NFC West: Cardinals-Jaguars

Personnel report: Cardinals diversified

September, 24, 2009
Cardinals in Week 2
Plays Pct. Runs YPC Passes YPA
0TE 24 43.6 4 5.8 20 9.6
1TE 14 25.5 9 4.6 5 7.8
2TE 16 29.1 10 5.7 6 6.7
3TE 1 1.8 1 1.0 0 0.0
Totals 55 100 24 5.1 31 8.7

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals ran plays against the Jaguars in Week 2 from each of the seven primary personnel groups I track when charting a game. They even used all seven on first down.

That is unusual and possibly attributable to a several things:
  • Kurt Warner and the offense can handle the additional burden. For example, using four wide receivers invites more defensive backs onto the field, giving defenses an opportunity to get more creative with their coverages. Warner nonetheless averaged 11.2 yards per attempt with seven first downs on 13 pass attempts from the Cardinals' four-receiver package. Top-notch Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis made Larry Fitzgerald work, but Warner spread the ball around. How many times he targeted players from four-receiver personnel: Jerheme Urban 4, Anquan Boldin 3, Fitzgerald 2, Steve Breaston 2, Dan Kreider 1, Tim Hightower 1.
  • The Cardinals like their young running backs. NFL teams rarely pair two running backs with three wide receivers on the same play. The combination allows an offense to run the ball behind a fullback if defenses focus too much on defending the receivers. Most teams would rather have a tight end on the field over a fullback for the additional options in the passing game, but the Cardinals are without their most versatile tight end, Ben Patrick, for the first four games. Arizona has used two backs with three receivers on more than 10 percent of snaps this season, up from less than 5 percent in 2008. Against the Jaguars, the Cardinals paired Jason Wright and Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells and Dan Kreider, Wells and Wright and even one snap with two halfbacks, Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling, in packages with three wide receivers. The Cardinals had success, too, throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Wright from this group. They also fooled linebacker Daryl Smith with misdirection to the right, freeing Hightower for a 17-yard gain on an inside handoff.

The chart shows the Cardinals' production depending on how many tight ends were on the field (not counting quarterback kneel-down plays). They went without a tight end nine times in 28 first-down plays. They used two tight ends 12 times on first down. They mixed it up, in other words.

Note: Download full personnel report with play-by-play notes here

A few other Cardinals-related observations after taking a closer look at their game in Week 2:

(Read full post)

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Wall of Fame is nearly quadrupling in size after 14 people picked NFC West scores and outcomes exactly for Week 2.

This is our second season running the contest and the first time we've added more than two people in a week.

Great, great work.

Eleven people predicted the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars. That is a common final score, but as a coach might say if this were a game, "I'm not taking anything away from RiWeagley, noahhasabs, RedRumRBS, kstaub869, Primeau1203, ballsthompson, alvaden, Seahawks Ya Dig, SeahawkBell, Jeremy-Clark and brobbb91. They picked the score correctly and we'll add their names to the Wall."

Three others predicted the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks: John510asb, RVAninersFAN, ttmoney.

The updated and significantly expanded Wall of Fame now features:
  • Elion245. Forecast the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12 (2008).
  • Leesters. Forecast the Bears' 27-3 victory over the Rams in Week 12 (2008).
  • habitat730. Forecast the Cardinals' 34-10 victory over the Rams in Week 14 (2008).
  • IamJonasJones. Forecast the Cardinals' 30-24 victory over the Falcons in a wild-card playoff game (2008 postseason).
  • JohnnyBloodletter. Forecast the 49ers' 20-16 victory over the Cardinals in Week 1 (2009).
  • RiWeagley. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • noahhasabs. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • RedRumRBS. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • kstaub869. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • Primeau1203. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • ballsthompson. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • alvaden. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • Seahawks Ya Dig. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • SeahawkBell. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • Jeremy-Clark. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • brobbb91. Forecast the Cardinals' 31-17 victory over the Jaguars in Week 2 (2009).
  • John510asb. Forecast the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks in Week 2 (2009).
  • RVAninersFAN. Forecast the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks in Week 2 (2009).
  • ttmoney. Forecast the 49ers' 23-10 victory over the Seahawks in Week 2 (2009).
The fine print: Those submitting predictions for "You called it" must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

We'll begin taking predictions for Week 3 later in the week.

Around the NFC West: Cards answer call

September, 21, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals responded to an early test. Bickley: "In the most important September football game this team has played, the visitors started fast and played alert. They left their alibis at home and remembered to pack a sense of urgency next to the toothpaste. They won an early game on the East Coast, avoiding the civic panic and national criticism that would've accompanied defeat."

Also from Bickley: Calais Campbell's blocked field goal try and Antrel Rolle's subsequent touchdown return were the play of the game. Bickley: "It was the sixth touchdown of Rolle's career, and this one tilted a competitive game in favor of the Cardinals. It also atoned for Rolle's terrible day as punt returner, a job he lost to Steve Breaston in the second half."

More from Bickley: Anthony Becht's hustle pays off against the Jaguars.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed to alleviate any concerns about his play calling with a terrific effort in Jacksonville. Also, the defense played consistently well. Kurt Warner: "The key to it is we were balanced, and we were able to get the ball out quick. Everybody who had an opportunity made plays, and that's what this offense has been about when we've been at the top of our game. Hopefully this is a start."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals outplayed the Jaguars and got some breaks along the way. Also: "I thought Whisenhunt showed conviction by going with Matt Leinart late in the third quarter. Warner was hurting from a right shoulder stinger suffered last week. I thought back to training camp when Whisenhunt admitted he should have played Leinart more last year when games were out of hand. It can't hurt Leinart's development that the game got close late. I thought he looked decent."

More from Somers: Adrian Wilson gave Beanie Wells a football with Wells' name on it after Wells suffered fumbling problems against the Jaguars. Wilson: "You can't have plays like that. Putting the ball on the ground is forbidden. You have to get that M.O. off yourself as a football player and a running back. If teams know that you fumble, then they'll try to go to the ball all the time."

Darren Urban of offers thoughts from Week 2. Urban: "Larry Fitzgerald tried to pretend he wasn’t getting upset at not getting many passes, including one point after he looked to be open down the field but didn’t get the ball." Fitzgerald, trying to hide a smile: "I was just tired. It was humid out there today I was just trying to save my energy so that’s why I walked off so slowly. That’s all that was."

Also from Urban: Warner appeared tired, but it was a happy tired.

Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union says the Jaguars' pass rush failed to pressure Warner. Stellino: "The Jaguars might have missed defensive end Reggie Hayward, who had their only sack last week but is out for the year with a broken leg. Derrick Harvey played end in place of Hayward while John Henderson played the other end. Harvey had only one tackle. Henderson, who tipped one pass and had three tackles, said Warner was beating them with short passes. His longest completion was only 22 yards."

Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union implies the Cardinals were protecting Warner's single-game record for completion percentage. Smits: "Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn't take quarterback Kurt Warner out of the game for the entire fourth quarter because he was trying to protect a record. He claims he didn't know about it until being informed by the media in his postgame news conference and was trying to protect Warner from further re-injuring his right shoulder -- a fact that never appeared on the weekly injury reports."

Wrap-up: Cardinals 31, Jaguars 17

September, 20, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals don't have to worry about finding ways to get Kurt Warner into a rhythm.

That's a huge relief for Arizona heading into a home game against Peyton Manning and the Colts on Sunday night in Week 3. Warner's ability to complete his first 15 passes and 24 of 26 overall eased concerns that lingered from the Cardinals' unimpressive loss to the 49ers in Week 1. As well as the Arizona defense has played against limited offenses this season, offense is still going to define this team. Getting Steve Breaston back from injury and Anquan Boldin closer to full strength seemed to restore Warner and the passing game overall.

Warner set an NFL single-game record for completion percentage at 92.3 among players with at least 20 attempts (Vinny Testaverde held the record after completing 91.3 percent for the Browns against the Rams in 1993).

That's all great, but Arizona still must prove it can play well consistently, particularly with the NFC West appearing more competitive this season.

This was another case of the Cardinals playing their best when backed into a corner. They knew dropping to 0-2 would have left them in a horrible position with the Colts visiting and either the Seahawks or 49ers taking a 2-0 division record into Week 3. And so the Cardinals responded with an impressive showing. More consistency will serve this team well.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals might miss Todd Haley, but I think Haley is missing the Cardinals in Week 2.

Kurt Warner has completed 18 of 19 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown through two quarters against the Jaguars. He has had some help -- Anquan Boldin made an improbable grab of a deflected pass -- but he has also become comfortable again.

The Cardinals cannot concern themselves with what the 24-3 halftime score says about the Jaguars. Arizona needed to get its offense going. Warner needed to feel comfortable again. The mission in the second half should be for Beanie Wells to regain confidence after two first-half fumbles. Wells has four carries for 40 yards. He clearly can run the ball. But he has to hold onto the ball if he expects to command more playing time.

Posted by's Mike Sando

SAN FRANCISCO -- A couple of NFC West-related thoughts while the 49ers and Seahawks warm up at Candlestick Park:
  • Calais Campbell steps up. The second-year defensive end is making the Cardinals look smart for letting Antonio Smith leave in free agency. He's been solid on defense and his blocked field goal set up Antrel Rolle's long touchdown return. The Cardinals' offense is still finding its way, but the defense is playing at a high level and Campbell is making an impact wherever the Cardinals use him.
  • Beanie dropping the ball. Beanie Wells' two fumbles have prevented the Cardinals from putting away the Jaguars. Wells looks very good as a runner. He's not going to look as good standing on the sideline. That's where he'll be in crucial situations if he doesn't do a better job holding onto the football.
  • Jackson breaks out. Steven Jackson's 58-yard run against the Redskins marks the first signs of life on offense for the Rams. Marc Bulger followed it with a 2-yard scoring pass to Laurent Robinson for a 7-6 Rams lead at Washington. Getting a road win -- or any kind of win -- early in the season would be huge for the Rams after what happened in Week 1. The Rams were competitive at Seattle and the score was close into the third quarter. Can they finish what they've started at Washington?
If the Rams and Cardinals win on the East Coast, does this make the NFC West a little more respectable? I think so.

On the air: Cardinals in Week 2

September, 15, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Chris Myers and Trent Green get the call for Fox when the Cardinals visit the Jaguars in Week 2. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.
Week Team Opp. Network Crew Crew Rank
1 ARI SF Fox Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Nischelle Turner
5 of 7
2 ARI JAC Fox Chris Myers, Trent Green
7 of 7

CBS has eight crews. Fox has seven. The networks rank their crews, with higher-ranked ones drawing more attractive assignments such as Super Bowls, playoff games and marquee matchups.

Earlier: Cardinals in 2008.