Cardinals Starters Pack It In: Beanie, Leinart Lead Furious Comeback
"Oh, my God! The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of preseason football!"
Which, let's be honest, is kind of like kissing your sister.
Man, where do we begin? Remember last week when I said it wasn't time to panic in regards to the Cardinals first string offense not getting into the end zone the first two games? I meant it. And I had guys like Kurt Warner, coach Whisenhunt, and others backing up my suggestion throughout the week.
But as sure as I meant it when I said that, I mean it now that this is a FINE time to officially be concerned! And not just with Warner and company either.
It was a tale of two games.
The first string D, which has been rock solid throughout the first two games, completely imploded in the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. By the time CB Dominick Rodgers-Cromartie got done laughing after getting burned time after time, and looked up a the clock at halftime, Green Bay has amassed a 38-10 cushion.
That's right! 38! Count 'em, t-h-i-r-t-y e-i-g-h-t points in just 30 minutes of play!
It wasn't just the defensive ineptitude that led to those 38 points. Penalties and offensive ineptitude played a major role as well. Warner fumbled twice, losing both with one being returned for a touchdown. He threw an interception late in the 2nd quarter that pretty much summed up the Cards misfortunes at least during the first half.
Warner's best drive of the night was the showcase of first rounder RB Beanie Wells. Wells' first NFL carry netted 11 yards around the right side. The kid has speed and burst! Then a churning run up the gut for another five yards. The kids have guts and strength!
(We interrupt this drive/stellar debut to bring you two straight penalties, and a forced fumble by the ageless Charles Woodson, recovered and returned for a TD. We now take you back to your regularly scheduled drive).
Warner started moving the ball, hitting Larry Fitzgerald twice for first downs, and a sweet seam pass to Jeremy Urban down the middle for 27 yards. The drive culminated in a beautiful 20 yard run by Beanie who patiently waited for blocks to develop. Then after a couple of nice cuts, the Cardinals No. 1 offense scored its first touchdown of the 2009 season!
The crowd went WILD not so much for the TD itself, but for the way Wells and some great blocking delivered it!
First half bright spots include the hope for an improved running game this year. Starter Tim Hightower averaged over six yards per carry (6/38) in his short stint, and Beanie matched and bettered that with 46 yards on 7 carries, with 2 TDs (his second coming early in the 3rd quarter).
The celebration didn't last long however. Defensively, The Cards made Aaron Rodgers look like 1995 Brett Favre. He carved up the Cardinals secondary like a turkey breast, and picked on CB Dominic Rogers-Cromartie relentlessly in what I felt was DRC's worst game in a Cardinals uniform.
Following Beanie's touchdown, Rodgers quieted the crowd on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, hitting Jordy Nelson for 76 yards over (guess who) and yet another Packers score. Cameras showed DRC laughing following the play.
He set the tone for his miserable night when, on the games 2nd play from scrimmage, he made a beautiful play by keeping up with and then stepping in front of Packers WR Donald Driver for what turned out to be a broken up pass.
I thought this should have been a pick! Yes, he broke up the pass, but to me you HAVE TO make that interception! It was right in both hands!
Then, DRC, apparently satisfied with stopping a completion and/or covering for a dropped pick, walked away with a mighty stomp, and slipped in the classless 'cut throat' gesture. Others say they didn't see it, that it was more across his chest (which it was... kind of), but that's what it looked like to me.
Either way, bad Karma. Act like you've broken up a pass before.
The Cardinals, on both sides of the ball, committed constant penalties. Sometimes two or three on a single play! But they don't show up in the stats because they were often on plays that, because of a better outcome despite the penalties, they were declined. Turnovers on offense gave GB opportunities, and lousy defense cashed them in.
The NFC Champs, the new conquering heroes of Valley sports, were gently booed off the field at the half, and justifiably so.
But boy oh boy did things certainly got interesting in the second half.
Matt Leinart, Warner's backup (That's right, I said it), led a furious 4th quarter rally. This had the few thousand that stuck around justifiably believing that the Cards could somehow pull themselves from a four TD deficit, and actually pull out a win!
Leinart started the second half with a nice 14 play, 80 yard drive that ended in Beanies second touchdown. That despite two penalties against TE Steven Spach, including a holding that brought back a 10—yard Beanie run up the gut.
Following a three and out, Leinart started moving the ball again. Starting at their own 15, Leinart moved the ball and hit Early Ducett for 38 yards over the middle to the GB 38. Yet another false start penalty later (Oliver Ross.. and yes, he's still on the roster), Leinart dropped back and tried to hit TE Leonard Pope in the end zone, but was picked at the goalline and brought back to the Packers 29.
But the Cards backup defense dropped a second straight three and out on Packers backup QB Brian Brohm. An undaunted Leinart took the reins again with just over a minute to go in the 3rd quarter, and the Cards still down 38-17.
Leinart put together an 11 play drive that really has to give fans encouragement as far as offensive depth. Leinart has been very good throughout the preseason, and last week's hyphenated hero, LaRob Stephens-Howling and 2nd year RB Chris Vincent contributed, as well as Doucet all contributed.
Doucet (5/93 yds/1 TD) scored on what was, at this point, a good night for a former 3rd round pick that's trying to stick with the team. His earlier personal foul didn't help, but that wasn't the only thing that soured an otherwise sweet night for him.
Brohm finally got a drive going that could have all but killed the comeback. A missed field goal with about four minutes left gave Leinart and company enough time to pull off the highly improbable.
Leinart took the team on a quick 11 play TD drive that included completions of 12, 18, 13, and 20 yards to set up a little 1 yard TD pass to 136th string rookie WR Onrea Jones.
With just 1:35 on the clock, Neil Rackers was set to drop the expected onside kick. Packers guarded each sideline, but Rackers called his own number. He dribbled the ball straight into unoccupied territory between the Packers hands team, and collected it himself, giving Leinart yet another chance.
Six plays and 57 seconds later, Leinart hit RB Jason Wright for an 11 yard TD pass that pulled the cardinals within one point. This following what I thought was a touchdown pass to Lance Long that was looked at in the booth, but called out of bounds. I still disagree with the call.
But anyway, it was Leinart's third touchdown pass of the quarter, and put the Cardinals a point after away from tying it up! However, being preseason, coach Whiz decided to just go for the win. I would have too, maybe even during the regular season, too. What with the momentum decidedly on the Cardinals side, and playing at home.
But Early Doucet, who I promised you earlier wasn't done screwing up, flat dropped a perfect pass in the corner of the end zone with like 10 seconds left, and that was the ballgame.
So, there you have it. I'll do a Bird Droppings in a little bit later, but this will have to do for now.
Preseason games mean diddly squat to me as far as wins and losses. The Cards need to get serious soon if they want to get a decent start to the season. With the opener against San Francisco just a couple weeks away, they could get in trouble early if they don't take care of business from opening night.
And while preseason games mean nothing for to me on the scoreboard or in the won/loss column, this was the most exciting preseason game I've ever seen.
Take from that (and the story above) what you will.
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