half-game behind division-leading Seattle, who plays Chicago this week.
Kurt Warner – left elbow, practiced all week and probable for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.
Eric Green – ankle, limited practice, questionable for Sunday.
Gerald Hayes – undisclosed illness, probable.
Adrian Wilson – heel, did not participate in practice all week, questionable for Sunday.
Aaron Francisco – knee, upgrated to questionable after full practice Friday.
For the Bengals, all players are listed as probable (Chad Johnson, Herena Daze-Jones, Madieu Williams, John Thornton, Deltha O’Neal, and Reggie Kelly) except for Willie Anderson who is definitely out Sunday.
With Kurt Warner’s lingering elbow injury, not to mention his recent hand injury, Ken Whisenhunt is still looking at Tim Rattay for goal line situations. Rattay doesn’t mind, likening the situation to other players who are brought in for special situations (i.e. a kicker, third-down wideout, etc.) and says, regarding the situation, “it’s just part of the deal.”
Whisenhunt was criticized earlier when there was a QB “controversy” between Matt Leinart and Warner early in the season, prior to Leinart’s injury. The bottom line is wins, and it’s nice that the Cardinals are the type of team that works together. How utilitarian of them, eh?