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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Teams feeling the Arizona Cardinals' rush - Arizona Republic

by Kent Somers - Sept. 18, 2012 09:52 PM
azcentral sports

It was big news in New England last Sunday that Stephen Gostkowski, the most accurate kicker in Patriots' franchise history, missed a 42-yard field-goal try with one second left to assure the Cardinals of victory.

But for the Cardinals, watching a reliable kicker miss was business as usual. And it provided proof more that their prowess for blocking kicks and punts might be messing with the minds of opponents.

"We put so much pressure on the field-goal teams," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "They have to do nothing but respect what we do." - What the Cardinals do is block a lot of kicks: 15 since 2008. That's more than anyone else in the NFL. - They blocked five in 2011 and have two this year: a blocked field-goal against Seattle in the season opener and a blocked punt last week against the Patriots.

Success helps. Last week, linebacker Quentin Groves almost blocked a punt early in the game. He begged special teams coach Kevin Spencer for another opportunity. Spencer gave it to him, and Groves blocked a punt that the Cardinals turned into a touchdown.

"It's a little bit like blood in the water for sharks," Cardinals kicker Jay Feely said. "You get a little taste and you want more."

And the Cardinals believe that ability leads to more missed field goals, because opponents know they have to get to the ball quickly and get the ball high enough.

"You absolutely see it," Feely said. "You get in those situations and guys speed up, they change their technique. You worry about getting it blocked instead of focusing on the fundamentals that are going to help you make the kick."

It's a theory that's hard to prove, but the Cardinals have plenty of anecdotal evidence.

In 2010, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32-yard field at the end of the game.

Last year, 49ers kicker David Akers set an NFL record by making 44 field-goal attempts. He missed only eight -- and four of those came against the Cardinals.

Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey had made 26 consecutive field-goal tries when he missed a 49-yarder at the end of the fourth quarter.

And the Bengals Mike Nugent had missed only twice in the first 14 games last year. In the 15th, against Arizona, he missed twice.

"I'm not pretending I'm an expert on what they go through and their approach to making kicks or whatever," linebacker Paris Lenon said, "but I would liken it to basketball. If you've got a known shot blocker in your way, it might have an effect on your shot."

The Cardinals credit their success to a unique blend of talents, attitude and coaching.

Not many teams have a defensive end like 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell rushing from up the middle.

He had three blocks a year ago and the blocked field goal against Seattle was the sixth blocked kick of his career.

The Cardinals also have speed off the edges from defensive backs Patrick Peterson and rookie Justin Bethel. Bethel blocked nine kicks in college at Presbyterian, and he had three in the preseason.

Just as importantly, the other players on the field are willing to do some dirty work. That means guys such as defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and David Carter working hard to get a push up the middle. That might mean Lenon pushing Campbell from behind, maybe getting him a yard or so deeper than he would otherwise.

Lenon also makes the calls on the field and can adjust how the Cardinals rush, based on what the punt team is showing.

"People don't see the push or the guys inside," Campbell said. "I kind of just ride the stream and jump up and balance myself. I think everybody tries to block it; it just helps that I'm 6-8."

There is more than one field-goal rush call, too. Spencer has a handful that he uses, some more than others.

"We try to get matchups and find weaknesses, just like offensive and defensive coaches," Spencer said. "The guys have just bought in and I'm proud of it. And it hasn't just been pink frosting. We've won some games with these things."

Coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasizes rushing kickers, not only because of the potential big play that could result, but also a means of measuring his players' efforts.

A team that's given up won't rush a point-after attempt nearly so hard as one that isn't just going through the motions.

"You can give up on that play, especially after a touchdown," Lenon said. "It's like, 'I'm just trying to get to the sideline.' A lot of guys could approach it that way, but we don't. It's a big part of what we do."

It's an attitude that Whisenhunt and Spencer brought with them from the Steelers. Former coach Bill Cowher emphasized it as a way to measure a team's mental toughness.

"Sometimes guys are tired," Spencer said. "It could be the end of a 10-play drive. They are disappointed and sometimes guys go through the motions. We don't tolerate that here. It's a football play."

The Cardinals are Feely's fifth team and this is his 12th NFL season. He's never been with a team that emphasized blocking kicks more than the Cardinals do.

"Some coaches will say, 'Well, let's not give up a fake, let's be safe,' " Feely said.

"We're a very aggressive team. I've never heard a head coach put an emphasis on field-goal block like this team. He talks about it all the time."

No one on the Cardinals sideline felt good when Gostkowski took the field for the final kick last week. But they felt hopeful, because they had witnessed good kickers fail in that situation before.

Maybe Gostkowski just mis-hit the kick, something he might not do again this season. Or maybe he hit it poorly because he was worried about a block. Who can say?

But Spencer knows one thing.

"I thought, 'If I have to be in this situation, this is a heck of a group to be in it with.' "

Coach's corner

"That's what today's NFL is. You have to have your young guys play. Patrick (Peterson) did it for us last year a lot. David Carter did it. Sam Acho did it. Young guys have got to step up and fit in. If you can get that to happen, it builds a pretty strong team, because now those guys understand how they have to do it. Jamell is under a lot of pressure from Patrick, from some of these young players, to do it the right way. And when you see it show up on the field it makes a difference for you."

--Ken Whisenhunt when asked about rookie Jamell Fleming playing 98 percent of the defensive plays.

Stat pack

2-0 - The Cardinals are 2-0 for the first time since 2008 and for the fourth time since 1988 (2012, 2008, 1991, 1989). They haven't been 3-0 since 1974 when they won their first seven.

9 of 11 - The Cardinals have won 9 of their last 11 games. Four were in overtime. The other five were decided by fewer than five points.

62.3 - In his past four games, which included an abbreviated appearance versus the 49ers in 2011, Kevin Kolb has completed 62.3 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

2 - RB Ryan Williams has fumbled in each of the two NFL games in which he's played.

1 - The Cardinals yielded one sack against the Patriots. That's fewer than in any game in 2011.

The Cardinals have blocked 15 kicks since 2008 - That's more than anyone else in the NFL.

Arizona Diamondbacks Earn First Home Win Over San Diego Padres This Season - Phoenix New Times (blog)

arizona diamondbacks san diego padres ian kennedy.jpg
mlb.com/dbacks
Ian Kennedy pitched eight solid innings on Tuesday evening against San Diego. 
See also: Arizona Diamondbacks Win One of Three Against San Francisco Giants, Increase Odds of Making Playoffs to 3 Percent
Ian Kennedy and the rest of the Arizona Diamondbacks got a big monkey off their backs last night by beating the San Diego Padres 3-2 at Chase Field. Both the ginger-haired hurler and his team notched their first win over San Diego at home after the D-backs maintained control of the contest from the first inning onwards. Victories over the SoCal squad have been rare occurrence this season, period, as San Diego's thumped Arizona on 11 different occasions.

Arizona (73-74), however, secured a W and also kept its infinitesimally small postseason hopes afloat with the victory, but are still 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot in the National League playoff picture.

Kennedy (14-11, 4.08 ERA) nearly went the distance on Tuesday night, pitching eight innings versus the Padres, fanning six and enduring seven hits in the process. He got off to a rocky start in the first frame, however, loading the bases after allowing a single from Logan Forsythe walking Chase Headley, and permitting Yasmani Grandal to reach base.

After a sacrifice fly by Yonder Alonso gave Kennedy his only run of the game, the pitcher settled down and got two groundouts to escape the inning, albeit with a total of 30 pitches recorded.

Arizona got that run back in the bottom half of the first, however, thanks to the efforts of Adam Eaton. San Diego's Eric Stults (6-3, 2.69) walked the Diamondbacks rookie, who then proceeded to steal second, putting him in scoring position for Paul Goldschmidt's RBI single. Miguel Montero then followed with an RBI double to score Goldy.

Eaton negated his pimp play in the ninth inning when he pulled a major fielding boner. The rookie allowed a single by San Diego's Chris Denorfia to roll past his glove, turning the swat into a default triple. Will Venable's sacrifice fly then allowed a run, making the game 3-2. Thankfully, closer J.J. Putz forced two straight grounders to end the game.

Arizona will attempt to get another home win over the Padres tonight when Trevor Cahill (11-11, 3.92) takes the mound against San Diego's Edinson Volquez (10-10, 4.24). First pitch is at 6:40 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. More info: www.dbacks.com.

Chase Field

401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

Preview: No. 22 Arizona Wildcats at No. 3 Oregon Ducks - CBSSports.com (blog)

9/19/12: Arizona Cardinals Bird Droppings: Wilson and Brady Down - Revenge of the Birds

Sep 16, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; Arizona Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein (63) prepares to snap the ball during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

We took down two teams in which we were the underdogs. Heading into our Week 3 matchup against the Eagles we'll be selected as underdogs again, even with the Eagles -

Star-divide

Arizona Cardinals News:

Word From the Birds Blog | Getting mental with the block
Ken Whisenhunt flashed a knowing smile, because he understood. The question was if there was a part of him â€" even a small part â€" that can be a little more calm in these days of near-automatic field goal kickers because he has a special teams unit that is arguably the best in the league in coming up with blocks. For instance, Sunday in Foxborough as the Patriots lined up for their potential game-winner.

Binge Brings Groves Success
The Cardinals linebacker was a free agent for the first time, knowing he hadn’t performed as he should for four seasons since coming out of Auburn. Reality, though, was still to come. He worked out for the New York Giants â€" the Super Bowl champions â€" and instead of a contract offer, got a mental slap.

Cards Daily - Marathon Not a Sprint
The Cardinals are enjoying the big win over the Patriots but know that they can't let them emotions get too high.

The NFC West is no longer the NFL's doormats - NFL.com
Remember when the NFC West was the worst division in football? You know, the entire last decade? Those days are over and the 49ers, Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals are ready to steal your juice box.

Kevin Kolb helps deliver the NFL's most unlikely of 2-0 starts - NFL.com
After two weeks of play, there are only six unbeaten teams remaining -- the most unlikely of which is the Arizona Cardinals, who delivered the most shocking of results so far this NFL season.

Ken Whisenhunt: Larry Fitzgerald will get his catches - NFL.com
Larry Fitzgerald's production through the first two weeks of the NFL season has been underwhelming, but Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has some good news for fantasy owners.

Cards: Wilson and Brady down, Vick next? - NFC West Blog - ESPN
The Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator was much more selective against New England's Tom Brady than he was against Seattle rookie Russell Wilson a week earlier.

NFL News:

Brian Banks to sign with UFL's Locomotives - NFL.com
Brian Banks' comeback story now includes a professional team paying for his services. Banks, who was wrongly imprisoned on a rape charge in 2003, signed with the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives.

Brock Osweiler: I was ready to make Hail Mary throw - NFL.com
The Denver Broncos never got the ball back after their final scoring drive Monday night. If they had, it very likely was going to be Brock Osweiler, not Peyton Manning, attempting a final deep pass.

Josh Morgan leads way to the ATL doghouse - NFL.com
Washington Redskins receiver Josh Morgan cost his team a chance at victory Sunday. He's just one of a handful of Week 2 goats taking up residence in the ATL doghouse, a place you don't want to be.

Vince Young: A quarterback out of work, money - NFL.com
Vince Young earned $26 million over the course of his rookie contract with the Tennessee Titans. That's all gone now, and attorneys are battling to find out just how all that money disappeared.

Eli Manning told the Bucs he was taking a knee - NFL.com
Eli Manning said it's common practice for teams in the trenches to communicate about a QB kneel shortly before a snap. The New York Giants' star said he told the Bucs on Sunday. They didn't listen.

Teams feeling the Arizona Cardinals rush - AZ Central.com

by Kent Somers - Sept. 18, 2012 09:52 PM
azcentral sports

It was big news in New England last Sunday that Stephen Gostkowski, the most accurate kicker in Patriots' franchise history, missed a 42-yard field-goal try with one second left to assure the Cardinals of victory.

But for the Cardinals, watching a reliable kicker miss was business as usual. And it provided proof more that their prowess for blocking kicks and punts might be messing with the minds of opponents.

"We put so much pressure on the field-goal teams," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "They have to do nothing but respect what we do." - What the Cardinals do is block a lot of kicks: 15 since 2008. That's more than anyone else in the NFL. - They blocked five in 2011 and have two this year: a blocked field-goal against Seattle in the season opener and a blocked punt last week against the Patriots.

Success helps. Last week, linebacker Quentin Groves almost blocked a punt early in the game. He begged special teams coach Kevin Spencer for another opportunity. Spencer gave it to him, and Groves blocked a punt that the Cardinals turned into a touchdown.

"It's a little bit like blood in the water for sharks," Cardinals kicker Jay Feely said. "You get a little taste and you want more."

And the Cardinals believe that ability leads to more missed field goals, because opponents know they have to get to the ball quickly and get the ball high enough.

"You absolutely see it," Feely said. "You get in those situations and guys speed up, they change their technique. You worry about getting it blocked instead of focusing on the fundamentals that are going to help you make the kick."

It's a theory that's hard to prove, but the Cardinals have plenty of anecdotal evidence.

In 2010, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32-yard field at the end of the game.

Last year, 49ers kicker David Akers set an NFL record by making 44 field-goal attempts. He missed only eight -- and four of those came against the Cardinals.

Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey had made 26 consecutive field-goal tries when he missed a 49-yarder at the end of the fourth quarter.

And the Bengals Mike Nugent had missed only twice in the first 14 games last year. In the 15th, against Arizona, he missed twice.

"I'm not pretending I'm an expert on what they go through and their approach to making kicks or whatever," linebacker Paris Lenon said, "but I would liken it to basketball. If you've got a known shot blocker in your way, it might have an effect on your shot."

The Cardinals credit their success to a unique blend of talents, attitude and coaching.

Not many teams have a defensive end like 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell rushing from up the middle.

He had three blocks a year ago and the blocked field goal against Seattle was the sixth blocked kick of his career.

The Cardinals also have speed off the edges from defensive backs Patrick Peterson and rookie Justin Bethel. Bethel blocked nine kicks in college at Presbyterian, and he had three in the preseason.

Just as importantly, the other players on the field are willing to do some dirty work. That means guys such as defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and David Carter working hard to get a push up the middle. That might mean Lenon pushing Campbell from behind, maybe getting him a yard or so deeper than he would otherwise.

Lenon also makes the calls on the field and can adjust how the Cardinals rush, based on what the punt team is showing.

"People don't see the push or the guys inside," Campbell said. "I kind of just ride the stream and jump up and balance myself. I think everybody tries to block it; it just helps that I'm 6-8."

There is more than one field-goal rush call, too. Spencer has a handful that he uses, some more than others.

"We try to get matchups and find weaknesses, just like offensive and defensive coaches," Spencer said. "The guys have just bought in and I'm proud of it. And it hasn't just been pink frosting. We've won some games with these things."

Coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasizes rushing kickers, not only because of the potential big play that could result, but also a means of measuring his players' efforts.

A team that's given up won't rush a point-after attempt nearly so hard as one that isn't just going through the motions.

"You can give up on that play, especially after a touchdown," Lenon said. "It's like, 'I'm just trying to get to the sideline.' A lot of guys could approach it that way, but we don't. It's a big part of what we do."

It's an attitude that Whisenhunt and Spencer brought with them from the Steelers. Former coach Bill Cowher emphasized it as a way to measure a team's mental toughness.

"Sometimes guys are tired," Spencer said. "It could be the end of a 10-play drive. They are disappointed and sometimes guys go through the motions. We don't tolerate that here. It's a football play."

The Cardinals are Feely's fifth team and this is his 12th NFL season. He's never been with a team that emphasized blocking kicks more than the Cardinals do.

"Some coaches will say, 'Well, let's not give up a fake, let's be safe,' " Feely said.

"We're a very aggressive team. I've never heard a head coach put an emphasis on field-goal block like this team. He talks about it all the time."

No one on the Cardinals sideline felt good when Gostkowski took the field for the final kick last week. But they felt hopeful, because they had witnessed good kickers fail in that situation before.

Maybe Gostkowski just mis-hit the kick, something he might not do again this season. Or maybe he hit it poorly because he was worried about a block. Who can say?

But Spencer knows one thing.

"I thought, 'If I have to be in this situation, this is a heck of a group to be in it with.' "

Coach's corner

"That's what today's NFL is. You have to have your young guys play. Patrick (Peterson) did it for us last year a lot. David Carter did it. Sam Acho did it. Young guys have got to step up and fit in. If you can get that to happen, it builds a pretty strong team, because now those guys understand how they have to do it. Jamell is under a lot of pressure from Patrick, from some of these young players, to do it the right way. And when you see it show up on the field it makes a difference for you."

--Ken Whisenhunt when asked about rookie Jamell Fleming playing 98 percent of the defensive plays.

Stat pack

2-0 - The Cardinals are 2-0 for the first time since 2008 and for the fourth time since 1988 (2012, 2008, 1991, 1989). They haven't been 3-0 since 1974 when they won their first seven.

9 of 11 - The Cardinals have won 9 of their last 11 games. Four were in overtime. The other five were decided by fewer than five points.

62.3 - In his past four games, which included an abbreviated appearance versus the 49ers in 2011, Kevin Kolb has completed 62.3 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

2 - RB Ryan Williams has fumbled in each of the two NFL games in which he's played.

1 - The Cardinals yielded one sack against the Patriots. That's fewer than in any game in 2011.

The Cardinals have blocked 15 kicks since 2008 - That's more than anyone else in the NFL.

Phoenix Suns: How Kendall Marshall Will Push Goran Dragic for Playing Time - Bleacher Report

When the Phoenix Suns drafted point guard Kendall Marshall with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft they acquired a player that they could start from day one and ease the transition from the Steve Nash-era.

Then the team picked up Goran Dragic in free agency, a point guard they were familiar with. Dragic played two and a half season for the Suns before being traded to the Houston Rockets.

Dragic assumed the starting role for the Rockets last year when starter Kyle Lowry went down with an injury. Dragic thrived, averaging 18.0 points and 8.4 assists as a starter last season.

While Dragic will be the immediate starter, Marshall is a close No. 2 and will push Dragic for playing time next season.

Here is why the rookie point guard will push Dragic for playing time next season.

Pure Point Guard

Marshall is of the Nash-breed of point guard. He never averaged more than 8.1 points a game while playing at North Carolina, but he was second in the nation in assist with 9.8 last season.

Nash only averaged 12.5 points last year, but was the most important part of the offense because of his passing ability. Marshall will play a similar role.

Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat are more than capable of scoring the ball, but the problem will be getting them good looks.

Dragic may be better suited as a 2-guard in the Suns offense. He can score the ball at will and knock down threes. Marshall and Dragic are the perfect compliments for each other, so it would be ideal for the Suns to have both guards on the floor.

Marshall will have to adjust to playing in the world's best basketball league before becoming a viable option, but when he does this, he should average eight to nine assist a game. Marshall looks for the pass long before the shot.

High Basketball IQ

Dragic has a tendency to get himself in trouble on the court while handling the ball. Team's often trapped the Slovenian guard, which would lead to turnovers or bad shot attempts.

Even as a rookie, it can be argued that Marshall has a higher basketball IQ than Dragic.

Marshall has the capability to drive and kick, which will be essential in getting the Suns' shooters the ball. The Suns will be able to depend on Marshall as a ball-handler in crucial situationsâ€"something they may not feel they can do with Dragic.

Coupled with his leadership abilities and floor general skills, Marshall will really push Dragic for starters minutes during the 2012-13 season.

Testing the Rookie

The benefits of being a first-round pick is that the team has invested in you, so they will give you more than an ample chance to prove yourself.

Marshall will get heavy playing time next year simply because the staff wants to see what the rookie point guard can provide. Sebastian Telfair and Dragic provide a safety net so that if Marshall does struggle mightily in his first NBA season, the Suns will have other options.

Hi-res-142539039_crop_exactHarry How/Getty Images

Most likely though, Marshall will perform at the lottery-pick level and see plenty of playing time in Alvin Gentry's rotation.

One more valuable point to remember. When Marshall showed up in Chapel Hill at the start of his college career he was expected to back up Larry Drew II. Marshall's fearlessness on the floor and his ability to ignite the offense led to him obtaining the starting roleâ€"as a freshman.

Could we see a similar situation in Marshall's rookie year in the NBA? Only time will tell.

Arizona Diamondbacks finally win at home against San Diego Padres - Arizona Republic

by Scott Bordow - Sept. 18, 2012 09:22 PM
azcentral sports

Recap: Ian Kennedy survived a rough first inning and threw eight strong innings, Miguel Montero knocked in two runs with a pair of doubles and rookie Adam Eaton was on base three times in Arizona's 3-2 victory. The win snapped a seven-game home losing streak to the Padres at Chase Field dating back to September of 2011. J.J. Putz finished up in the ninth for his 30th save, the fourth time in his career he's had at least 30 saves in a season.

Survive and advance: Kennedy had a shaky first inning, allowing one run, throwing 30 pitches and escaping a two-out bases-loaded jam by retiring right fielder Chris Denorfia on a comebacker to the mound. He settled down after that and got stronger as the game wore on, pitching eight innings of one-run ball. Kennedy served up a two-out triple to shortstop Everth Cabrera in the seventh but got Logan Forsythe to fly out to left to end the inning. He gave up seven hits and threw 121 pitches.

Double trouble: Montero had a big night at the plate, with RBI doubles in the first and fifth innings. Montero's double to right in the first scored Paul Goldschmidt, who had singled, and his fifth-inning blast off the wall in center field scored Justin Upton, who got on base with a one-out walk. Montero now has 84 RBIs on the season, two short of the career high he set last year.

A pest: Eaton showed why the Diamondbacks think he can be a quintessential lead-off hitter. Eaton didn't have a hit but was on base three times, twice on walks and once when he was hit by a pitch in the second inning. He also stole a base and scored Arizona's first run. Eaton's on-base percentage in 11 games is a robust .423.

View from the press box: Chris Young's return to the starting lineup lasted all of two pitches on Tuesday night, and when he trudged off the field after re-aggravating his right quad injury, it was hard not to wonder if this is last we'll see of Young in a Diamondbacks uniform. Young did not start for two weeks after initially tweaking his quad; there are only two more weeks left in the season. With the Diamondbacks' crowded outfield, there's speculation that Young might be traded in the off-season. If this is the way he goes out, at least it was on his kind of play -- a far-ranging catch into left-center field.

-- Nick Piecoro