Considering the Arizona Cardinals put up 30 points on the Dallas Cowboys and rolled up almost 300 yards of total offense, it seems odd to talk about a bad performance, but that's exactly what the offense had yesterday. The offense, previously ranked 5th in the league, were held exactly 100 yards less than their previous average and were responsible for just 17 points. The offense was ultimately a tale of two halves considering that they had twice as many offensive penalties (4) as first downs (2) in the first two quarters and they committed two turnovers. The second half was a completely different unit though as they scored on each of their first three possessions and their fourth and final possession was more about running time off the clock. They were also much more successful on third down conversions in the second half (5 of 7) after being utterly inept (0 for 5) in the first half. The offense can't be prolific each and every week though and they picked the right week to struggle. The defense and special teams picked up the the slack and the offense did just enough to ensure a win.
Quarterback: Kurt Warner wasn't spectacular on Sunday but when the Cardinals needed him to take over the game, he did just that. During the first half, he completed just seven passes on eleven attempts for 59 yards and he added two turnovers. His fumble was an awkward play in which the shotgun snap was to his left but he knocked it down and actually gained control of the ball. While he was being tackled though, he tried to hand the ball to Edge and they both lost the ball. His pick was a deep ball into double coverage that Breaston couldn't bring down. Warner returned in the second half though and completed 15 of 19 passes for 177 yards, no turnover and two touchdowns. During one stretch that lasted most of the third and fourth quarter he completed 14 of 15 passes with his only incompletion coming on Fitz's touchdown catch that was overturned. Just for the record, this was Warner's third game of the season with a QB rating over 100 and fifth consecutive game with multiple touchdowns. It's also worth mentioning that Warner did all of this despite pretty tremendous pressure by the Cowboys. They ended the game with just one sack but Warner was knocked down on over half of his pass attempts. Grade: B+
I'm not sure where to squeeze this in, so I'll break out the shoe-horn and put it in here. I felt like the Cowboys' game plan to blitz up the middle was pretty flawed. I understand and partly agree with the 'blitz Warner and he'll turn the ball over,' mantra, but I think it's more complicated than that. It seems to me that Warner (and this offensive line for that matter) is susceptible to blitzes from the edges, but if Warner can see a blitz coming he's very capable of unloading the ball before he gets sacked. It's the edge rushers who swipe at the ball and cause fumbles that plague Warner. Agree or I have I just had too much Kool-Aid in the past 24 hours?
Running Backs: Another week has gone by and another sub-par rushing performance from everyone. The running game totaled just 50 yards on 19 carries (2.6 avg), didn't have a rush over 9 yards and had two plays for negative yards (not counting Warner's kneel at the end of the 1st half). Edge finished with just 29 yards on nine carries (3.2 avg) and Tim Hightower wasn't much better on the ground (7 for 20 - 2.9 avg). It was somewhat interesting that Hightower got the majority of carries in the second half (7 vs. 3) but his yardage was limited considering that two of his carries came on 3rd-and-1 situations and another two carries came on the final drive when the Cowboys were loading the box. The running backs biggest contribution against the Cowboys came in the passing game though as they combined for six receptions for 53 yards. Tim Hightower's 17 yard reception on 3rd-and-17 was quite possibly the play that swung momentum in the Cardinals favor. He took a short pass (that was tipped at the line) and raced down the sidelines, evading a couple of tacklers and diving for the first down. JJ Arrington also took a short dump off pass and juked Zach Thomas en route to a 10 yard pass and a first down. Grade: B-
Wide Recievers: It's almost unbelievable to think that just a couple of months ago we had no idea who or what we had behind the dynamic duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Breaston has made a name for himself in the past three weeks totaling 301 yards on 24 receptions and leading the team (or tying for the team lead) in yards each week. He had another great week (8 for 102 and a TD) and he is impressive every time he gets the ball in his hands as he fights for every single yard. Larry Fitzgerald also had a great game considering all of the attention that the Cowboys were giving him. He made a spectacular catch on a 39 yard bomb when he went up and over Anthony Henry to snag the ball and he showed why Warner has such faith in him when he made another good leaping grab over Pacman Jones for a touchdown. Since the Cardinals didn't air out the passing game as much as they had in previous weeks, Early Doucet (1 for 3 yds) and Jerheme Urban (1 for 1 yd) didn't have big roles this week. The tight ends were again a non-factor as Leonard Pope caught two balls for 12 yards. Grade: A+
Offensive Line: I went back and forth several times on how I thought the offensive line played. On one hand, the Cowboys didn't register a sack until the Cardinals last offensive play but they also didn't muster anything worthwhile in the running game and Warner was knocked down almost 20 times. The more I think about it, I think the offensive line was the reason the offense struggled and that Kurt Warner had a good game in spite of them. One of the offensive line's biggest problems were penalties as they combined for five penalties ranging from holding, false start (twice), illegal procedure and ineligble downfield. I'm not sure what, if anything, can be done to improve the play along the offensive line but the fate of this offense as a whole could rest at the feet of these front five guys. Grade: C
I may be getting on the offensive line too hard but it maddening to see the running game continue be virtually non-existant. As for the rest of the offense, it's promising to see the development of young guys like Tim Hightower and Steve Breaston, especially considering their contributions in such a big game. Thoughts? Agree/Disagree with grades?