I suppose I should feel bad that I took so long to post about Sunday’s game between Arizona and Green Bay, but the truth is that I was so psyched up Sunday night I didn’t want to sit still long enough to write something up. Yesterday I resolved to avoid the blogosphere altogether, so that makes today Cardinals Day.
Where to begin? It was an amazing game. “Instant classic” was a phrase I heard a lot watching the highlight reels. I wasn’t able to watch the game live because I was at work, but through the magic of the internet I was able to see most of it after, as well as read a lot of reactions and watch a lot of highlights. (Related note: I love Ron Wolfley.) It was the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history. It was the first overtime playoff game won off a fumble recovery in NFL history. It was a game that featured the Hall of Fame-bound Kurt Warner slinging for 5 touchdowns and 379 yards with blistering accuracy and no turnovers. It was a game that featured a breakout performance from rookie runningback Beanie Wells, whose addition to the Cardinals gives me hope for a well-balanced attack as we continue into the playoffs. It was a game where Early Doucett and Ben Patrick picked up the slack left by an injured Boldin and still looked like the best receiving squad in the league. It was a game where the five big men of the offensive line protected Warner wonderfully, giving up only one sack to one of the most vicious pass rushes anywhere, while also opening holes for Wells. It was a game that featured a Cardinals offense that averaged a stunning 9.3 yards per play!
It was a game. What a game.
There are dark spots, though. We allowed 500 yards, 45 points, and about 700 first downs, including a couple 4th down conversions. Our secondary got torn apart, with DRC being the lone bright spot as McFadden and Adams looked completely incapable of making Rogers work for his big plays, and Rolle providing a hit-or-miss performance on coverage as well. McFadden was especially terrible, providing not a single bright spot all night. I hope we can replace him soon. This is my biggest concern heading into New Orleans next week – Brees will tear us apart if we put together a similarly lackluster performance. Michael Adams remains one of our best and worst defensive players, as he alternately has moments of genius and incompetence. His future here I think will depend on whether or not he can stop getting penalized and make better plays on the ball, as he certainly has the heart of a great player. Also, Neil Rackers’ uncharacteristic miss was one of the great heart-stoppers in Cardinals history, I think. Don’t do that again, please. Ever.
This definitely highlighted a lot of the strengths and weaknesses about the team and answered a few of the questions plaguing us at the moment – the first of which is that we obviously need to keep Dansby a lot more than we need to keep Boldin. Dockett is another one we need to hold onto. Whisenhunt also needs a contract extension – are you listening, Bidwell? Don’t let these guys go. It also further emphasized just how much Warner is the heart of the offense, and how much it will hurt if he does retire.
So we head into New Orleans with a steamroller of an offense and a defense that knows it needs to pick it up. Hopefully they do so enough to put a crimp in the Saints’ plans and can continue to keep Brees off balance, because if we can keep him from getting into a rhythm then we can pick apart their defense and come out with a big win. Here’s to another NFC championship for my boys in red!
[Also, for the record, courtesy of Revenge of the Birds: the reason Adam’s sack wasn’t a facemask was because Adams didn’t pull or twist the facemask (incidental contact is explicitly not penalized as of 2008), and it wasn’t roughing the passer because that can’t be called if the passer fumbles. The tuck rule is also irrelevant because the ball didn’t hit the ground.]