Some Christmas prose. With annotations. Hoping my wife the English teacher will reward me with an A:
'Twas the day before Christmas, and two before the game,
When the Cards had a chance to mark "playoffs" by their name;
The news that Gardeck was lost for the year hit hard, (1)
His special teams and pass rush held in such high regard;
Reddick's hot streak now crucial to keep going, (2)
For Vance Joseph's defense to keep showing;
Kittle's return puts something new on Simmons' plate, (3)
The rookie has truly become the Swiss Army knife of late;
Of course the Cardinals still need the offense to click,
That starts with Kyler throwing and running and executing quick; (4)
D-Hop's been red hot making catches, so it shouldn't distract us,
When he's not out there every day at practice; (5)
Fitz, in perhaps his final home game, seeks a second score, (6)
Touchdowns still matter -- while one's good, he's looking for more;
Chase and Drake must power the run to provide a lift,
Did you see the paintings the O-line got as Kyler's gift? (7)
The road team 49ers have spent more than a month in Arizona, (8)
Just one more reason 2020 has stolen the NFC Champ's persona;
The game, although on local TV, is being shown on Amazon Prime, (9)
A taste of the NFL's future as streaming video cements its place in time;
One final home game in this dreadful year 2020,
Desperately needing victory despite a stadium near-empty;
This is the present the Cardinals must give to themselves,
A victory over a hurting NFC West rival;
Perhaps hearing Humphries yell at the end of the night,
"Merry Christmas to us being playoff-bound, it only seems right." (10)
- The loss of Dennis Gardeck is painful. It goes beyond the sacks, of course. The man's energy meant something to this team. And for all his strides as a pass rusher, let's not forget he was key on special teams. The Cards struggled in the New England on special teams in part because another key special teamer was down (Trent Sherfield). The hole left by Gardeck's absence is going to show up at some point.
- With Gardeck down, Haason Reddick is even more important in getting to the passer. Reddick is dealing with a sore shoulder, and while I expect him to play through it, they need his pressure, especially in a game where the Cards are facing a third-string QB and a ravaged offensive line.
- Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle will play, although he might not be full time given his long-term injury. I'm guessing it won't only be Isaiah Simmons on him -- Budda Baker might take a turn -- but Simmons is a much better player that saw Kittle in the season opener. Speaking of that, Simmons might get more reps as an edge rusher with Gardeck down.
- Kyler Murray has been throwing the ball well. I'm curious to see how the Niners defend him after he ripped them up on scrambles back in Week 1. (He had a 100-yard rushing day until kneeldowns cost him triple digits, and Murray was a little salty about that.)
- The DeAndre Hopkins/how much he practices story has been fun the last couple of days. Fitz had fun with it. Heck, D-Hop had fun with it with the way he talked about it (although make no mistake, I'm sure Hopkins is a little irritated too.) I understand those who have made points about why he should be around and working. They are valid. But if this is how he operates, and Kliff is OK with it and, oh, he has some of the best production in the league, then it shouldn't matter.
- Normally Larry Fitzgerald doesn't talk much about individual accomplishments. But I did ask him if that TD last week was any more meaningful, given that he didn't have one. "I wanted to get in there. It's definitely been the longest drought. I've never gone this many games without getting into the end zone. It's been a unique year personally, on all fronts. I deal with it as I need to, but it was nice to get in there and have it happen in a meaningful point in the game."
- After the scooters, Kyler Murray continues to raise his Christmas game for the guys that protect him.
- 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on having to stay in Arizona because Santa Clara county won't allow contact sports because of COVID: "Arizona has been great to us. The hotel has been great, the people have been great, the Cardinals have been great, just how quickly we had to come here and how out of the way they went to help us. ... Everyone has been great. We wish we were at our home, that's for sure."
- I know some people are upset about the game being streamed on Amazon Prime. This is a league decision, not the team's. That's No. 1. If you are in one of the markets for the Cards or Niners, it'll be on a TV broadcast. If you need to stream, you can get a free 30-day, cancel-anytime Prime subscription. But more games are going to end up on streaming services in the future.
- The Cards win and the Bears lose to the Jaguars, the Cardinals are in the playoffs.
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas/happy holidays. See you Saturday.