September 23, 2012
Cardinals off to a great start
By Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
It is not surprising that the uber-talented Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans are among the three remaining unbeaten teams through the first three weeks of the National Football League schedule.
Nor is it unexpected that the third member of the 3-0 fraternity comes from the upstart NFC West.
What does come as a mild shock is that it is the division’s Arizona Cardinals, who own that unblemished record, not the much-ballyhooed San Francisco 49ers who came into the weekend topping the NFL power rankings of many of the so-called experts.
This was indeed a tale of two NFC West teams.
It was stunning enough to see the 49ers lay an egg during one of the early games on Sunday afternoon, dropping a 24-13 decision to a 2-1 Minnesota Vikings team that many pre-season pundits picked to finish dead last in the 32-team league in 2012.
But just imagine how off-guard the 49ers and the rest of the football world were caught later in the day when the Cardinals completely dismantled the previously unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles 27-6 in Arizona on Sunday afternoon.
In the process, the Cardinals proved that their upset of the mighty New England Patriots in Foxborough just seven days earlier was no fluke.
Remember, these are the Cardinals we are talking about here, people, a long-time sad-sack franchise that had not started a season 3-0 since 1974. For the record, the previous time the Cards won their first three games, they played their home games in St. Louis and their quarterback was Jim Hart.
Even in the 2008 season, when the Cards marched their way toward their lone Super Bowl appearance, they only finished 9-7.
It was an especially sweet victory for Cards quarterback Kevin Kolb, who threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns against his former team. You couldn’t blame Kolb for seeking revenge against an Eagles team that traded him to Arizona during the summer of 2011 in order to clear the way for Michael Vick to take over as quarterback.
“I’m going to enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but the biggest thing is being 3-0,’’ Kolb said at his post-game news conference.
While Kolb efficiently sliced up the Eagles, the key to victory continues to be a dominant Cards defence that battered Vick all day and kept the Eagles from getting into the end zone.
With games against Miami, St. Louis, Buffalo and Minnesota in their immediate future, is it too far fetched to think the Cards could be 7-0 when they host the rival 49ers on Monday Night Football on Oct. 29? We’ll have to wait and see.
As for the 49ers, they are too busy munching on humble pie from their loss to the Vikings to care about the success the Cards are enjoying.
“You can’t think that the game’s just going to be given to you, especially when you guys are hyping us up and saying we’re that good,” 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman told the press afterward. “Everyone is trying to knock us off. You just have to be prepared for it every single game.”
On Sunday, they weren’t.
But the Cardinals certainly were.
Listening to Vick calmly claim the 2-1 Eagles will “straighten things out,” you wonder if he actually believes the words coming out of his mouth.
Vick was sacked five times and took a beating almost every time he went back to pass behind a porous Philly offensive line. The Eagles also fumbled three times en route to running their turnover number to a whopping 12 through three games.
Given the way the Eagles keep coughing up the ball and failing to protect Vick, it’s amazing they are still above .500 at 2-1.
More Kneel down
Greg Schiano told us so.
A week ago, the Tampa Bay Bucs coach made no apologies when his defenders fired out of their stances during a kneel down by Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was knocked on his butt by the surge while trying to finish off a 41-34 victory in Week 2.
While the normally mild-mannered Manning claimed afterward that “it was a bit of a cheap shot,” Schiano maintained that his team was only following his instructions to play through to the whistle on each and every play.
On Sunday, the Bucs followed through on their head coach’s wishes once again, coming hard at Tony Romo while the Dallas quarterback was doing two consecutive kneel downs to seal the deal on a 16-10 Dallas win.
Unlike the Giants, the Cowboys did not ignite a scuffle in response to the Bucs late-game actions. Either way, it has become quite evident that Schiano practises what he preaches, no matter who out there might not like it.
MUCH TO PONDER
With apologies to Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb, it’s about time the Minnesota Vikings stopped relying on washed-up fossils to lead their team.
Just ask the 2-1 San Francisco 49ers, who learned firsthand just how much promise second-year Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder brings to the table.
With his team given little to no chance against the much-hyped 49ers defence, Ponder threw a pair of touchdowns and ran for another en route to leading his Vikings to a 24-13 stunner over heavily favoured San Francisco on Sunday afternoon in Minnesota. In the process, Ponder did not turn the ball over, a key factor in Minnesota’s success.
A first-round pick by the Vikings in the 2011 draft, Ponder is well aware that this could be a signature victory for a Minneosta franchise that has struggled through some lean years of late.
“It’s big, more for people outside this organization than us,” Ponder told reporters after the game. “We’re already confident in what we can do,”
Ponder finished the game completing 21 of his 35 passes for 198 yards for the Vikings, who now surprisingly find themselves tied for the lead atop the NFC North at 2-1.