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Cards went into preseason Game 4 with a 0 & 3 record. All 3 QB's (Palmer, Stanton and Barkley) looked a bit sloppy (instrumental in 5 turnovers). But the OL - especially in the run-game - looked fairly solid and "in-synch." It's a cliche that the only preseason game you can take seriously is Game 3. The importance of Game 4 is that it defines the back end of your roster (Cards have to pare 22 players off their roster to get from 75 to 53 by 4 pm (ET) Saturday.
Roster battles to zero in on: Will Matt Barkley play well enough for BA to keep a third QB? #4 RB (S Taylor, K Williams, Penny or do we keep 3)? Golden vs. Shipley or Hubert (Or do we trade one of them for a backup tackle)? Is Watford our #1 backup tackle? Or do we trade for one? Would we keep 5 guards (Iupati, Toner, McClain, Mathis, Watford)? Who survives the logjam on the DL - Mauro, Stinson or Red Bryant or Peters or Rucker Does Pierre have an outside shot? Does Louis' special teams play earn him a spot over Butler, Fua or Riddick? Does Miller or Hartfield make it as our #5 corner? Do Farley and/or M Christian become one of 7 or 8 surviving safeties? Or could we make Christian a $LB. And, If so, would it be at the expense of Clemons?
And keep your fingers crossed - no injuries!
Cards Spot Denver Early Lead But Breeze to 38 - 17 Win
The Bottom Line:
Matt Barkley played the entire game & - after fumbling to set up a 1Q Denver FG - looked good. Cardinal corners had early tackling "issues."
Regarding roster battles:
Barkley (who threw for 2 TDs) looked good enough to win a spot on the 53-man roster...Elijhaa Penny out dueled Kerwynn Williams when it came to picking up 1st downs and otherwise making plays when he had to...Britt Golden had a big game, but so too did Shipley...Hubert wasn't as good as he's been in early preseason contests but Bundy had a tremendous game...Momah was a bit up and down and made me wonder whether his performance might have convinced the coaches to only keep 3 TE's on the final 53. The OL - from top to bottom - had a huge game, keeping Barkley upright (most of the time) and consistently opening up holes for Cardinal runners...The defensive Front Seven was consistently solid/Card staff will have a hard time deciding whether to keep Red Bryant and/or Mauro/and or Stinson and/or Peters and/or Rucker...Kareem Martin and Okpalaugo were injured...RIddick and Lamar Louis looked good. Gabe Martin had a Pick 6. Who stays and who goes?...Cariel Brooks was, to say the least, "inconsistent" tackling in the open field...Do the Cards feel they can trust him as a a #2 or backup corner? Or will they turn to Zamort or Harfield instead?...Cat Man hit one from 59 (a good sign) and also constistently boomed KO's into the back of the end zone.
Trade possibilities: We have a surplus of talent at RB, WR and DL. We could use veteran experience at reserve OT (although our backup tackles looked pretty good vs. Denver). It is not out of the question that we might surrender a highly-rated reserve if we felt comfortable elevating a lower-rated guy while at the same time filling a need at tackle or a perceived need at some other position.
Cutdown time is 4:00 pm (ET) tomorrow (Sat). Fingers crossed.
Cards started in typically slow fashion and quckly found themselves behind by 10 points. Culprits: Turnovers and sloppy open field tackling by corners. But - on the backs of a pounding rushing attack and opportunistic passing by Barkley, the Cards pulled even early in the 2Q and had a 20 - 10 lead at halftime and breezed to a 38 - 21 win over Denver.
- Cards received. TB on KO. Cards went 3 & out...Punt returned to the Denver 25. On the third play from scrimmage, Lynch hit Taylor at the right sideline. Taylor spun out of Cariel Brooks' graspn and motored 57 yards for a TD. Denver 7 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. On the third play of the Cardinal possession. Barkley was sacked and fumbled. Recovered by Denver at the Cardinal 27 (Here we go again) Card defense stiffened and Broncs were held to a 33 yard McManus FG. Denver 10 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. Kerwynn Willliams gained 8 yards on 3 carries. A 41-yard completion to Golden put the ball on the Denver 32. After reaching the 19, the Cards turned to Penny who carried 5 consecutive times for 18 yards to set up a one yard TD completion to JJ Nelson. Drive took 11 plays and used up 6:21 minutes. Denver 10 - Cards 7.
TB on the KO. Lynch moved to the Cardinal 28 in six plays, but the drive stalled and McManus was wide right from 46-yards... Cards took over at their own 36 and KW picked up 5 yards to end the quarter.
1st Quarter Score: Denver 10 - Cards 7.
Still Cards ball. Barkley led the the Cards to the Denver 27 in 8 plays to set up a 45-yard Catanzaro FG. Denver 10 - Cards 10.
TB on the KO. Cards held Denver to 3 & out...Punt downed at the AZ 24. Barkley was able to reach the Denver 6, but had to settle for a 24-yard Catanzaro FG. (Drive took 13 plays and used 6:16 worth of clock). Cards took the lead for the first timel. Cards 13 - Denver 10.
KO returned to the Denver 20. (2:46 till halftime). Cards held them to 3 & out again. Dixon's 18-yard punt gave Cards the ball on the Bronco 45 with 1:49 on the clock. Completions to Shipley (+19), Bundy (+11)and Momah (+12) set up a 14-yard TD pass to Shipley. Cards 20 - Denver 10.
TB on the KO. 0:30 left. Denver got nothing going. Cards in pretty good shape.
First Half Score: Cards 20 - Denver 10.
TB on the KO. Cards (again) held Denver to 3 & out...Punt went out of bounds at Cards 27. Five of the next 7 plays were runs by Penny for +12, +6, +2, +4 and +4. Eight play was a59-yard FG attempt by Catanzaro. KIck was Good! Cards 23 - Denver 10.
KO was returned to the Denver 17. After BIbbs gained +25 yards arround RE, the Cards forced them to punt 4 plays later...Punt (net penalty on Hartfield) put the ball on the Cardinal 14. Cards reached the Denver 45 before Butlers punt (net holding call) gave them the ball on their own 6-yard line. Completions of 20 yards (to Phillips vs. M Christian) 14 and 18 yards to Frazier (the first vs. M Christian and the second vs. C Brooks) followed by a 32 completion to Taylor (vs. C. Brooks) set up a 3-yard TD completion to Taylor. Drive consumed 8 plays and 4:09. It's once again a one-score football game. Cards 23 - Denver 17.
TB on the KO. Penny went off RT for +20, then off LT for +4 as the quarter ended,
Third Quarter Score: Cards 23 - Denver 17.
Cards mixed medium-range passes by Barkley and runs by Penny to execute a 16-play drive that took 9:08 off the clock.Drive was capped by a 5-yard Penny TD run off left tackle that was reversed "on further review." (Penny scored from the one two plays later. 2-point conversion attempt was successful - Penny up the middle). Cards 31 - Denver 17.
KO was returned to the Denver 45. On the furth play from scrimmage, Lynch's pass for Taylor was picked off by Gabe Martin and returned 29 yards for a Pick 6. Cards 38 - Denver 17.
Denver returned the KO to their own 45 and (again) were held to 3 & out. Punt was fair caught at the Cardinal 9. Cards held to 3 & out. Punt (net bogus penalty on Zamort for "interfering with opportunity to catch") put the ball on the Cardinal 40 with 1:05 left. Two plays later: Game Over.
Final Score: Cards 38 - Denver 17.
Notable Game Stats.
Barkley was 20 for 29, 262 yards, 2 TD's and no interceptioms.
Bundy led all Cardinal receivers with 6 catches (64 yards). Shipley had 4 grabs (67 yards), followed by Nelson's 3 catches for 20 yards.
Penny led Cardinal RB's with 113 yards on 23 carries...KW carried 19 times for 57 yards.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: (Runs: 43 /Pass:29).
Denver Run/Pass Ratio: Runs: 22 /Pass:22 ).
Catanzaro kicked 3 FG's including an impressive 59-yarder.
Net Punting Avg.: 38.7 (vs/ 37.4 for Denver).
Brooks led all Card tacklers with 5 followed by M Christian (4) and Hartfield, Louiis and B WIlliams (3 apiece) - precisely what you'd want to see from a bunch of youngsters fighting for roster spots.
"The Deech" had the only Cardinal sack.
Barkley was sacked once (by Norman).
Cards turned over the ball one time (Barkley's fumble). Denver's only turnover was the one pick by Gabe Martin
Cards were 8 of 15 (53%) in 3rd down efficiency and 1 of 1 (100%) in 4th round efficiency. (Compare this with Denver's 1 of 8 in 3rd down efficiency and 0 for 0 in 4th down efficiency).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 3 for 4 75%. (Denver was 1 for 2 and 50%).
Penalties: 7 penalties for 75 yards. (Denver was penalized 3 times for 21 yards). Note - Officiating was atrocious; specifically a no-call spear inflicted on Bundy and the reversal of the "too close to overturn" nature of Penny's TD run.
Time of Possession: Cards 38:41/ Denver 21:19. (Reason: Effectiveness of Cardinal run-game).
Card defenseper rushing play (Card rushers averaged 5.4)
I think Barkley played well enough to be #3 QB on our 53-man roster. (what I was looking for - & found - was the consistent ability to make plays he had to make (& not fail to execute when needing to). The two TD passes and a couple of other thread-the needle throws and good reads convinced me Barkley can do the job - at least in this game - and should be given the opportunity to give us 3 qb's worth of depth.
The 235 lb Penny proved he can be our short-yardage RB. He deserves to be kept as our #4.
Our OL play from top to bottom
Toler and Boehm are keepers.
Riddick finally got healthy enough to make plays
Lamar Louis may have won himself a roster spot both as a special teamer and LB
Bundy (who?) played as well as Shipley and Hubert - and, aspiring young scouts, he's 6-4.
Golden finally played well enough to be our #6.
Nkemdiche (aka (The Deech).
The Dark Side
Injuries - to K-Mart and Okapalaugo
C Brooks letdowns in coverage and tackling/Better coverage by Bethel and B Williams
I'd like to see more consistent production by Shipley (i.e. he racked up nice numbers; but this was partly because he was given a lot of targeting.
It just kills me that we can't keep all that DL talent that Steve K has gotten for us.
We still have the unfortunate habit of digging ourselves holes early in games.
Some very good players will be leaving us. We just have to hope that SK, BA and staff will make sound decisions based on the right mixture of performance, team needs, depth and potential.
One thing the Denver game does is remove the uncertainty over whether "we had picked up the bad habit of losing" and whether we could correct what seemed to be correctable wrongs.
Big news comes between now and tomorrow at 4 pm (ET).
The depressing thing is having to say goodbye to good layers. Exciting thing is that we have a really deep and talented football team. Of course we'll now have to go out each week and prove on the field we're as good as people say we are. Sic 'em!