Cardinals Put on Clinic in Jacksonville, Win 31-17
By Scott Allen
For the first three quarters on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals offense was in cruise control, moving the ball up and down the field with relative ease. Kurt Warner looked sharp, the receivers looked healthy, even if not 100% so, and the running game looked decent, despite a couple of Beanie Wells fumbles as the Cardinals defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-17 in a game where the score really did a disservice to just how close this game was not.
Warner set a NFL single game record with a completion percentage of 92.3%, completing his first 15 passes, tying the franchise record set previously by Jake Plummer. Vinny Testaverde held the previous pass completion percentage record, set in 1993. Warner ended up going 24-26 for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 131.
It was a pleasant sight to see receivers Steve Breaston and Anquan Boldin in the starting lineup today. Both had significant contributions, though neither scored. Even if they didn’t feel 100%, they sure didn’t show it. Neither of them appeared slowed by the injuries that have kept their statuses up in the air over the past week.
Once again running back Wells looked good. His explosiveness was quite apparent in the first half. His problem was he couldn’t hang onto the ball. Fox Sports Analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Green said it correctly, it doesn’t matter how explosive or quick he is, if he can’t hang onto the ball, he won’t be playing. How true. After a couple of great runs, he only touched the ball a couple of times more after his second fumble. He has proven he can run the ball and find the holes, but I second that emotion. If he can’t hang onto the ball, who cares how quick he is. Tim Hightower will be seeing a lot more time if it continues.
The Cardinals took a large 31-3 lead late in the third quarter and looked to be headed to the easiest road win this franchise has seen since moving to Phoenix 21 years ago. However, coach Ken Whisenhunt called off the dogs and brought in quarterback Matt Leinart and other reserves on both sides of the ball.
I understand the move, not wanting to risk injury, especially to Warner, however I thought at the time and still do now, it was a little premature to make that move. I would have waited at least a few minutes into the fourth, maybe put one more drive together. Leinart didn’t play too bad, however, the defense got lax, and the Cardinals couldn’t move the ball as smoothly. Jacksonville managed to get two fourth quarter scores and could have had more if not for some dropped passes. The Jags got to within 31-17 but the Cards managed somehow to pull it out. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted David Garrard with 2:25 to play and that sealed the deal.
Overall, for three quarters, this was clearly the best the Cards looked since last preseason. The fourth quarter I give them a mulligan because of the game situation. They will need to bring it for all four quarters next week though at home as they face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football on NBC. Can’t wait!