The Cardinals' offensive line has started together 28 games in a row.
The streak lives – for now.
The Cardinals' offensive line has started together – all five guys in the same spots – for 24 straight regular-season games, 28 if the postseason is included.
"You are proud seeing the same guys," right guard Deuce Lutui said. "Don't get me wrong, we have competition every year and Coach has done a good job pushing us. But there is pride of having the same guys in there."
Lutui, left guard Reggie Wells, center Lyle Sendlein, right tackle Levi Brown and left tackle Mike Gandy make up the five who never fail to show. They also make up a line coming off arguably their best game of the season, after the Cards scored 41 points, rushed for 182 yards and had five touchdown passes.
The streak is also in jeopardy, with Gandy having sat out the first two days of practice with a pelvic injury. If Gandy cannot play, veteran Jeremy Bridges would be put in at left tackle. Bridges can play anywhere but center, having started at right guard and right tackle in Carolina last season and having come into the NFL as a left tackle.
As far as being ready, "people say you can't turn it on, turn it off?" Bridges said. "Yeah you can. Because you don't want to be embarrassed on Sunday, so yeah, you can turn it on."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt hopes it doesn't come to that. He likes the streak, because he thinks an important part of an offensive line is their cohesion having played together. It's one of the reasons the Seahawks – Sunday's opponent – have struggled, because their line has been shredded with injuries.
"You look at where we are as an offensive line after, what 25 games together as a group, and we still feel we need time together in order to improve," Whisenhunt said.
Offensive line coach Russ Grimm wouldn't say the effort in Chicago was his unit's best. For Grimm, it's about evolution, even with guys who play together week after week.
"I've always said I'd love to be able to sit in the first row (on game day) and have a cold beer and a hot dog and say 'Call what you want,' " Grimm said. "But you have to adjust during a game. You have to be able to create the right matchups. Your job as a coach is to get them in the best position possible to be successful. You can't ask them to be singled on a good pass rusher for 40-some snaps with no chips, no slide protections. You have to be able to change it up a little bit. Part of that is me. Part of that is them. They have to stand up and do it."
The injury report remained unchanged, with Gandy, linebackers Gerald Hayes (back) and Chike Okeafor (back), defensive end Kenny Iwebema (knee) and wide receiver Sean Morey (concussion) sitting out while receiver Steve Breaston (knee) and tight end Ben Patrick (knee) were limited.
Morey is an interesting situation, since he has become an advocate for players treating their concussions properly. He acknowledged he played with the head injury in Chicago after getting hurt against Carolina.
Morey said he didn't regret playing in Chicago. He thought he could play in such a way to protect himself, although he added that may have been "wishful thinking or maybe foolish pride on my part."
Morey said he had been cleared to practice Friday. Whisenhunt was hopeful the others that missed Thursday would be able to do the same.
The Cardinals have become almost unstoppable in the red zone of late, scoring touchdowns on 11 of their last 13 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line. For the season, the Cards have scored touchdowns in the red zone at a 69 percent clip, second in the NFL behind Cincinnati's 69.2.
The Cardinals have been in the red zone 29 times, with 20 touchdowns.
"We've always felt good at what we have done in the red zone and we've been pretty good at it even earlier in the year," Whisenhunt said. "We were just turning the ball over. You can't turn the ball over four times inside the 10 and expect to be successful."
The Cardinals lost a fumble and threw an interception in the red zone against the Colts, lost a fumble near the goal line against Houston and threw an end zone interception against Seattle, costing themselves further red-zone prosperity.
BLACKOUT DEADLINE EXTENDED
The Cardinals, with about 800 tickets remaining, received a 24-hour extension to the blackout deadline Thursday. The Cards need to sell out by 2:15 p.m. Friday for the game to be aired on local television.
Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 09:02 AM