In the first half, when the starters were in, the Cardinals looked halfway decent. They only trailed 13-10 going into halftime, then tied the game at 13 before Houston poured on 17 unanswered points.
14 of those 17 points came on two big plays in the third quarter, both resulting in touchdowns: an 80-yard punt return by Jacoby Jones, and a 40-yard TD pass from Sage Rosenfels to Charlie Smith.
It wasn’t necessarily bad play by the Cardinals’ offense that lost the game—the defense was the real culprit. Houston had many big plays, especially in the latter part of the game, and their special teams truly dominated (reminds me of last year when the Bears came to town).
The Cardinals also lost Ahmad Merrit in the third quarter after he dislocated his right ankle. He will likely miss next week’s game.
There’s only so much you can take away from a preseason game, but the Cardinals didn't show much promise. The defense and special teams need work, and the team’s overall endurance, consistency, and tenacity must be solidified.
On the upside, Leinart played exceptionally well, going 7-7 for 70 yards, as did most of the starters such as Boldin, Fitzgerald, and Edge. Even more promising was the performance of prospects like Sean Morey, Shane Boyd, and Merrit.
The running game wasn't spectacular, but at least it was there, as the Cardinals rushed for a total of 141 yards on 26 attempts.
It may be disappointing that the Cardinals lost to the Texans, but they could be turning over a new leaf. It’s never good to go perfect in the preseason (the Cards did that two years ago and had one of their worst seasons to date).
Get the losses out while you can, make the adjustments, and start the season with a bang—when it really counts. The best part of it all is that in three weeks, the slates are wiped clean.