Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles looks on the field during last Sunday's game against Washington.
Todd Bowles stood there, back to his usual quiet self, explaining why he erupted with such emotion at halftime of last Sunday's win against Washington – a move that was generally out of character for the defensive coordinator, all his players said.
"You coach football and give your team what they need," Bowles said. "This isn't gardening. Sometimes, coaches have to get loud."
The Cardinals' defense responded, of course, forcing four second-half turnovers and giving up only a late touchdown against the Redskins. The outburst, cornerback Jerraud Powers said, only lasted a couple of minutes.
"B.A. and the offensive guys – you know how offensive people are, they're all divas, so they just stick to their little, 'Yeah, we've got to do
this, got to do that,' " Powers deadpanned. "You go in the defensive room and there's boards being broken, stuff being thrown around a little bit. We went in there and didn't even go over not one play. We all thought it was us. It wasn't Washington. It was just the way we were playing – lackadaisical, just flat. The little speech we had by Bowles, it woke us up a little bit."
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said a whiteboard in the defensive room at University of Phoenix Stadium died "a noble death" during Bowles' comments.
Bowles joked he wasn't going to reenact the moment for the media – "I'm a shower singer. All that stuff is private," he said – but made it clear why he jumped down his unit's collective throat. At one point, he was asked about the message he delivered, and Bowles was quick to correct the wording.
"It wasn't a message, we're speaking the truth here," Bowles said. "We need to get off our ass and start playing."
The Cardinals have managed to sidestep their boatload of injuries to hang in there defensively thus far. Only once have the Cards allowed more than 20 points in a game – their one loss – and the unit is third in the NFL in rush defense. The pass defense is currently last in yards allowed, thanks to the clinic Peyton Manning put on in Denver.
Bowles knows his group can improve, although he also knows he's having to scheme up in places to account for shortcomings. The Cards are dealing with enough that having the defense play "flat," like the first half in Washington, can't be allowed.
"I just think he wanted to put that seed in everybody's brain, like, 'Look, there's another side to me as well that you don't want to see,'" Powers said. "Now that we know that, hopefully we can come out with that type of energy from the second half in the first half of this next game."
THE EGGS OF OAKLAND, AND VISITING THE BLACK HOLE
The Cardinals are embracing their trip to Oakland and the "Black Hole" of rowdy fans. Arians called Raiders fans "a unique breed." After he
was asked what he would do if the fans threw eggs at the Cardinals' team bus – as they did at the Chargers bus last week – Arians smiled.
"Hopefully we've got windows on that sumbitch," the coach said.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly played nine years in Oakland, saying he loved his time there. But the veterans – and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner -- made sure the young defensive linemen understood what they will go through on the trip.
"It's not personal," Kelly said. "They treat everyone the same way. As Buck told the young guys, 'You might get spit on, might get something thrown at you, just phase it all out.' Like I told a lot of people, fans don't play the football game. They can whoop and holler all they want, but they ain't coming on the field."
PALMER PRACTICES FULL FOR FIRST TIME
Quarterback Carson Palmer (shoulder) and cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle), both of whom were always planning to start Sunday, were upgraded to full practice Friday.
"He got better and better each day," Arians said of Palmer. "He's not 100 percent yet, but he's getting better."
The only players listed as questionable are tight end John Carlson (knee) – whom Arians said was close to 100 percent – along with defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf), defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu (illness) and linebacker Glenn Carson (ankle). All are expected to be available.
Defensive end Calais Campbell (knee) and tight end Troy Niklas (ankle), neither of whom practiced all week, are out.
For the Raiders, wide receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring) and cornerback Keith McGill (groin) are out. Tackle Kahlif Barnes (quad), fullback Marcel Reece (quad) and defensive tackle Justin Tuck (knee), all of whom were upgraded to limited Friday, are questionable.
WORKING ON THE RUN GAME
The Cardinals are averaging only 85.6 rushing yards a game, 30th in the NFL. Both starting running back Andre Ellington and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin believe the run game is close to becoming much more effective. But until it is, it isn't.
There is a chance this weekend for the Cards to look better, going against a Raiders' defense allowing about 150 yards rushing per game.
Goodwin was asked if the Cardinals would benefit from a bigger back, the kind lost when Jonathan Dwyer went on the season-ending reserve list. Goodwin said that wasn't the reason.
"A hole is a hole. It doesn't matter if it's a back as big as me, or as little as you are," Goodwin said. "Being 30th in the NFL in rushing is not my cup of tea."