NFL Nation: Dirk Johnson
That process has started in Tampa Bay. The Bucs just announced they’ve released punters Josh Bidwell and Dirk Johnson and cornerback Torrie Cox. Bidwell joined the Bucs in 2004, but spent last season on the injured reserve list. Johnson was brought in as one of his replacements, but he also got injured. Cox had been with the Bucs since 2003, primarily as a special-teams player.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
|Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire|
|Arizona's Kurt Warner spent much of Sunday on his back thanks to a New York Giants defense that brought constant pressure in the Cardinals 37-29 loss.|
And they would express relief now that only one NFC East team remains on the Cardinals' schedule.
The lessons Arizona learned during a 37-29 defeat to the Giants in Week 12 were not new ones. But they appear likely to determine how far the Cardinals advance in the playoffs.
The temptation will exist for Arizona to blame this defeat Sunday on other factors. The Cardinals' special-teams play was indeed horrendous at times. Their defense buckled in the red zone after Arizona repeatedly gave the Giants' offense a short field. Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston and J.J. Arrington let Warner's passes bounce off their hands.
Those deficiencies affected the course of the game, no question. But a balanced offense would give the Cardinals a better chance against teams with fearsome pass rushes. No one knows that better than a battered quarterback.
"I just understand how hard it is to throw 50 times," Warner said after completing 32 of 52 passes for 351 yards. "I think we are very good at that aspect of the game and probably as good as anybody out there, but it's just tough to do that against good teams and not have turnovers."
The Giants held Arizona to 1.5 yards per carry and a long run of five yards.
"We thought we had a pretty good run plan in there, but we missed one or two blocks early and that led to not having as good a play as we would have wanted," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "When we got down, we had to do what our strength was -- moving the football."
The Giants sacked Warner only once, but they hit him once every 4.4 dropbacks -- 12 times in all. The Giants forced and recovered a Warner fumble. They intercepted Warner once and limited the MVP candidate to a single touchdown pass.
Warner failed to complete 65 percent of his passes for only the third time in 11 games this season and the first time since the Washington Redskins held him to 53.3 percent in Week 3. The Giants also held Warner to a season-low passer rating of 79.9.
"We just have to continue to get more efficient in the pass game and hope that the run game comes along where they can balance it out nicely," Warner said.
Ten more observations from the Cardinals' fourth defeat in 11 games this season:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks will remain without Matt Hasselbeck while the quarterback recovers from a back injury. A doctor tells Hasselbeck he won't need surgery, but a timetable remains elusive.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Hasselbeck's brother, Tim, as saying the back injury could keep Hasselbeck on the sideline for an extended period.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are opening up their offense. Coach Mike Holmgren: "If you're going to go down, go down with your guns blazing."
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the once-potent Seattle ground game appears to be stuck in neutral. The 49ers loaded up to stop it, perhaps figuring Seattle didn't have the weapons to make big plays in the passing game.
Michael Steffes of Seahawks Addicts compares the Seahawks' defensive stats to the Chargers' defensive stats after San Diego fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.
Also from Steffes: The Eagles have had trouble stopping tight ends this season. That could mean good things for Seattle's John Carlson in Week 9.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have finished the toughest part of their schedule, but they haven't beaten the Cardinals in St. Louis since 2004.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' offense will become more deliberate with Shaun Hill at quarterback. Cutting down on turnovers is key.
Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle doubts Mike Singletary's passion can turn around the 49ers this season. History is not on the interim coach's side.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle offers a midseason outlook on the 49ers, noting that five of the team's final eight games are on the road.
Also from Crumpacker: Grades for offense, defense, special teams and coaching.
Billy Witz of the New York Times says Singletary's postgame tirade is gone but not forgotten. The difference between Singletary's rant and other famous ones involving NFL coaches? Singletary ripped players.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers expect Hill to manage the game, although Hill says he doesn't think along those lines when he plays.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch previews the Rams' upcoming ceremony honoring former coach Dick Vermeil. Former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner will be in town with the Cardinals, no coincidence. That's how Vermeil wanted it.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at Larry Fitzgerald's acting debut. The Cardinals' receiver asked for a script re-write to avoid sounding cocky.
David Scott of the Charlotte Observer says the Panthers might have foiled the Cardinals' fake field-goal try through a misunderstanding. Dirk Johnson's floater of a pass also doomed the play.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Matt Leinart's future with the Cardinals depends on what happens with Warner. Leinart says he's becoming a better player even though he's not getting on the field during games.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic looks at the Cardinals' efforts to boost their running game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic places most of the blame on the Cardinals' defense while acknowledging that other areas also played a role in the 27-23 defeat to Carolina.
Also from Bickley: A look at what happened on Kurt Warner's lone interception.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains Ken Whisenhunt's reasoning on the fake field goal that went awry against the Panthers.
Also from Somers: Edgerrin James is a "bit player" instead of a "leading man" after playing a diminished role once again.
More from Somers: The Cardinals made progress against Carolina, but "some old road demons" doomed them in the second half.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals are going to need a better ground game at some point this season.
Also from Bordow: The Cardinals are disappointed but not discouraged.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals are the latest Western team to lose in an early game in the East.
Also from Tulumello: Notes on a tough day for punter Dirk Johnson, who dropped a PAT hold and threw weakly to Jerame Tuman on a fake field goal.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the Cardinals' identity as a passing team.
Also from Urban: Anquan Boldin plays as though he never left the lineup.
More from Urban: Arizona allowed a 15-yard run on third-and-13 when the defense needed a stop.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For a few frantic moments Sunday, the Cowboys made you forget how pedestrian they've become. Marion Barber's mad dash to the end zone and a 52-yard field goal by Nick Folk at the end of regulation temporarily covered up another unimpressive effort.
But with one blocked punt return for a touchdown, the Cardinals delivered a jolt of reality. Arizona won the game 30-24, and any other result would've been a crime after watching the Cardinals dominate the second half.
|Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images|
|Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's solid numbers and high passer rating are misleading.|
The Cowboys probably should've turned the ball over four times in the first half, but they only had one. The aerial assault on what had been rumored to be an outmanned Cardinals secondary never materialized, and Tony Romo spent most of the day checking down to Barber.
Romo somehow always ends up with 300 yards and three touchdowns, but don't be fooled by those numbers -- or his 113.3 passer rating. He fumbled the ball three times, and was fortunate to lose only one. The only thing that prevented him from giving up a touchdown in the first half was the tuck rule, which makes less sense every time I see it called.
In fairness to Romo, his Pro Bowl-laden offensive line was dominated by the Cardinals' defensive line. Left tackle Flozell Adams offered little resistance as defensive ends Bertrand Berry and Antonio Smith raced past him. I've documented almost every Romo start since 2006, and I've never seen him take that much punishment. People want to ask where all the enthusiasm and child-like joy has gone. Well, getting hit in the mouth every other play isn't a particularly enjoyable experience.
Romo showed up to his news conference with a heavily bandaged right throwing hand. According to the Cowboys, he sprained his right pinky finger. And considering the punishment he took Sunday, he may have gotten off easy. Romo made an interesting statement when asked about the constant pressure he faced.
"I think there's a couple of things we've got to do to counteract ... one of our formations I think some of the teams are kind of getting a bead on," said Romo. "We'll rectify that this week and hopefully learn from it."
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