All that matters is the final score right? If you believe that, then you were pleased that the Cardinals came from a 16-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 19-16 in their first preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium against the Houston Texans.
But if you looked deeper in the microscope, you wondered if this was a precursor to the season. A sloppy game on most counts made this a little hard to watch, but the Cardinals managed to pull it out. And 1-0 looks better than 0-1 in the standings. Even in the preseason.
Matt Leinart was 6-7 for 49 yards, but those stats are a bit misleading. His throws were short with the exception of the one that almost got Fitzgerald killed (and injured). He mishandled a hand-off to Tim Hightower that lead to a fumble, and he was sacked twice. Whisenhunt said that it's "hard to really judge Matt because we didn't do a whole lot to help him." That's mostly true but Matt never looked comfortable. The starting offense was slow and sporadic. The errors were all over the field from wrong routes to wrong positions. And Brandon Keith maybe the future at right tackle but Mario Williams ate him for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. Maybe, you wasted that cash on that trip to Hawaii, Matt.
Beanie Wells looked good. He finished with 11 carries for 36 yards, but what the numbers don't tell is that he's turned into a smarter runner. All night he was patient with his runs. He followed his blockers and got the smart yards. Look for big things from him this year.
The starting defense played one series but held the potent Houston offense to just a field goal. It looked like the same bend but don't break attitude that has been there for the last two years. The defense as whole played decent. Houston was in the red zone 4 times and came out with 3 field goals. However, second team defense really had issues. Andre Johnson was so alone in the Cardinals secondary for the touchdown, you might have thought he was a cornerback for the Cardinals. Justin Miller was left cold on that play and a couple of other plays on defense although, to his credit, he did look good on special teams.
But one of the main concerns I had watching this game was the play of Derek Anderson. His line was 13/22 for 88 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. He looks like he never left Cleveland. If Matt goes down, Derek will be no savior. He was shaky in his play, and his accuracy was so pretty errant. He did have a nice throw to Beanie Wells for the Cardinals first touchdown in the 4th quarter. Jim Dray, rookie tight end, made two nice catches for an impressive debut. Third round pick Andre Roberts wasn't so impressive in his first start. He dropped a couple of passes and tipped one that should have been caught, but instead led to an interception.
John Skelton, a fifth round pick from Fordham, looked pretty good. Ok, it was against 3 string talent but that was a 3rd string offensive line that was blocking for him. He looked like calm, cool and collected like he lived for this moment. His throws were accurate and players like Stephen Williams and Max Komar made big catches to cap off the rally. I'm not saying that Skelton is the second coming of Kurt Warner by any means, but if you are like me, you want to see more of this kid in the next couple of games. Plus, we haven't seen Max Hall yet whom I picked to edge out Skelton for third string. After Skelton's performance last night, I may have been hasty in the prediction. But I hear he took his offense line to Golden Corral.
Another standout rookie was Darryl Washington, second round pick from TCU. He was impressive all night. He led the team in tackles with 13 and was always around the ball. The Cardinals need that with the departure of Dansby, and this kid has the potential to be a starter in this league. And quickly. Coach Whisenhunt noted, "When you have the speed that he has and can make plays like you know he can make, it's all about getting him reps." That shouldn't be a problem coach.
All in all, we still have questions about Matt Leinart and the cohesiveness of the first team offense, but that will work itself out in the coming weeks. Oh and Larry's injury? He said he was fine. “I feel great,” Fitzgerald said. “How else can you feel after a win?” The problem is that he wouldn't tell you if he was hurt. We will keep an eye on him this week.
I don't know who called this game for the NFL Network, and it's probably better that I don't know. They made so many mistakes, I often wondered if they were watching the same game. But I have some other thoughts from the weekend too. Oh well. I guess they need a preseason too. On to Tennessee and a date with the Titans next Monday night.