Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles smiles in relief as he is congratulated by wide receivers coach Darryl Drake following the Cardinals' win over San Francisco earlier this season.
Todd Bowles wasn't looking for a contract extension. The Cardinals approached the defensive coordinator with one, and he was "humbled" to accept.
It's a preemptive strike, as much as a team can make with an assistant who figures to get plenty of interest as a head coaching candidate after the season. The extension reportedly is through 2017 and would make Bowles one of the highest paid assistants in the NFL.
Bowles interviewed for the Cleveland and Minnesota coaching openings last offseason, and has maintained he will be careful to take the
right job, if he were to take one. Thursday, he didn't even want to go that far, not with the 7-2 Detroit Lions on deck and a trip to Seattle next week.
"I've said all along we have some tough games ahead," Bowles said. "I can't even think about that kind of stuff now. My job hasn't changed, my focus hasn't changed. We are trying to beat the Lions, and then the Seahawks and we have a couple of games ahead that are tough and that's where my focus is."
That won't stop his players from wondering the same.
"I hope the right job doesn't come open and it can all stay intact," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "But if you ask everybody on defense, 'How long is Bowles going to be here?' everybody says his days are numbered."
That's the business, Powers said, and something every player understands. Nevertheless, he added, it's hard to ignore what Bowles and his defensive assistants have been able to do with the defense both last season and this.
"Our play on the field shows the hard work he's put in," Powers said. "He's a great coach, like we've always said. Great with personnel, great handling guys, and I credit that with how long he played in the league. He knows how to get the best out of guys."
Bowles called the Cardinals "first class" for the new contract, thanking president Michael Bidwill and General Manager Steve Keim in particular. Still, security is only so secure in the NFL, Bowles said.
"You can still get fired in this league," Bowles said. "Like coach (Bruce) Arians said, you can go from the top floor to the bottom floor real fast."
JUMP-STARTING THE RUNNING GAME
The Cardinals gained just 28 yards rushing on 22 carries against the Rams last weekend and now must face the NFL's top-ranked rush defense all while trying to work in backup quarterback Drew Stanton.
Obviously, that must change.
"Last week was crazy," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "I think we averaged 1.3 yards a rush. You get a run with positive yards and you come back and get negative-three or -four. You can't do that. You have to be able to run the ball, especially in the position we are in with the quarterback. Take some of the pressure of him."
The Cardinals should get backup running back Stepfan Taylor on the field after he missed two games with a calf injury.
"It comes down to, physically, they beat us last week," Goodwin said.
Center Lyle Sendlein said he wasn't sure exactly why the run game took a step back and lamented it wasn't the only game this season where the Cards have had trouble.
"As offensive linemen, we take pride in moving someone that doesn't want to be moved," Sendlein said. "Also, we really don't like be in third-and-long situations. That's worst-case scenario for us."
The Lions provide a difficult matchup, but Goodwin feels there will be a bounceback game. He also had the chance to address questions about why the team is not considering putting guard Jonathan Cooper in the lineup – or make any other changes, for that matter.
"We won eight games. Why panic? For what?" Goodwin said. "We lost one game a couple weeks ago. We won last week's game. When it was time to make a play, the quarterback made a play, the O-line protected and we made a play down the field. We have to do better as an offense and start faster."
BUCANNON UPGRADED, BISHOP BACK
Safety Deone Bucannon (quadriceps) was back practicing full Thursday and linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) practiced for the first time – albeit limited – since he got hurt. Defensive tackle Dan Williams (elbow) was also upgraded to full practice.
Defensive end Ed Stinson (toe) was the only Cardinal to sit out practice. Running back Andre Ellington (foot/hip), Taylor (calf) and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (knee) were still limited.
For the Lions, running back Reggie Bush (ankle), defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee), guard Larry Warford (knee) and safety James Ihedigbo (back) all sat out. Long snapper Don Muhlbach (ankle) and defensive end Devin Taylor (knee) were limited.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) was upgraded to full practice.
CARDINALS-LIONS A SELLOUT
The game Sunday is officially a sellout, the 91st straight sellout for the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium (in 91 games.) The game will be aired locally on Fox. The broadcast team is again Chris Myers and Ronde Barber.
CARDINALS TO HOST FOOD DRIVE ON SUNDAY
The Cardinals will hold their annual holiday food drive before Sunday's game against the Lions. Volunteers from St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance and Cardinals cheerleaders will be stationed at collection points outside all five stadium gates and the Great Lawn. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or money to donate.
Images of past matchups between the Cardinals and Lions