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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Greg from Cleveland writes: Sando, Feel free to post this in your blog or whatever. But I believe in manning up when taking a loss, and I have to say: You were right. The bipolar Cardinals D showed up in a big way [Saturday], and you called it. I'm the one who said you might be "cherry picking," and I think you were.
But your overall conclusion was correct: sometimes the matchups and outcome work for Arizona. The Falcons are not a good enough team to go on the road in the playoffs and survive 3 TOs, multiple blown assignments by the O-line, and failing to get to Warner. I told a friend after the game that we don't deserve to win when coughing the ball up, failing to stop a "must stop" 3rd-and-16 (among others), and allowing Arizona to dictate our play-calling. Home field advantage for a 9-7 team was the major difference, I believe.
Congrats, Cardinals fans. You won, those at UofP Stadium helped, and your team earned it. Falcon Pride!
Mike Sando: That is a classy mailbag submission, Greg. I wouldn't necessarily take credit for "calling" the Cardinals' performance, but hopefully what I wrote put the Cardinals' defense in some perspective, leaving us less surprised when the defense played well Saturday.
The Cardinals can be effective and even formidable on defense when they stay disciplined and focus on tackling instead of going out of their way trying to make big plays. The team's performance late in the Carolina game is a prime example of how the Cardinals become vulnerable on defense when they lose their edge. Another performance such as that one will lead to certain defeat for Arizona. But if the Cardinals play the way they did against Atlanta, I expect them to compete.
Mike Sando: In theory, I would lean toward someone to help the pass rush. In reality, will there be a pass-rusher worthy of such a high selection? Not so sure. This draft again appears strong at offensive tackle. An elite running back or receiver could tempt Seattle. The right quarterback could make sense. I've wondered if drafting a quarterback might buy time for the new staff.
Mike Sando: Yeah, I made it to his news conference. Wayne Drehs' feature on Warner revealed that Warner colors his hair. Older players are always trying to convince their employers that they aren't too old. Perhaps that is easier to do without gray hair.
Mike Sando: No problem, Paul. I do think the experience in that stadium Saturday will carry long-term benefits for the franchise as long as the Cardinals show fans they're serious about maintaining success. Ken Whisenhunt seemed to recognize that in his news conference here today. Winning that game in that environment will prove more valuable than any marketing campaign or free-agent signing.
Mike Sando: Whisenhunt hit on that some today. Ben Graham's punting was huge. I regret glossing over it in my coverage. It's something I'll detail in the future. Also, the defensive depth helped the Cardinals weather being on the field so long early in the game.
Mike Sando: I briefly spoke with Antrel Rolle about that in the locker room today. He was right last week when he told me the key was getting the entire defense to buy into the disciplined, assignment-correct approach. The high-stakes nature of the playoffs apparently convinced the Cardinals they needed to play that way, or else. We'll see if they can sustain it. And we'll see if sustaining it matters going against a team as strong as the Panthers.
If you read comments left by fans at the bottom of your mailbag weekly, you will notice that a vast majority of Hawk fans have tired of Tim & his revamped "Falcon" team. I don't understand, if it didn't work in Atlanta with Mora & company, why on earth does he & owner Paul Allen think it will work in Seattle? What will it take to get a new GM & get past this "Ruskell" era?
Mike Sando: Paul Allen was patient with Mike Holmgren. I'm not sure if Tim Ruskell will get the same benefit of the doubt, given that Holmgren had a stronger record coming into the job. If the Seahawks think Ruskell is the right man for the job, they shouldn't ask hastily.
To review: Some Seattle fans wanted Holmgren fired after the 2002 season. They accused him of overly conservative play calling. They pointed to draft-day failures such as Lamar King. They pointed to two losing seasons in four years. They pointed to questionable moves as general manager, including the acquisition of Matt Hasselbeck, who had yet to develop.
Seattle was patient with Holmgren. Ironically, the moves Ruskell made early in his tenure helped Holmgren take Seattle to the Super Bowl.
Mike Sando: Sounds like they've committed to the 3-4. Greg Manusky went to the 3-4 after Mike Nolan left. That tells me Manusky wants to play that style.
Mike Sando: Not sure yet. Rod Marinelli is in the mix (your question predated news of Marinelli's involvement, but I wanted to address it anyway).
I was looking at Mora's old Atlanta staffs for clues. Brett Maxie, now with the Cowboys as secondary coach, would seem like a potential candidate on defense. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times expects Tampa Bay linebackers coach Gus Bradley to interview for the coordinating job on defense. I haven't heard anyone beyond Greg Knapp, now with the Raiders, on the offensive side.