I’m not sure which is sadder. The way the Raiders lost or the way the Cardinals won. That’s a debatable answer but somehow the Arizona Cardinals pulled out a miracle today and won their home opener 24-23 over a pesky Oakland Raiders team.
Sebastian Janikowski missed three field goals including a chip shot 33 yarder as time expired.
The way the game started, you would have thought the Cardinals were going to roll, but as we have learned big plays mean nothing to the Cardinals. LaRod Stephens-Howling takes the opening kickoff back for 102 yards and the Cardinals led early.
But Bruce Gradkowski was not phased and played a very good game against a Cardinals defense still searching for some chemistry with so many new players.
But to their credit, the Cardinals defense played hard when they had to especially in the red zone where the Raiders were a pitiful 1 for 5.
Gradkowski finished the day 17 for 34 for 255 yards. He clearly outplayed the errant Derrick Anderson who finished with 122 yards on 12 of 26 passing. He also had two touchdown passes to Breaston and Fitzgerald.
It was typical good Anderson bad Anderson day. He made some horrible decisions including a Favre like shovel pass that ended in a Raiders’ interception. His passes were incredibly inaccurate and this has been the tale of Anderson’s year.
Yet, he's led the Cardinals to a 2-1 record and tied for first in the NFC West.
But the Raiders played a solid game all around. Darren McFadden ran 25 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders defense held the Cardinals to 227 net yards for the game.
But crucial penalties by the Raiders kept the Cardinals offense on the field longer than they should’ve been.
One interesting facet of this game was the matchup between Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. It was a physical battle all day, and even though Fitzgerald score a late touchdown, Asomugha held the pro bowler in check.
Another huge boost for the Cardinals was the return of their 2009 first round pick Beanie Wells. Being a couple of weeks removed from a recently revealed knee surgery, Wells came out firing with 75 yards on 14 carries.
Paris Lenon and Kerry Rhodes both played their best games as Cardinals defenders today having a combined 13 tackles and a sack between the two of them.
But this Cardinals team refuses to win a game the easy way. Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie’s 39 yard pass interference call all but gave the game to the Raiders. All the Raiders had to do was center the ball, and let Janikowski kick the game winning 33 yard field goal.
But a funny thing happened. He missed.
I’m not sure I’ve seen the Cardinals cheer louder over a win in years. Maybe the sound of those cheers are covering what may be a cries for help. Derrick Anderson isn’t the answer at quarterback even though the Cardinals have started 2-1. His mistakes have been masked over some very fortunate wins.
But if you are a Cardinals fan, you have to be worried about the schedule in the next two weeks with a road game with an angry San Diego Chargers team and home game with the defending Super Bowl Champs New Orleans Saints.
But that’s next week. The Cardinals want to enjoy this victory now as they sit on top of the NFC West.