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Saturday, November 15, 2008
Mailbag: Turnovers, points and plays

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

2008 Arizona Cardinals by Week1234568910
OpponentSFMIAWASNYJBUFDALCARSTLSF
Point Differential
+10+21-7-21+24+6-4+21+5
Turnover Differential
+50-2-6+4
-2-1+3+3
Play Differential
+28+1-8+15+30-13+9+13-7
T.O.P. Differential
+14:10+3:48-6:10+2:00+12:32-5:30+5:14+17:16+3:14

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Chris from Buckeye, Ariz., writes: Since for some reason you don't hate excel or charts, I'd love to see a chart of each NFC west team's turnover discrepancy per game (not an average, but for each separate game) and either points directly o
ff those, or difference in offensive plays, or time, or even just final score. The three turnovers the Cards caused against the 9ers was the only thing saving the Cards on Monday.

Mike Sando: Hate Excel? Hate charts? Sacrilege! I put together some of that information relating to the Cardinals. Here's the Excel file. The chart summarizes key points. Games lost are highlighted in yellow for easier identification. The last row shows differential for time of possession. For example, the Cardinals held the ball more than 14 minutes longer than the 49ers in the Week 1 game.


Mr. Zero from Alameda, Calif., writes: Sando, what do think about the idea of the 49ers going after Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels to be the Head Coach and signing Matt Cassel?

Mike Sando: That sounds like a promising idea, particularly after watching Cassel play so well most of the game Thursday night. I do think it's important to find people who have been associated with winning operations. If the 49ers could do that while also solving the quarterback riddle, that would be a win-win.


Harold from Columbia, Mo., writes: Sando - I will tell you one thing about Justin Smith. The guy owns a golf course in Jefferson City - his home town. Public golf course - has a 6 dollar - 6 pack special and the BEST cheeseburgers around plus I have seen him mow on occasion. I am not kidding. The cheeseburgers are simple but out of this world - we rave about them at work!

Mike Sando: Thanks for the tip. The image you portrayed seems consistent with the way Smith approaches his job, blue collar all the way. He's not the only guy with an affinity for cheeseburgers and lawn equipment. I'd like to upgrade my mower but haven't been able to justify the expense.


Jeff from Seattle writes: Mike, I know the Seahawks play in Outer Mongolia as far as most NFL experts are concerned (not you, of course) but why aren't there more stories about three division giants potentially losing their crowns this year? The Patriots, Colts and Seahawks have had a lock on their divisions for quite a few years and suddenly there's a changing of the guard.

Are the Seahawks excluded from that because they play in a so-called weak division? They have been pretty good in non-division games. You can only win 6 division games, so if you go 13-3 you're doing a pretty good non-division job. Plus, when you look at the AFC East, it's been pretty "weak" over the last few years as well. The Pats get a free pass and the Outer Mongolian Seahawks don't? Rambling aside, shouldn't there be more noise about the fall of these three teams?

Mike Sando: Those other teams have won Super Bowls and I do think that distinguishes them from the Seahawks. Seattle needed a victory over the sixth-seeded team from the AFC in Super Bowl XL to join that club, but it didn't happen. Also, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the two best quarterbacks of their era. I wouldn't lump the Seahawks in with the Colts and Patriots. I would put them a notch lower.


Ringer from Baltimore writes: Why do you have the Bears rated higher than the Ravens? You can't possibly think they are a stronger team.

Mike Sando: The Bears have beaten the Colts, Eagles and Vikings. The Ravens have beaten one team with a winning record (Miami). That was the primary consideration.


James from California writes: Niner fan missing Eddie. Question for the Niners future. Cassel and Derek Anderson I'm under the impression will be available this offseason. If you were part of the organization, would you sign one of those QBs and if so who (assuming we part ways with Smith and draft a QB)?

Mike Sando: I might consider Matt Cassel. We know for sure he has been well-coached. Did you see what happened when Kris Jenkins sacked him Thursday night? Cassel had both hands on the football. He did not fumble. Can you imagine what would have happened to J.T. O'Sullivan in that situation? Fumble, turnover, momentum changer, think about bringing in Shaun Hill.

Cassel could conceivably become the answer at quarterback. Then you draft a guy and see if he develops. The experience Cassel is getting this season is making him much more appealing that way. Let's see how he finishes.


Tyler from Phoenix writes: SANDO! Thanks for the response to my last question. And NO! I do not believe in jinxes, just good football teams. Got another one for ya. Assuming the Rams, 9ers, and Seahawks have a slow second half like the first, which team is in the best position to contend next year with their high draft pick? I guess the real question is, which of those 3 teams are only 1 or 2 players away from being a contender next season? And if so, what positions are needed? Thoughts?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks are in the best position if Matt Hasselbeck remains viable as a quarterback. The Rams badly need to overhaul their offensive line. They need to upgrade at linebacker, safety and cornerback. The 49ers can use help on both lines, safety and possibly receiver, depending on how the younger players finish.

The Cardinals' success hinges on the quarterback. We're spending a lot of time talking about the changing of the guard in the NFC West, but a quarterback change in Arizona puts that talk on hold.


Joey from Omaha, Neb., writes: Mike. I've always been a fan of the underdog, and until this year I thought I was the one and only Kurt Warner fan out there. Everyone had seemed to bury this guy the moment he left St. Louis after the 2003 season. Here's my opinion on his career: Yes, everyone knows about the rags to riches story and his 99-01 run with the Rams. As far as a guy coming out of nowhere, I think it's the most incredible story in NFL history.

But consider this.. If he continues to take these Cardinals into unchartered territory as he did with the Rams in '99 & '01, I think this 2nd chapter of his career would even be more incredible. St. Louis basically ran him out as a washed up, fumble happy "has been" in favor of Bulger. So he goes to NY & beats out the #1 draft choice only to have the job taken from him 1/2 way through the season. Again, he's ran out of town with no one giving it a second thought. So AZ comes along and AGAIN, he's on the bench after 1 1/2 seasons in favor of Leinert.

My point is that after all that adversity, for him to come into this year as the backup and win the job is impressive in itself. But what's truly amazing is that he's having an MVP year and assuming this continues, he's showing that he's still got it, even at 37! I believe he'll get the MVP and join Favre as the only 3-time MVP in history. To top that off, Favre could end up as the runner up! (Ironic) Again, I'm just a huge fan of beating of the odds and he's done that and then some.

Mike Sando: Very well said. His ability to sustain this in t
he second half of the season is key. A playoff victory would really cement his status, in my view.


Mandy from Miami writes: I don't understand what makes many Cards fans think "we've arrived". To me, that comes through consistency year in and year out. The road woes continue, and the Cards are still the best (worst) when it comes to penalties. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying this because it's been forever to see this team do well, be in every game, and not be a laughing stock.

What the Cards have consistently done well recently is draft players. Before, they would draft players and pretty much make them starters from day 1. Now, they seem to be drafting for depth. I've never been a guy to talk about trades or free agents, but I have this scenario that I can't escape.

If Kurt Warner retires (even if he doesn't, he's up in age) and the Cards aren't too excited with Leinart, Derek Anderson is gonna be sitting there as a legit qb with the ability to start for many teams. Many teams would love Leinart on their team, and the Cards will have their share of contract issues with current players they may not be able to give a raise to. Just a thought, but not a bad one in my opinion. Big game this week. They're not gonna get easier. Mandy

Mike Sando: I guess that depends on whether you think Anderson would be better than Leinart, and whether the price would make sense. The team is going to have to commit significant dollars to Warner next season.

The top priority, I think, would be to keep Warner as long as possible and build a stronger offensive line in front of him. Upgrade at tight end, develop more of a running game and see if you can't buy another couple seasons for Warner. Also, if you upgrade in those areas, Leinart has a better chance at success when he gets his chance.


AZ9ER Fan writes: Mike love the blog. I have been getting the business all year from these cardinal fans who suddenly think they've won ANYTHING important in the last 35 years. But honestly can they really win a playoff game? Considering they have not beaten any established teams, besides Dallas, prove me right and let the cardinal fans know what they have coming.

Mike Sando: Thanks, and hang in there. I think the Cardinals can win a playoff game at home. I would not like their chances on the road. Their second-half schedule has gotten a little easier given the injury issues affecting Seattle and New England. That makes it more likely Arizona will win 10 games, which would be a landmark season. If you get desperate for ammo, ask the Arizona fans how long Warner is going to play and what the offense will look like once he moves on or retires. But don't tell them I told you to say that.


Ikee from Philadelphia writes: Alright Mike, i have a question regarding a scenario that i never would have thought of, i know the chances of this are pretty slim but hey, anything is possible... I've been reading about Michael Vick and how he will possibly be back in the NFL next year depending on how fast it takes for him to be reinstated... hypothetically speaking.

If the 49ers keep Singletary at head coach next year (big if) we all know he likes to win games in the trenches and pound the football with a power running game, could you see a Michael Vick and Frank Gore backfield in SF next year? I think Singletary is the right kind of guy for a Vick type player and we all know Vick had his best days in Atlanta with a great running game to compliment him.

And another thing, i think that type of offense would be great for Vernon Davis, he could be used like Alge Crumpler was in Atlanta with Vick. I know this is not ever going to happen but boy would it be great! What are your thoughts on this, do you think the 49ers will be interested?

Mike Sando: The animal-cruelty stuff probably wouldn't play very well in San Francisco, for starters. Also, the 49ers need to build their organization around people with solid foundations. Adding Michael Vick to the equation would constitute a gamble the 49ers can't afford to take.


Mark from Easley, S.C., writes: Mike, a general football question for you. If the NFL is so concerned about player safety, how can they let a play continue after a player's helmet comes off?

Mike Sando: I don't have a good answer for that. Perhaps others could address this one.


C.J. from Seattle writes: Mike, Some people here in Seattle are absolutely convinced that Mo Morris should be the starting running back for the Seahawks instead of Jones. Are they right or is Jones the better back and the one that should ultimately be getting the bulk of the carries for the Seahawks? Not that it really matters at this point, but it is a debate that has been going on for what seems like the entire season. Can you help to settle it once and for all? Thanks.

Mike Sando: Jones seems better suited for the starting role because he has been more durable and he has proved he can carry more of an every-down load. Also, Jones is going to be with Seattle in 2009. This could be Morris' last season as a Seahawk.


Matt from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Sando, What is with all the stupid penalties by the Cardinals? A few late in the game Monday night could have cost them a victory. Recent Cardinal teams have always been penalty prone, but I always attributed that to a lack of discipline from the coaching staff combined with a frustrated losing team.

But here we are in year two from a coach that seems to have turned things around but the Cardinals are still a league leader in total penalties. What will it take to get it under control? Do you know of anything the coaching staff is doing to address this continuing issue?

Mike Sando: I'm increasingly convinced it's mostly a player issue. We're talking about repeat offenders in a lot of cases. This doesn't seem to be a problem affecting the entire roster. Perhaps the Cardinals need to find a right guard who won't commit nine penalties in nine games.

From a coaching standpoint, the staff could probably help cut down on the delay-of-game penalties. Warner has six. Lutui and Warner have 15 combined penalties. Take away their penalties and Arizona has 57. That would rank 15th in the league instead of first.


Nicholas from New York writes: hey mike, I'm watching the jets-pats game. just saw an amazing catch by cotchery. It made me think "when was the last time a seahawk made a circus catch like that" and to be honest i cannot think of one instance in the last 5 years where we made a catch like that. That's not to say they haven't made plays, but not great catches. what do you think. can you remember a really nice display of ball skills? thanks mike nick

Mike Sando: That is a very good point. Teams need players to make the outstanding play on occasion. I recall Bobby Engram making one such play a year or three ago along the right side of the South end zone at Qwest Field, a play that really had that type of "wow" factor. But these have been rare for Seattle.


Charlie Rogers from Lexington, Ky., writes: Hey Mike, I read these articles about how Mike and Mike don't get along (sing and martz), but to me they seem to complement each other. do you agree?

Mike Sando: I don't see evidence of meaningful friction. Singletary has made clear who is boss. Martz has adjusted
accordingly.


Jason from Seattle writes: 2 comments. I totally agree with your article regarding the 49'ers blundering the end of the AZ game on their own, the refs did not handle the situation on the final 2 plays unfairly at all. I wanted to hear your opinion on KC going for 2 and the win vs S.D last weekend.

Clayton's article opined that he thought it was the wrong move. I think it is the correct move for a road team who is almost unquestionably facing a superior opponent. Their execution on the final play was bad and maybe even the play call was bad, but the choice to win the game there was sound. Going to OT is the right call if you are either at home, and/or you're the better team. For KC this year those circumstances will not present themselves very often. What did you think of the go for 2 call by edwards?

Mike Sando: Clayton and I discussed that the other day. I also disagreed with him, although I see his argument and am open to changing my mind. I thought Edwards' decision was appropriate for that specific moment, given the things you outlined. I would agree with Clayton's thinking in general, but not in that specific instance.


Ryan from Denver writes: Alright Sando here's a Rams question for you -- Are we looking at Devaney/Haslett next season, or did that Jets game pretty much end the chances of a Haslett era in St Louis? Also whats the long term outlook on ownership? And will we ever be rid of John Shaw?

Mike Sando: The Rams appear headed for a massive overhaul. I don't think we've seen the last blowout defeat of the season. The Jets game was the kind of disaster that will make it tough for Haslett and others to stick around.

The job security of those in place could depend in part on who else might be available to fill those roles. But I think there's a growing sense that the makeover should extend deep into the front office, and that something less than that won't fix the problems. Additional blowout defeats are likely to crystallize those perceptions.

Billy Devaney orchestrated what is looking like a strong draft class for 2008, but if ownership turns over other front-office positions, it's possible that no one is safe.


Ryan from Greeley, Colo., writes: Alright, so I am sick and tired of all the disrespect the Cardinals are getting. Now, I don't think that they will be winning both the Giants and Eagles games, but I think they legitimately have a shot at one or the other. This is such a great time for us (Cardinals fans) who have been bottom feeders for so long. And if I have to hear "the NFC West is weak" one more time, I may hit a pillow! Not a good excuse, we didn't ask to play in this division! Anyways, when do WE get some respect?!

Mike Sando: Winning playoff games earns respect. I heard similar sentiments from Seattle fans even after the Seahawks started returning to the playoffs, but before they won in postseason.


Brian from Missoula, Mont., writes: Sando, great job on the blog, always enjoy reading it. The Arizona Cardinals remind me of the 2005 Seahawks. Prolific offense, good enough defense, dominate home field advantage but unlike the Seahawks, I can't see them getting to the Super Bowl or dominating the NFC West for the foreseeable future. Possibly the NFC Championship if they can beat the Giants or Eagles and get on a run. Considering next year without Kurt Warner, this may be their best shot. Who is your MVP at this point?

Mike Sando: Warner gets my MVP vote right now. That 2005 Seattle team was so much better on the offensive line than this current Cardinals team and I think that will show up in the regular-season records and in how far Arizona advances in the playoffs. That Seattle team had a nearly unstoppable running game and outstanding balance.


Winston from Boston writes: Hi Mike, Thanks for your excellent coverage of the NFC West and the 9ers in particular. I'm a junkie for 9er news and I come to your blog to feed that addiction. I completely agree with your assessment of the MNF game. The 9ers put themselves in position to win it, and then did all they could to lose it. They got down to the one yard line with 50s left on the clock and they wasted so much time getting personnel in just to spike the ball! What the heck?! The clock management was horrible, and I hope Singletary learns from his mistake. Keep up the good work! Winston

Mike Sando: Thanks, Winston. I appreciate the note.


Ryan from Newport, R.I., writes: Wasn't Billy Bajema in fact flagged for an illegal formation penalty? If that's the case- there is no 10-second clock run off I believe...unless the rules have changed.

Mike Sando: The league said the penalty converts to a false start if it's in the final minute, at which point the 10-second runoff would have gone into effect.


Harry from Commack, N.Y., writes: Gotta cut Singletary some slack. He is just taking over as Head Coach. The whole franchise since John York took over is pathetic. A win would have been nice, but what's the difference between 3-6 and 2-7?? We need a new direction!! Maybe Singletary and Jed York can provide it.

Mike Sando: Part of me thinks the 49ers just need some continuity. But continuity for the sake of continuity isn't good, either. You have to have the right people in place. Jed York seems determined to be aggressive in dealing with what he perceives as the problems. I'm expecting an active offseason.


Rob from Hoquiam, Wash., writes: I don't see how the Refs could say that Frank Gore was "down by contact" in the waning moments of the MNF game. My interpretation of "down by contact" is once the player's knee or part of their body (other than their feet) hit the ground, they are down upon first contact. The replays clearly show that Gore was NOT touched after his knee hit the ground until the ball crossed in to the endzone. SF got robbed...and I'm not even a 49ers fan.

Mike Sando: Quite a few observers agree with you, Rob. The officials determined that Gore never regained his balance after Chike Okeafor made contact with him. The natural question at that point becomes whether Okeafor caused Gore to lose his balance. I don't think that was part of the ruling, however. Okeafor made contact, Gore never regained his balance and so they called him down by contact.


Cam from Kelowna, B.C., writes: Hey Mike Gotta few questions for ya.

1) According to ESPN.com's Rumor Central, Seattle is looking for a D-End. It also says they are NOT looking at KGB, recently released by the Packers. Why isn't Seattle looking at KGB? Yes, he has slowed down and turned 31 just last September, so he doesn't have a ton of time left. But wouldn't experience be attractive to the Seahawks to help out Tapp, Jackson and Atkins, who have a combined NFL experience of 6 years? Or is Seattle looking for more of a runner stopper at D-End?

2) After releasing Keary Colbert on Tuesday, I have to ask, what was Seattle thinking? Colbert does have potential but Seattle pretty much gave a 5th Round pick to Denver.

3) Why are the Seahawks letting Hasselbeck play again? Seattle is clearly not making the playoffs this year, why risk hurting your franchise QB even more? It seems like Seattle has much more to lose than gain in this one. Thanks for your time

Mike Sando: Thanks, Cam. The Seahawks are hoping Patrick Kerney can return relatively quickly, and they thin
k the current players can get them through in the meantime.

The Colbert move seemed like a potential overreaction following a rough game. I base that on the aforementioned compensation. On the other hand, Colbert had not done much to this point.

Bringing back Hasselbeck shows the team isn't giving up on the season. Also, backup Seneca Wallace is hurting. You can bet the Seahawks will hear about it if Hasselbeck suffers a serious injury upon his return.


Mike from parts unknown writes: Hey Mike. Guess there aren't many Rams fans reading this blog. I imagine because no fan wants to see what people are saying about the whooping at the Jets. I got a chance to watch some of the game, end of second quarter and beginning of third. I noticed, NOTHING was going right for the Rams. Like the commentator said, the majority of the turnovers were not completely bad, besides the Bulger pick where he threw it into a sea of Jets. But I saw the Darby fumble within the 2 minute warning of the first half and that is when I knew, it was not there day. When the ref got in the way of getting a third down conversion for the Rams I just turned the game off. As for the rest of the season, I still am thinking 6-10. Beat the 9ers twice, Cards once (just cause I'm going to that game and have a feeling about it), and Phins once.

Mike Sando: Sweeping the 49ers? I don't see the Rams winning Sunday. Admittedly, I struggle to reconcile the way the Rams played for two games (Redskins, Cowboys) with how they played in the other games. We can point to Steven Jackson's thigh injury in recent weeks, but there has to be more than that. This is just a fragile team. I also watched the Jets game. The Rams seemed irrelevant to what was happening in the game.


Bwyeung from San Francisco writes: Yes, you are correct that the 49ers are at fault. So are the officals. It's easy for us to criticize the coaches when things go wrong. One should remember during the game, there were so much going on and the coaches needed to determine what play to call especially with only a few minutes left. If you or I were in the coaches' shoes, we probably would make the same mistakes, if not worst. Let's try not to be so critical.

Mike Sando: I openly acknowledge that I would be fired during the first quarter of my first game as head coach. Fans at Candlestick Park would be chanting for Dennis Erickson's return after about 5 minutes. Fans at Qwest Field would be longing for the Tom Flores era. Fans at the Edward Jones Dome would be telling stories about the good old days under Scott Linehan. And in Arizona, I'd be swept away by nostalgia for the Joe Bugel era.


Christopher from Gooding, Idaho, writes: Mike you are wrong about that, Jason Hill was tackled with 34 or so seconds on the clock and the 49ers spiked it on second down. That penalty was called on the second down play after the Gore run.

Mike Sando: Well, yes. The clock was running at that point because the Cardinals had tackled Gore inbounds. I stand corrected. Did I tell you what kind of head coach I would make?


Jason from Greeley, Colo., writes: Hey Sando, I have a questions about coach Whisenhunt. Have you ever seen him yell? It seems every time something happens, whether a player messes up or a bad call happens, he never seems to show much emotion? I am not saying that Coach Whiz needs to be John Gruden, but I would like to see some more emotion on his face during games. Am I way off here? Does he sometimes get fiery on the sidelines?

Mike Sando: That's an interesting observation. I think he appears engaged and intense without appearing wildly emotional. He does not appear to be a screamer. I don't see anything wrong with his sideline demeanor.


Louis from Montreal writes: Mike, Great piece on the Niners clock mismanagement but you failed to mention the most crucial misstep of all. In a situation where it is 2nd and goal from the 1 with 20 ticks left and no timeouts remaining, common sense dictates that you throw into the endzone on 2nd and 3rd down, then have the choice to run or pass on 4th down, knowing that regardless of the outcome, the game will be over - that strategy takes the clock out of play entirely. It is disheartening to me as a fan that sitting at home this strategy was obvious to me but not to a supposed "genius" like coach Martz. Regardless, their incompetence on the last play of the game is yet another low in a depressing run for my Niners.

Mike Sando: That is a fair point. I would wonder, though, whether the 49ers could trust Shaun Hill in that situation after he had suffered turnovers late in the game. If he throws a pick in that situation, everyone accuses Martz of being greedy when he still had time to run the ball.


DJfunkyfab from San Francisco: Mike, I am curious to know what you think about the Face Mask penalty on the goal line that was missed. Michael Robinson's helmet was ripped off by the facemask on the goaline. why wasn't this ever addressed?

Mike Sando: I do not recall seeing this highlighted in the angles I watched. Others have pointed it out to me. I've deleted the game from my DVR at this point but I trust it happened. Too many people have brought it up.


Larry from Tacoma, Wash., writes: Hey Mike! I know this isn't a NFC West question. But I am interested in your opinion of 710 KIRO Seattle becoming an all sports station. Do you think this will greatly affect KJR 950? And if so, what way? Great blog and keep up the awesome work!

Mike Sando: I don't know anything about the business implications, but if you believe competition benefits consumers, then you might welcome this. I would imagine there might be competition for talent as well.


Ernie from Fairfield, Calif., writes: you're such a bias writer. i can't stand some of the stuff you write about.

Mike Sando: We all have biases, Ernie. I try to be fair, honest, transparent and accepting of criticism. If there's something specific that is bothering you, by all means let's discuss it.