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12-14-11: Arizona Cardinals Bird Droppings - Fitz Still Amazing

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 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Time for todays links, with a lot of them looking at the turnaround the team has made, chances at the playoffs, and Larry still finding ways to amaze us.

Also, along with the PFF post, I was able to find a film review by Gref Cosell for NFL Films where he looked at how our defense matched up against the 49ers on Sunday.

On Twitter, Merill Hodge also said the Cardinals have the most improved defense in the NFL, it looks like they are playing with 15 players, and they are outstanding at blitzing. Jim Trotter also posted something saying that Ray Horton is doing a great job right now.

Hows that recognition for you?

Arizona Cardinals News:

Fitz Leaves Them Speechless
Wide receiver's efforts on and off the field sometimes defy description

Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald playing the part of superstar
Something more should be said or written about Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald after the performance he had Sunday in a victory over the San Francisco 49ers. But the problem is when it comes to Fitzgerald, it seems we've read and heard it all.

Cardinals defense improving with better trust -
The Arizona Cardinals defense looked lost to start the system as the players struggled to adapt and learn a new system. Things have changed during the season. Back in playoff contention after winning five of their last six games led by a defense that has turned from the team's weakness into its strength. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton believes it was just a matter of the players buying into the system.

49ers' Smith must handle Steelers' pressure - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Arizona's Kevin Kolb has made big plays against five or more pass-rushers, producing the highest yards-per-attempt figure in these situations. He has also taken sacks at inopportune times. That most likely accounts for the gap between his NFL passer rating (an impressive 92.5) and Total QBR (a below-average 37.9).

Re-Focused: 49ers @ Cardinals, Week 14 |
A drubbing to the 49ers just three weeks ago must have woken Arizona up, because the Cardinals showed plenty of heart and fire this time around. Arizona was on a quest to put together a three-game winning streak after a slow start to what has been an up-and-down season. For the 49ers, their offense found rhythm at times, but overall, Alex Smith had a day to forget. Frank Gore had a nice 37-yard TD run, but outside of that, San Francisco failed to score touchdowns in the red zone, settling for field goals instead. Let’s take a look at some of the individual performances that propelled the Cardinals to their sixth victory of the season.

Cosell’s Watching: 49ers Offense vs. Cardinals Defense : NFL Films Blog
Greg Cosell is the Executive Producer of NFL Matchup. To produce each week’s show, Greg watches the same all-22 game tape as the NFL’s coaches and players use in their preparation. Check back to TCIPF throughout the week for notes from Greg’s film study of Week 14. Here are his observations of the Arizona defense vs. the 49ers offense in last Sunday’s Cardinals’ win over the NFC West champions.

32 Teams, 32 Observations, Week 14 |
Arizona Cardinals: Inside linebacker Daryl Washington is a true triple threat. He is the only inside/middle linebacker with a +4.0 rating or higher in run defense, pass rush, and coverage.

NFC West Stock Watch - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Rising: Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals head coach. The Cardinals have won five of their last six games to claw their way back from a 1-6 start to the season. This was the sort of reversal Cardinals ownership needed to see after the team had gone 3-15 over an 18-game period. Whisenhunt preached patience. He was right about the defense needing time under a first-year coordinator. He was right about the team developing younger talent on defense. He was right about the season turning eventually. Whisenhunt could not catch a break previously, but he caught a big one Sunday. His attempt to challenge a 49ers reception prevented San Francisco from running a successful fake field goal. The turnabout produced at least a 10-point swing for Arizona.

Outside the huddle: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald
Each week, The Republic spotlights a Cardinals player for a series of on-the-spot, off-beat questions.

Word From the Birds Blog - Kolb: Concussion "something you don’t mess with"
Quarterback Kevin Kolb, during his weekly radio interview on XTRA 910, said his "symptoms are pretty good" Tuesday, and hopes to be able to be cleared for Sunday against Cleveland. But Kolb, who said he has had two "major" concussions in his career, clearly is going to be smart after suffering a concussion against the 49ers.

Some shocking goal-to-go passing stats - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Goal-to-go passing stats have their limitations simply because quarterbacks have relatively few attempts in those situations. That is why I wouldn't read too much into the NFL passer rating or Total QBR stats listed for NFC West quarterbacks in the chart below. For example, Kevin Kolb's QBR score lags in part because he took a sack on third-and-goal from the 7 at Baltimore. Kolb had very little time to throw on the play because Ravens pass-rusher Terrell Suggs beat Cardinals tackle Levi Brown so quickly. That one negative play carries greater weight in the QBR calculations than given the small number of goal-to-go plays for Kolb. I do find some of the numbers telling, however.

2011 NFC West game changers: Week 14 - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Long pass plays have kept the Arizona Cardinals competitive in most games this season. The Cardinals have completed 14 passes covering 40 yards or longer, one behind the New York Giants for the NFL lead. The total is one more than the rest of the NFC West combined (Seattle 6, San Francisco 4, St. Louis 3). Those pass plays weren't translating to victories consistently without key plays on special teams (think Patrick Peterson) and, most recently, from an improving defense. It was fitting, then, that the Cardinals' final defensive stand against San Francisco assumed the top spot in our weekly chart showing most pivotal plays from NFC West games.

Breaking down Cardinals' playoff chances -
We know the Arizona Cardinals themselves aren't focused on making a push for the playoffs. Heck, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said so himself on Monday. But that doesn't mean I can't look ahead to the Cardinals' playoff possibilities, right?

Word From the Birds Blog - Coming all the way back to .500
When the Cardinals were sitting at 1-5 and 1-6 and mired in their losing streak, there was actually a point where I debated on Twitter about the Cards chances for draft position and quarterback Andrew Luck. There were some out there who believed the Cards wouldn’t win another game — a thought even at the time that seemed foolish to me, and of course, looks even moreso now. But the fact the Cards have not only a realistic chance to get back to .500 by season’s end but perhaps even post a winning record, quite frankly, is stunning. To everyone.

Word From the Birds Blog - Playoffs????
Let’s make this short and sweet. I became a writer in part because math was never my thing. The folks at do the math, however, and their math says that — assuming the Cardinals finish the season winning their last three games to get to 9-7 — that they have a 36.1 percent chance to make the playoffs. They also say the most likely matchup if that happened would be a wild-card game in New Orleans.

Cards Daily - Lauding Larry's Leadership
For as many spectacular plays that Larry Fitzgerald makes, it's the little things that make him even more special to teammates and coaches.

NFL News:

Silver linings: Rams at Seahawks - NFC West Blog - ESPN
The facts: The St. Louis Rams fell to 2-11 with a 30-13 road defeat to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14.

NFL Power Rankings: How they voted - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Sorry, NFC West fans, but it's tough to blame East Coast bias for this one. A West Coast team, San Diego, bore responsibility for the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals losing ground in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings despite victories in Week 14. Those unwilling to fault the Chargers can find the real culprit right here, on the AFC South blog. Paul Kuharsky moved up San Diego 11 spots on his ballot, enough to bump the Chargers past the Seahawks and Cardinals. San Diego moved up three spots to No. 18. Arizona and Seattle, a combined 9-3 since Week 9, each fell one spot.

QBR ranks: Tarvaris Jackson good enough - NFC West Blog - ESPN
The Seattle Seahawks can live with -- and win with -- the passing Tarvaris Jackson has provided them over the last two games.

NFC West racked up YAC against itself - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Players catching shorter passes -- running backs, slot receivers and some tight ends -- tend to gain more yards after the catch than those running deeper routes. That is one point to keep in mind when reading through the chart ranking NFC West players by average yards gained after each reception. The chart shows players with at least 20 catches.

VIDEO: Tim Tebow (Finally) Has An Autotune Anthem - From Our Editors -
Enough talk about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, please. We need more *singing* about Tim Tebow. Good news: the Internet has just the thing. Unlike a prototypical pop music hit, "All He Does Is Win" uses an autotune gimmick that is tailored to maximize the unique vocal strengths of Tebow, Skip Bayless, John Elway and others. It doesn't make sense, but darned if it isn't working.

Ben Roethlisberger Injury: Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin Calls QB Questionable For Week 15 -
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said today that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is questionable for their Week 15 game against the San Francisco 49ers, according to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Roethlisberger has a Grade 1 high ankle sprain, the least serious among the various degrees of the injury. Tomlin added that his quarterback will have to practice "in some form or fashion" this week in order to play this week.

NFL Coaches Hot Seat: Norv Turner's Chargers Are Playoffs Or Bust -
Three NFL teams have already decided to fire their head coaches this season. Which other coaches are on the proverbial hot seat, and when will more firings come down?

Wade Phillips Takes Medical Leave; Texans Expect Coordinator Back For Playoffs -
The Houston Texans will be without defensive coordinator Wade Phillips as he takes a medical leave of absence from the team.