These are the hardest to do—these "tale of two halves"-type games, when the Cardinals dominate on both sides of the ball for the first 30 minutes and then implode on both sides of the ball in the final 30 minutes.
So, you see my quandary.
As any longtime Cardinals fan knows, this has always been the case with the Big Red. Sure, they more often than not were on the losing end, but they’ve always shown enough to keep us in their corner, even as the losses pile up.
But this season has been about as "tale of two teams" as a team can get. Remember the first quarter complete shutdown against Payton Manning and the Colts? Then the second quarter?
How about keeping the 49ers offense completely at bay throughout the game...until they HAD to stop them to preserve a win.
Oh, and the FUMBLES! Can SOMEONE explain the red zone fumbles? EVERY FREAKIN WEEK?!?!?
Anyway, as you can guess, most grades will be about average C’s. Because of the win, most will lean to B’s.
If QB Kurt Warner throws for over 300 yards (the 50th time in the storied career to do it; he also joins Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to throw for over 13,000 yards with two different teams), throws two TD passes, and doesn’t throw a pick...and the Cards win, then it's a solid, above average performance.
That said, the offense disappeared in the second half—completely—and part of that was due to Warner stifling the running game by changing the call at the line of scrimmage.
Few in the league can read a defense as quickly and correctly as Kurt Warner. That's why he has the latitude to opt out of the coach's call as often as he does. But Warner’s love for throwing the ball can overtake his game management at times.
This was the case Sunday when Kurt singlehandedly muzzled any rushing attack, even sitting on a 21-point halftime lead.
That will change this week as head coach Ken Whisenhunt will tighten those "opt out" reins a little bit
*NOTE: The minus is added solely for Anquan Boldin's fumble at the two-yard line in the first quarter.
You can't grade very well when you only run the ball one out of every four of your offensive plays.
But you can’t completely fail, in spite of gaining just 44 yards on the ground, when you don’t get a chance to take the test.
Here we go again! In the first half, the Cards' passing D put pressure on Matt Schaub and didn’t allow much of anything. In the second half, the pressure dwindled while the completions increased, and the confidence on both sides mirrored that.
But hand it to CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—the Cards' current defensive POW (Player of the Week) read a late thrown, ill-advised pass by Schaub and eyeballed it into his cast-wrapped fractured finger(s), before taking it to the house for what turned out to be a game-winning pick-six with just over two minutes to play.
The Texans offense was basically walking all over the Cards' bloodied defense at the time. Cromartie stopped the bleeding.
That said, he would have looked awfully silly (as well as not be the current NFC DPOW) had his showboating strut into the end zone NOT been topped off by...
...yet another final play goal-line stand to win the game.
The Texans didn’t mount much of a running game because they were down from the opening drive, and down further and further as the first half progressed.
But the defense can only do what they can, regardless of how often or seldom the opposition chooses to run the ball. In that regard, they did a good job stuffing the run when it counted.
It couldn't have counted more than when they kept Houston from tying the game with second and goal at the one-yard line. They stuffed both running attempts, on second and fourth down.
A touchdown pass thrown a tad too long at the back of the end zone helped, too.
Any win is at least a B grade. But the Cardinals need to learn out to step on teams' throats and put them away after taking a lead. That they allowed the Texans a chance to tie the game after leading by three touchdowns will come back and haunt them if they don’t get this corrected soon.
This week's game in Seattle, against a healthier and more determined Seahawks team than they saw all of last year, will be a telling sign of things to come. With the 49ers on a bye week, the Cards can tie for first with a win—or find themselves in a deep, third place hole with a loss.
A loss would also make them 0-2 against a division that they swept en route to the division title last year. This is a huge, HUGE game!
Go Big Red!