Dean Blandino Needs to Go

The NFL’s ratings are down. We have heard excuses from the league about why that is, and they don’t pass the smell test. Blaming the election was convenient, but it didn’t make sense. It is not the first time the league has experienced an election and turnout in this election was 14 million people less than it was in 2008. The rarely televised protests of a handful of players are not the real reason either. The fundamental flaw that the NFL fails to address is that the NFL front office itself is spoiling the game.

What makes football fun is the speed of the players, the creativeness of the offenses, and defenses that are more sophisticated than ever. It is not the actual play that is hurting the league; it is the rules and the application of those standards.

I don’t try to hide the fact that I am a Cardinals fan, so forgive me for focusing on the calls that I saw during those games in real time.

The Leap

Let’s start with the call that got me the most upset. The missed leverage call against the Seattle Seahawks. Blandino takes the opportunity to point out the officials got it right on the first time that Bobby Wagner jumps over the center and blocks an Arizona kick. But, he fails to address the second attempt that Jay Feely considered leverage.

In this tweet, Blandino does explain that you can’t use your hands or feet for leverage:

But he does not do one of his thorough example videos to talk about this.

Wagner is using his hands to keep his balance, as the guard from the Cardinals tries to knock him to the ground. Jay Feely believes that is the exact type of leverage that the rule is trying to prevent.

When is a player defenseless?

Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cardinals got called for three personal fouls on a single drive. A drive that ended up with points for the Vikings.

A hit below the knees on Sam Bradford in the pocket was the first call. A properly made call. The second call was against Patrick Peterson for pushing Sam Bradford to the ground while he was away from the play. ESPN wrote that the penalty is at the discretion of the officials if the player is away from the play and not expecting contact. The problem with that explanation is two-fold.

  1. Bradford was lined up at receiver and should be expecting contact.
  2. Earlier in the game Bradford did get the ball thrown to him, while he was lined up at receiver. He then threw the ball to the end zone for a critical pass interference call that led to a Viking touchdown. To not defend against this play a second time would have been insane.

No explanation was given by the league; just their mouth piece ESPN as a sub point to an article about two point conversions.

Then the hit on Diggs

Stephon Diggs was able to catch a pass in front of Patrick Peterson, but while going to the ground and fighting for more yards, he was hit hard by the safety. Tony Jefferson came in fast, and Diggs dropped his head as contact arrived. I would understand a personal foul call despite the fact that Diggs lowered his head; if he was indeed defenseless.  But he had taken multiple steps and was fighting for yards, which means he had become a runner. That was the final penalty on that drive, and it put the Vikings into field goal range.

The QBs fumbling

We have to dive deep on this next set of calls, so stick with me. In the Texans vs. Broncos game, there was a fumble called on the field. Brock Osweiler who was untouched lost control of the ball as he tried to throw it and they called it an empty hand going forward. After review, they stayed with the call saying there was not enough to change the call.

 

Then you go to the Cardinals game. The Cardinals have a play that Carson Palmer is wrapped up and throws the ball forward. The ruling on the field is a fumble and returned for a touchdown. Overturning the call was evident to everyone watching, including the announcers. It was not. Dean Blandino confirmed to Bruce Arians at halftime that the replay system had a glitch and that it should have corrected to an incomplete pass. I don’t have a tweet from Blandino on this because he only shows up if he is explaining why the call was right. Seems NFL Reddit agrees with me also.

Finally the non-fumble call in the Eagles game. In both of the previous cases that we covered, the officials called the play a turnover and let the review process sort it out. In one instance it worked, in the second it failed miserably, but I understand the reason. However, in the Eagles game, it was called an incomplete pass. This change in the theory of letting replay sort it out was a deviation from what we have come to expect in the replay era. The play looks exactly like the Osweiler fumble, but because the call on the field is different, the call stands as an incompletion. Two situations that are the same, with two separate results.

What does it mean?

Dean Blandino is not a leader. He hides behind his twitter account and controlled segments on ESPN. He does not answer the tough questions, only the ones that he can expertly narrate to fit why his officials are great. Blandino is just another example of the failings of Rodger Goodell. We have watered down the rules to lowest common denominator, and it is making the product hard to watch.

Here is a super professional response to a fan. Blandino has to go.

#LongBall

Editor’s note: This does not even include the Seattle debacle. This could be another article just on that situation alone.

 

 

 

Trap Game: Not Against the Panthers

The better team traveling across the country, to face a 1-5 team in the early game is usually considered a trap.  For the Arizona Cardinals, it is anything but that. The Carolina Panthers have ended the Cardinals’ season each of the last two years and they certainly remember how last December ended.

Three Key Matchups

I wrote an article covering some of the key matchups at Last Word on Sports that you can check out here.

Cam Newton

Not included in the article is the Panthers’ quarterback. Cam Newton is a threat any time he is on the field. Going all the way back to his very first start in the NFL, he threw for 425 yards in a loss to the Cardinals. His daunting size makes him extremely difficult to defend and the Cardinals defense will have their work cut out for them. If Newton is unable to run the ball as effectively has he has in the past, because of his recent concussions it will help Arizona tremendously.

Final Thought

There is no shame in losing to a very good football team and the Panthers are still that. It is another big game in a brutal stretch for the Cardinals that they will need to prove they are still a contender. I still believe in this team and I am sure that each of the leaders in that locker room does too.

Go Cards.

#LongBall

Post Season Hopes Alive and Well

The Cardinals had a dreadful start to their season. Only 14% of teams to start 1-3 have made the playoffs and the Cardinals hope to join that select few. 

Their win over a very bad 49ers team with back up QB Drew Stanton helped a lot. Pulling them one game away from being .500 on the season and giving them a win in the division was huge. 

Importantly, Carson Palmer will be back for the Monday night showdown against the NY Jets. Todd Bowles knows a lot bout this team, but the Cards also know Bowles. This game could go either way. A defensive struggle that tests the Cardinals ability to close, or with extra rest this week the Cardinals could run through the Jets easily. Either way it is hard not to see an Arizona victory. 

This will still be a big test for Palmer who has played below the standard he set for himself in 2015. Is time to bury those expectations created last year or can he prove it was just a slow start? Cardinals fans are hopeful for the later and fearful of the former. 

I am in the Dominican Republic for the Monday game, so this will be my last post for the week, but I expect a big win. I am hopeful that I will get to make a fool of myself cheering for the Cards in front of some new friends. 

Arizona Cardinals Not Meeting Expectations 

The Arizona Cardinals are coming off of another disappointing loss and this one stings. This one came at the hands of a division opponent in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals were out matched in all three phases of the game and changes need to be made.

Cardinals Not Meeting Expectations

Being 1-3 through the first quarter of the season is tremendously painful. Despite the preseason hype the Cardinals are on pace to win four games. Surprising many of the experts and fans that picked them to contend for the Super Bowl. The coaches, players and fans all know that the start to this season has been, unacceptable.

Moving Forward

When asked what coach Bruce Arains message to the team was, Calais Campbell said “stay together.” To the casual fans eye the team is not playing with the same confidence it had in 2015. The Cardinals have lost their swag. The team feeds off of the energy of Larry Fitzgerald and Tyrann Mathieu. Arizona will need both to get it going to bring back life to a season on the ropes.

Same Old Badger?

Mathieu has been very quiet on the field this year. He has not made the splash plays we have come to expect from him. The one opportunity he had, he misplayed a ball and lost an easy fumble recovery out of bounds.

Fans are questioning if Mathieu is fully recovered from his second ACL injury. In response, he has come out this week and said he is ready to cut loose and play closer to the line of scrimmage. Which is much needed, considering safety Tyvon Branch was put on injured reserve this week. This gives the Cardinals flexibility in the defensive secondary they have been missing.

Final Thoughts

Of the teams to start 1-3, only 14% have ever made the playoffs. The Houston Texans made the playoffs after the rest of their division fell apart. This is an unlikely scenario considering the Seattle Seahawks are still dominate as ever on defense and that will keep them in contention.  The other team to do it was the Kansas City Chiefs who won 10 games in a row to capture a wild card spot. Arizona will need that type of run to make it to the post season. That is a daunting task considering they still have Seattle twice, the Carolina Panthers, the high flying Atlanta Falcons and the undefeated Minnesota Vikings left on their schedule. With all of that said, there is still hope.

#LongBall

Ode of a Cardinals Fan

22 Years…

22 painful, blissful, agonizing, joyful, lackluster, incredible years.
These have been the standard feelings of your lifer Arizona Cardinal fan. I am a lifer.

Before we get there, let me introduce myself first. I originally grew up in Los Angeles as a die hard basketball fan. Basketball in LA is everything, the Lakers are everything. Professional football (the NFL) was an afterthought in LA, especially with the Lakers, Dodgers, UCLA and USC being all very successful teams. The NFL left LA and as a blossoming sports fanatic I didn’t even think twice. I had my Lakers and that was all that mattered.

Jump to January of 1994 and everything changed. The Northridge earthquake uprooted our house and subsequently my family moved to sunny Scottsdale, AZ. We loved everything about Arizona; the easy living, lack of LA traffic, cost of living, etc. Unknown to anyone outside the state, we even had a professional football team. My Dad came across an opportunity to buy season tickets that were so affordable at the time that it was a no brainer. Little did I know that those season tickets would change my life forever.

Fast forward 22 years. Four games into the 2016 football season. As a lifer Cardinals fan, we have experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We have almost seen it all. From the “Cardiac Cards” of the late 90s, the Denny Green era, the Super Bowl run, and even the Dark Days of post Kurt Warner. Then there was last year, the 2015 NFL season. As a Cardinal fan, it was the highest of all the seasons. Even during the Super Bowl run in 2008, there was always this feeling of “Just happy to be here.” Last year, this team; this was different. This team was special.

Coming into 2016, the expectations were never higher and to be frank, that scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know how to comprehend this. Super Bowl or bust? What the F is happening? This is foreign territory for us. Needless to say, it was still damn exciting. This was the year the valley had been waiting for, professional football mattered. People outside Arizona knew the Cardinals, especially after the release of Amazon.com’s “All or Nothing”. There are not one, but two Arizona Cardinals featured in both Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football’s opening sequence. This IS OUR YEAR!

And that’s what makes the 17-13 loss to the LA Rams so hard. We can all break down the game and agonize over turnovers, penalties and missed assignments, but the reality is the season is slipping away and this is new territory for Cardinals fans. We thought we had experienced it all, but nothing compares to this. Nothing compares to the feeling of having our year ripped from us. The season is still very young and this team is so talented, but the 2016 Arizona Cardinals are on the brink. This is not the time to start questioning the direction of the franchise, the coaching or play calling. Now is the time where the Cardinals need us most; the loyal valley fans that have been through everything with this franchise. We have all been burned far too many times and it’s easy for us to say “same old Cardinals.” But not now, not this year. We are in uncharted waters. It may be rough now, but we are in this together; just like it has always been.

Joseph Flamer

Arizona Cardinals Week Four Preview

The Arizona Cardinals have been disappointing to start the 2016 season. At 1-2 they are at the bottom of the division and need to string together some wins. They have a great opportunity to make up ground in the division this week against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are in first place in the division, despite getting blown out by the San Francisco 49ers in week one.

Arizona Cardinals Week Four Keys to Victory

Protecting Carson Palmer

The Cardinals will need to be better on offense than they were last week against the Buffalo Bills. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions and was unable to get into the end zone all game. This week they are facing a very good defensive front seven with the potential to wreak havoc.

When Palmer is able to set his feet and see downfield he is a top tier quarterback. When he is pressured and forced to move around his effectiveness diminishes quickly.  Having Evan Mathis return to his right guard position will help tremendously. He missed last week with a turf toe injury and his replacement Earl Watford played poorly in reserve.

Stopping the Run

The Cardinals let the Bills run all over them last week. Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in the NFL and the Rams offensive line plays physically. Bruce Arians philosophy of stopping the run early and forcing teams to beat them through the air will be put to the test. Last year against the Cardinals, Gurley had his first breakout performance of his career. He ran for 146 yards and the Rams beat the Cardinals 24-22 in that game. The Cardinals can not afford to let Gurley get going in this week.

Eliminate the Miscues on Special Teams

Bad special teams play is a key factor to the Cardinals slow start. Earlier this week they released rookie long snapper Kameron Canaday and signed NFL veteren snapper Aaron Brewer who played four seasons with the Denver Broncos. You can read about Canaday’s mistakes here. The Cardinals also signed punter Ryan Quigley to replace injured Drew Butler. Arians said that Butler would stay active to hold on kicks, but that plan has changed. Drew Butler was seen in a walking boot and will not be able to play this week. This is another scary change to special teams unit that had been consistent in previous years. The Cardinals are hopeful that they have worked out any of the special teams issues that plagued them so far this season.

Final Notes

Tight end Troy Niklas and Alani Fua were put on injured reserve and rookie safety Marqui Christian was released (He was picked up on waivers by the Rams). To replace them the Cardinals signed linebacker Joplo Bartu and elevated Ifeany Momah from the practice squad.

Arizona Cardinals Recap and Prediction Review Week Two

Finally, this is what I was waiting for. The Arizona Cardinals showed up and in all three phases impressed. The Cardinals are now plus seven in turnover ratio. This probably the best indicator that the offense and defense are both doing their job.

Arizona Cardinals Recap and Prediction Review Week Two

What did I say? 

Cardinals 31- Bucs 17

The Cardinals have a week under their belt and are a little more balanced in their attack. Both Johnsons will score on the ground and Palmer will throw a pair of touchdown passes. One may be to a running back, but a pass non the less.

The Bucs are outmatched and their front seven is better than in the past, but they are not ready for our road grading O-line.

Jameis Winston will throw a beautiful pass for a score, but will make enough boneheaded plays that his team will be out of the game by the second quarter. BA won’t be happy with how we finish

How did I do?

First off I got this week right. The Cardinals won. I did okay predicting some of the game action, but the details were a little off.

When I said that both Johnsons would score, the bigger prediction was that Chris Johnson would get in the end zone. Interestingly enough David Johnson did not score in the game despite going over 100 yards from scrimmage again.

Jameis Winston did throw a beautiful touchdown to Mike Evans with Patrick Peterson in coverage. Peterson was able to take advantage of a 50/50 ball that Winston likes to throw to his big receivers, however.

What I didn’t see coming was the rest of the turnovers. I thought our defense would play well, but they really controlled this game. Marcus Cooper made the most of his first action with the Cardinals. He also impressed teammate Patrick Peterson.

Final Thoughts

The Cardinals hit the road next week against the Buffalo Bills. I am hoping for a repeat performance from the Cardinals during week two. I am worried that the defense of the Bills will be able to cause some issues for the deep passing game of the Cardinals. It should be another fun game and I can’t wait.

Bring on the Buccaneers

Less than 24 hours until game time and I am nervous. Going through my previous predictions I had the Arizona Cardinals starting out fast. I wrote about a worst case scenario that had us at 7-4 through 12 weeks of the season. In that worst case scenario I never thought that losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was possibility. When asked this week, I gave the Bucs a 40% chance of winning. At this time of the year, you never know.

Bring on the Buccaneers

I have watched every throw that Jameis Winston made last week three times. Winston was not sacked last week and that will need to change. At a minimum, the Cardinals will need to get consistent pressure to disrupt their timing. Winston did a decent job of checking down to his backs and tight ends when he was in trouble. This will challenge the tackling of the Cardinals that struggled last week.

The Cardinals Offense

The offense was out of sync last week and I expect a lot of that to be corrected. John Brown said that he did not feel like himself last week and you could tell. The Cardinals offense is so much more dynamic when Brown is stretching the field leaving throwing lanes open to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Our short yardage running game looked very good last week. We will need our passing game to keep the offense on schedule to allow those short yardage runs to help convert on third downs.

The Defenses

This is a really good game that will feature two very good offenses. I think the difference in this game is the defenses. The Cardinals offense looked very good at times against an exceptionally coached New England Patriots team. The Bucaneerss are not as formidable as the Patriots and the Cardinals should be able to take advantage. The Cardinals defense that struggled against the precise route running of New England last week, won’t be as stressed against the 50/50 type routes the Buccaneers run.

Final Thoughts

What I really want to see happen is our team get their swag back. With the exception of Fitz, It didn’t look line anyone was having fun. This team is built with big time personalities and some real super stars. To be the best version of the Cardinals they need to play like it.

 

Arizona Cardinals Recap and Prediction Review

There are no moral victories. This was a bad loss and the Arizona Cardinals need to improve in all three phases of the game. The only bright spot of the game is that Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson are fantastic football players.

Tonight, our defense did not live up to the hype. Allowing the New England Patriots to convert on 10-16 third down tries. There was far less blitzing and unique formations from the team than we have seen in previous years. The Cardinals allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them.

Full Season Prediction Review

Lets take a look at game one the full season review that I put together and see how close I was to being right. Here is what I predicted about this game:

Cardinals 23- Patriots 20

The offense has not looked like itself without John Brown stretching the field. He is going to be out of shape and out of sync when he does come back.

The Patriots D is tough even with the loss of Rob Ninkovich and will hold us to only two touchdowns. One on the ground and one through the air. But they will get an easy score themselves off of a bad Palmer turnover.

The three Catanzaro field goals will be the difference even if he does miss one of his tries.

How did I do?

Lets start with the obvious. The overall prediction of the Cardinals winning was wrong. I knew this game would be close. The Patriots are very well coached and always prepared. John Brown was held to one catch on the night and did not create the separation we are used to seeing. The Patriots defense allowed three scores, but forced five punts. Carson Palmer kept his stat sheet clean and did not throw a pic, but his audible to throw on second down with under two minutes to go was bad. Chandler Catanzaro hit three kicks, but they were just extra points. Then he certainly did miss the one kick that would have made a difference.

Please don’t take this as me gloating, because the Cardinals lost. I was wrong about that and that is the only part of the prediction that matters in the NFL.

It would be wrong of me not to say congratulations to Larry for his 100th touchdown. It was a fantastic way to reach that milestone.

#LongBall

Larry Fitzgerald Retiring?

Ian Rapaport just broke news and it is a big deal for Arizona Cardinals fans. He just tweeted this.

If this is true it would be a major shock to everyone considering that he just signed an extension with the team at the beginning of training camp. The Cardinals made moves to keep their Super Bowl window open longer than just this season.

Knowing how Larry hates to answer these types of questions, the post game press conference is going to be very interesting. You can count on Kent Somers from the Arizona Republic to ask the question tonight after the game.

You can see that Rapoport left himself an out in his tweet with the phrase “assuming it holds.” He is right about one thing in this Tweet. Larry Fitzgerald will be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Twitter Responses

In light of how bad this news would be if it were true, the responses on Twitter have been fantastic.

But this one should make you feel the best of them all.