For the past six games the Cardinals have started rookies at both offensive tackle positions, which would seem to be an advantage for Bears defensive ends Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton when the teams meet today in Arizona.
The Bears’ veterans have combined for 15½ sacks, 8½ by Peppers. The Cardinals, however, have done a better job protecting their quarterback since seventh-round rookie Nate Potter took over at left tackle, joining fourth-round rookie Bobby Massie, who has started every game at right tackle.
In the five games with both rookies starting, the Cardinals have allowed 11 sacks. In the first nine games they allowed 41.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley has helped by doing a better job avoiding sacks than veterans Kevin Kolb and John Skelton.
“The ball is coming out nice and quick,” Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “The screen game has been a little bit better, and they are running the ball.”
The Cardinals ran 29 times in last week’s 38-10 victory over the Lions, more than they had in the previous seven games. But the Cards still had just 99 rushing yards, and they remain dead last in the league in rushing yards.
If they can’t run against the Bears and Lindley has to throw, Peppers and Wootton vs. two rookies is a matchup the Bears like.
“If they single block, it’s one (matchup) I feel good about,” Marinelli said. “But those guys are NFL football players, they’re all good. We’ve still got to go win our matchups.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice is confident rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will bounce back from last week’s trio of offensive pass interference penalties.
“You’ve got to understand the rules, and sometimes you get a little overzealous and things happen,” Tice said. “But you definitely don’t want to give the zebras a chance to make that call. He’ll get better. He’ll get better this week, and he’ll make some plays for us and there’ll be no flags.”
After catching 14 passes for 184 yards in his first five games in the league, Jeffery has just 5 catches for 72 yards in the last nine games, although he missed six of those with hand and knee injuries.
The way it is:
With no home games until next season, debates over who cares about the fans and how those fans should respond to poor performances on the field will die down.
But Lance Briggs had some interesting closing arguments on the subject of fans and players.
“Fans are fans,” the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker said. “Fans pay for their ticket to go see a football game, and it’s well within their right to boo, cheer, cry, laugh, do whatever. Whatever feelings come to them.
”As players, we go out, we play and we have a right to be happy, sad, upset. With the way that social media works now, everyone gets to find out how you feel more often than probably in years past. That’s just the way it works.”
Playing the final two games indoors in climate-controlled domes could help an offense that needs plenty of it.
“It couldn’t hurt,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We’ll take anything at this point.”
In Cutler’s only game as a visitor to Arizona, he threw for 261 yards in his third NFL start as a rookie in 2006 with the Broncos. Cutler completed 21 of 31 passes with 2 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 101.7 passer rating.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.