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Arizona Sportspage

November 24, 2009 1:20 AM

Cardinals Can Set Sights On Higher Seed

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The Arizona Cardinals have all but wrapped up the NFC West division title.

The race is finished and they can now move on to other things. Arizona, having won its fifth straight road game, 21-13 Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, opened a three-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.

The lead is big enough to where the Cardinals can now worry about bigger and better things, like securing a first-round bye in the playoffs.

For Arizona to lose their lead in the NFC West, it would take a perfect storm. The Cardinals (7-3) would have to lose three of their final six games. The 49ers, on the other hand, may just have to run the table.

No team has been more perplexing than the Cardinals this season. They're 5-0 on the road and 2-3 on the road. Arizona has defeated the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears on the road, while also losing to the Carolina Panthers at home.

No team has been more confusing, but no team has been more dangerous. Arizona is emerging as one of the darkhorse teams in the NFC.

With a strong grasp on their division, the Cardinals can now concentrate on trying to secure a home playoff game, or two, in January.

And it's possible.

Continue to Cardinals Can Set Sights On Higher Seed

November 12, 2009 10:51 AM

Sullivan's time coming to an end?

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Though it's not definitively certain, the Danny Sullivan era--as short as it has been--could be over.

The Arizona State University Sun Devils football team, with two games remaining in the season, are essentially on life support. The Sun Devils are 2-4 in Pac-10 Conference play and 4-5 overall. In order to qualify for a bowl game, ASU has to at least win two of its final three games of the year, two road games against Oregon and UCLA and a season finale at home against the Arizona Wildcats. ASU could win all three, but it's not likely. Oregon is always a tough team to play and the Wildcats are playing well with a legitimate shot at winning the conference. The Sun Devils may have an opportunity to defeat the Bruins, but it's a road game.

So the long road, otherwise known as the regular season leads us to this: The Sun Devils are disappointed, left with little to grasp onto and a change has to be made.

And it looks like head coach Dennis Erickson, even by default, is leaning toward making a big one. In a press conference Wednesday, Erickson said true freshman Brock Osweiler would 'probably' start Saturday on the road against the Oregon Ducks.

"Right now we'll probably start Brock," Erickson said. "I've got to see what happens tomorrow or (sophomore) Samson (Szakacsy) might be the second one. He's the one who's been getting the reps. We'll see how Danny's bicep is. It's really bothering him, he couldn't throw today. So with two days of practice, we'll see how Danny is tomorrow but right now I'd say we'll probably start Brock and let her fly in as bad an environment as you'll ever get."

Sullivan injured his bicep in last week's 14-9 loss to the USC Trojans.

If Sullivan's sore bicep doesn't feel better and he can't start Saturday, his time as the starting quarterback could be finished. And he probably never really had a fair shot the entire season.

Continue to Sullivan's time coming to an end?

November 12, 2009 3:03 AM

Small moves come up big for Suns

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The Phoenix Suns are the NBA's best story over the first eight games of the season

The Suns, after battling identity problems and missing the playoffs last season, are off to an 8-1 start to the season. Phoenix has the league's best record and has returned to the fast-paced, explosive style of basketball which helped it become one of the NBA's best teams from 2005-2007. Phoenix already has its signature wins. A road victory over the Boston Celtics (their lone loss this season) and a win at home over the New Orleans Hornets. Phoenix's next challenge will come in the form of the Los Angeles Lakers at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Staples Center.

Most of the summer was filled with blockbuster trades and  free agent signings. Dallas acquired Shawn Marion. Orlando traded for Vince Carter. Ron Artest signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon claimed big deals with the Detroit Pistons. Allen Iverson settled for the Memphis Grizzlies. The San Antonio Spurs traded for Richard Jefferson and the Toronto Raptors stole (literally) Helo Turkoglu from the Portland Trailblazers in a free-agent deal.

The Suns?

Continue to Small moves come up big for Suns

October 29, 2009 4:49 PM

Schedule Gives Cardinals A Chance To Finish Strong

Not sure if anyone would have thought of this three weeks ago, but the Arizona Cardinals, with 10 weeks remaining in the season, can think big.



After winning three straight games, and claiming sole possession of first place in the NFC West division, the Cardinals have a good chance of finishing the season strong and claiming a first-round bye or home field advantage.



In Week Seven, Arizona claimed a 24-17 victory over the New York Giants on the road. It may be the team's biggest win of the season. It has set the table for Arizona to make a run through the remaining games of its schedule.



Arizona's next 10 opponents have a combined record of 21-42.



It's that bad. And it's that good for the Cardinals.



Over the next 10 weeks, Arizona will face two teams which are currently winless (St. Louis twice and Tennessee on the road). The Cardinals will face three more teams with two wins or less (The Carolina Panthers this week, Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions).



Two of the Cardinals' three most difficult games will be at home. The Minnesota Vikings (6-1) travel to University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 13 and the Green Bay Packers visit for the season finale. Arizona do face the San Francisco 49ers on the road in Week 14.



A schedule which once looked rugged at the beginning of the year doesn't look so intimidating anymore. It's working out nicely for the Cardinals. Last week's win proved a lot. Once questioned about whether they were capable of beating a quality opponent, the Cardinals proved they're able. The defense forced Eli Manning into three interceptions, including a game-clinching steal by Antrelle Rolle. The offense played with poise and the running game was solid. The Cardinals, who historically haven't played well on the east coast, looked focused and unfazed by a hostile atmosphere.



Six weeks into the season,the Cardinals have found themselves with two things that can help them claim a bye: Confidence and a road not so difficult to travel. You can't beat that.

October 21, 2009 8:07 AM

Can Diamondbacks Recapture Their Winning Ways?

Finishing a season 70-92 and 25 games out of first place in the National League West division is miles away from the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2001 World Series Championship form. It's steps behind their playoff teams of 1999, 2002 and 2007.



Making the playoffs--and eventually winning the whole thing--is the reason why teams play the games. And of course, it's the Diamondbacks' ultimate goal.



But after such an abysmal year, how do they return to form?


The Arizona Republic

had an interesting article on just how the Diamondbacks can once again become a contender. It was a four-step plan with began with picking up pitcher Brandon Webb's 2010 option.





Webb missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. Arizona has a dilemma. The Diamondbacks, this offseason, would have to pick up Webb's option on blind faith. It's worth the risk. If healthy, Webb can certainly provide Arizona with a reward. He's 87-62 in his career with a 3.27 earned run average and a Cy Young Award under this belt. Webb and Dan Harren can form one of the National League's top pitching duos.



Pitching is a need, as The Republic suggests the Diamondbacks should also look for another quality starting pitcher. Another strong arm in the rotation would definitely, once again, make the Diamondbacks contenders once more. Brad Penny and Jason Marquis, two solid starters, will be free agents this offseason. Or perhaps the Diamondbacks would want to take a chance on two former ace pitchers who are looking to revive their careers in Bartolo Colon and Mike Hampton



Offensively, the Diamondbacks may need another bat. Arizona does have ist cornerstone run producer in Mark Reynolds, who had one of the best seasons in Diamondbacks history, hitting 44 homers and driving in 102 runs. Outfielder Justin Upton also gave the Diamondbacks some pop in the lineup with 26 homers, 86 runs batted in and a .300 batting average. Another strong bat, say an Xavier Nady or Matt Holliday, would form a formidable offensive attack.



The Diamondbacks are starting from rock bottom. Literally. But take a look at the latest trend in Major League baseball of offseason or midseason splashes which result in postseason success. The New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers.

Add the Diamondbacks to the list?

Let's wait and see. Stay tuned.

October 21, 2009 12:07 AM

Cardinals Are In A Position To Win Again

The ups and downs. The lefts and rights. Seat belts strapped on tight.



The Arizona Cardinals are six weeks into the season and it has already been a wild ride.



After beginning the year 1-2, the Cardinals were on the verge of losing their season before their defense saved the day in a Week Five win over the Houston Texans



Three weeks ago, the Cardinals were wondering what was wrong. A team which came into the season totally sure of itself was now having confidence issues.



After their 27-3 win over the Seattle Seahawks Oct. 19 at Qwest Field, the Cardinals have a reason to feel good again. Their back from the dead and doubt can now be replaced with excitement. Six weeks into the season, the year is basically new. Arizona's found itself where it started, tied at the top of the division. Arizona, with two wins in a row, and a San Francisco 49ers loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, are in a two-way tie for first place. They're back in control of their own destiny.



Nothing has changed for the Cardinals. The passing game has been consistent. Kurt Warner is still setting passing records. Larry Fitzgerald is till being guarded by the entire defense. The running game hasn't had a chance to gain any steam. The defense has shown a knack for making the big play and Aquan Boldin is injured--again. Go ahead. Que in the laugh machine and rim shot.



The Cardinals are the same team that started the season. And then again, they aren't. Winning streaks, however short or long they may be, can turn seasons around and give a football team a new face.



Arizona has a new look, a new feel and a chance again. They can now control their own destiny in the NFC West. Home field advantage or a first-round bye is still within striking distance thoughts of a return to the Super Bowl is still a realistic thing. The scary part about this team, about this season, is that Arizona has placed itself in this position with room to improve.



Maybe Arizona is what it is. Or then again, maybe we haven't seen the best of the Cardinals yet.



Either way, the Cardinals are still in a position to do some special things.

October 15, 2009 3:49 PM

Padres Change Colors For A Night

The Marcos de Niza High School football team, in Tempe, played for more than just one cause Oct. 9 at home.

Marcos de Niza sported a different look in a 42-0 win over Gilbert Perry: Pink jerseys.



The team wore pink jerseys to support breast cancer awareness. Others were on hand to help the Padres support the cause. The Arizona State University cheer line was in attendance along with Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart.



Most of the 5,000 fans in the stands also wore pink.




The idea was brought up by Lindsay Griffith, Marcos de Niza athletic director Mike Griffith's daughter. After watching the Arizona State University women's basketball team play in pink uniforms, supporting breast cancer awareness, Lindsay asked whether the Padres could do the same thing.



Mike's initial answer?: Absolutely not.



Well, you know how fathers are with their daughters (or husbands with their wives for that matter). Mike couldn't say no and nine months later, the Padres were winning in pink---and Mike couldn't have been any happier.



"It gave me goose bumps to see all those people come together like that," Mike told Rivals.com.



The game was a success and Mike said he owes it all to his daughter.



"When you have a good idea and you involve the right people, it just becomes more than you ever dreamed it would,'' he said.

October 15, 2009 7:23 AM

NOTEBOOK: Cardinals Have Questions

To begin the week, Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt answered questions by questioning himself.

He criticized himself for the Cardinals' inability to establish a running game in their 28-21 win over the Houston Texans in October 11 at University of Phoenix Stadium.



The Cardinals rushed for 44 yards on 16 attempts. Arizona saw an eight-man front from Houston for most of the game. The Cardinals,2-2, will probably see it again when they face the Seattle Seahawks Oct. 18 on the road. Whisenhunt said the front discouraged the Cardinals from sticking with designed running plays. Instead, Arizona had to check off into pass plays, which after time, made its offensive attack predictable.



"There were at least a half dozen plays that would have been huge plays had we connected on (passes), but that's probably the biggest regret I have, not calling more run plays that were just runs without checks," Whisenhunt told The Arizona Republic.



Whisenhunt also said the Cardinals could have used running back Beanie Wells more. He rushed for 24 yards on just seven carries. On the season, Wells has 23 carries for 85 yards and zero touchdowns.



"He'll continue to get more carries than he did (Sunday) because he really looked good in a couple situations," he said. "He was close to breaking out two times in that game for bigger runs. Obviously, if that dumb guy that's calling plays will call more runs, then Beanie will get more opportunities for carries."



Cardinals' Indentity: There's questions all around as the Cardinals head into a NFC West showdown with Seattle in Week 6. The Arizona Republic's Dan Bickley wrote that the Cardinals don't have an answer for what is their true identity.



Bickley suggested the offense needed balance. For the season, Arizona has run the football 73 times and passed 318 times.



Secondary hoping to improve: The Arizona Cardinals' defense is wondering why it can be at the top and bottom at the same time. The Cardinals' defense is ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense, surrendering just 71 yards per a game. However, Arizona's pass defense ranks 32nd in the league, giving up 303 yards per a game in the air. Cardinals defensive coordinator Bill Davis said focus and a lack of a pass rush has been the Cardinals' problem in pass defense.






Teams are throwing the football 63 percent of the time against the Cardinals.



"In a couple of these games, we're getting two and three-touchdown leads, and the second half turns into all pass," Davis told The Arizona Republic. "You get more shots on goal. We've got to do a better job of getting ourselves off the field."

October 12, 2009 7:53 AM

Cardinals Defense Saved It All

For a moment it looked like it was all going down the drain.

The Arizona Cardinals' season that is.



For a moment it looked as though the Cardinals stood a chance of falling to 1-3 on the season and placing themselves in a position to where they would have to fight the middle of the pack just to get into the pack of potential playoff contenders.



But it didn't happen and you can thank the Cardinals' defense for that.



After watching a 21-0 lead transform into a 21-all tie against the Houston Texans Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made one of the biggest plays of the season when he jumped a Matt Schaub pass, intercepted it and returned it 49 yards for the go ahead touchdown and a 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter.



In fact the Cardinals have Schaub to thank, too. He made a forgettable read on the pass and later in the fourth quarter, facing a third and goal from the 1-yard line, Schaub overthrew a wide open receiver for a potential game-tying touchdown, setting up a fourth-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line.



The Texans were stuffed on a running play to end the game. The Cardinals' defense held on an epic goal-line stand that saved Arizona's season.



"That's a good (Texas) offense," Cardinals tackle Darnell Dockett told The Arizona Republic. "They got one of the best receivers in the game, one of the best young running backs and one of the most underrated quarterbacks. But when I looked at my guys, I looked in their eyes and I knew they weren't crossing that goal line. "That's what great defenses do. The stats may not say it, but in the end, we created a way to win."


In a critical moment, the Texans didn't cross the goal line. Houston didn't even cross the line of scrimmage as the Cardinals' defense, twice, got penetration and denied the Texans the yard they needed to score a touchdown.

Now anger turns into relief and frustration becomes hope.

For one quarter--the most important one--the Arizona defense showed flashes of brilliance and a flare for the dramatic. On a day where the Cardinals' offense struggled late, the defense was able to carry the team the rest of the way. These games can give a team confidence. Moments like these can create momentum. The season could have been finished before it really ever began. But the defense answered the call and now everything is still within reach.

October 11, 2009 8:57 AM

Mercury Rise To The Top

On Friday, the Phoenix Mercury secured a WNBA championship by defeating the Indiana Fever 94-86, in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals.

Diana Taurasi scored 26 points in the deciding game and won Finals MVP honors. The Mercury overcame a 2-1 series deficit to claim the title.

It's the Mercury's second WNBA title in three seasons. It's an impressive feat. But is it the most impressive feat? Does this make the Mercury the best sports dynasty in Arizona history?

Yes and yes.

Several professional sports franchises in Arizona have won on a consistent basis. The Phoenix Suns won 50-plus games four seasons in a row (2004-2008). The Arizona Cardinals advanced to the Super Bowl last season. The Arizona Diamondbacks, in 11 seasons, have four playoff appearances, including a World Series title in 2001. Every sports franchise in the state has enjoyed some type of success, but not every franchise has enjoyed the Mercury's level of success. The Mercury has been dominant, leading the league is scoring four seasons in a row. They are the third to lead the league in scoring, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage, and the first to do it twice.

Since the the birth of the franchise in 1997, the Mercury has claimed three conference titles in addition to their two championships. They've had winning records in four of the last six seasons. Need star power? The Suns have Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. The Arizona Cardinals have Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. The Diamondbacks have Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson and Kurt Schilling. Outside of Gonzalez, Schilling and Johnson, no other player has meant more or made a bigger impact than Taurasi. She has averaged 19 points or more for five seasons in a row. She has a Finals MVP award and a regular season Most Valuable Player award. Taurasi's return, among others, is one of the reasons why the Mercury are thinking repeat.

They have a flare for the dramatic, too. So that also makes them compelling. Facing elimination, down 2-1 in the series, the Mercury were able to win two consecutive games filled with pressure and adversity. Along with the Diamondbacks' World Series run, it was one of the best championship comebacks in recent memory.

It's not difficult to see. Right now the Mercury are the most dominant and successful sports franchise in Arizona history--and it's not even close.

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