They are who we thought they were and we let them off the hook. Oh wait, that's not right let me fix that. They are who we thought they were and we didn't let them off the hook. That is what the Cardinals, Coach Whisenhunt in particular, were saying after their big road win against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. This win not only made them 4-0 on the road but it also helped in forget the embarrassing loss to the Carolina Panthers the week before. It was also a big win because the San Francisco 49ers lost at home to the Tennessee Titans, giving the Cards a two game lead in the division. Overall this was a huge win for the Arizona Cardinals.
The running game was as good as it has been in a long time as they racked up a total of 182 yards rushing on 21 attempts (5.9 yards per carry). The running game looked like it could not be stopped not matter who carried the rock. Tim Hightower had 15 carries for 77 yards (5.1 yards per carry) while Beanie Wells had 72 yards on 13 carries (5.5 yards per carry). Steve Breaston also had a nice run on a trick play that went for 25 yards, LaRod Stephens-Howling had one carry for five yards, and Kurt Warner had one for three yards also. These are exactly the type of numbers that Coach Whisenhunt wants out of the running game and it would not be a surprise to see more of this in the coming weeks with the Cards facing the Seahawks, Rams, and Titans.
The passing game bounced back with five touchdowns after an awful week in which they produced six total turnovers. This is exactly what Kurt Warner needed after a terrible game. He'd complete 22 of 32 passes (68.8 completion percentage) for 261 yards and five touchdowns, good for a 132.9 quarterback rating. He spread completions around to six different receivers and four different players would cross the goal line. Larry Fitzgerald had, arguably, his best game of the season catching nine passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The Cards continue to prove that when you get Fitz the ball, the offense really takes off. With the exception of Matt Leinart's interception, most likely because of rustiness, the passing game looked great. The other thing of note here is that Tim Hightower had just one catch today meaning that Warner wasn't doing as much checking down as he has in previous weeks.
The defense dominated through the first three quarters but slouched quite a bit in the fourth quarter. After allowing the Bears to march 90 yards on their opening drive the defense clamped down and held Chicago to 110 yards on their next six drives (average of 18 yards per drive). It wasn't until very late in the third quarter that the Bears mounted another sustained drive, but a second 90+ yard scoring drive gave the Bears their second touchdown of the day. Just a couple minutes later the defense would forced back into action defending a very short field. Leinart's interception set up the Bears at the Cardinals 28 and they would score in just three plays. The Bears final three drives would consist of an interception, a failed fourth down conversion and the end of the game. Overall the defense played pretty well for the most part and certainly some of the scoring late in the game was a result of a relaxed defense as well as Leinart handing the Bears a short field. The final numbers (417 yards allowed) don't seem to indicate how well the defense played but in the end, it was good enough to win.
Penalties are normally an area the Cards struggle with every week but that was not the case this week. Officially they had just two penalties for 15 yards, although a third penalty was declined. Considering that one of the accepted penalties was actually an encroachment by Adrian Wilson on the Bears' first PAT attempt, the penalties assessed to the Cardinals had very little impact on the game. The second one was an unnecessary roughness call on left tackle Mike Gandy that would push the Cards back to their own 10 yard line. Needless to say the Cardinals would love to be this efficient each week, especially considering that their opponent was flagged nine times for 89 yards.
Special Teams continues to play well this season in just about every aspect of the game. They blocked a field goal attempt at the end of the second quarter and this time the man getting his hand on a kick was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC joins Calais Campbell, who has blocked two already this year, as second year players who continue to make a difference on special teams. Neil Rackers made both of his field goals for 43 and 30 yards, and was five for five on extra points. Ben Graham averaged 41.0 yards per punt three of his four punts were downed inside the 20. Not to be outdone the coverage units were spectacular holding the Hester to just a one yard average on his two punt returns and collectively the Bears' kick returners averaged just 17.3 yards per kick return. The coverage teams, namely Greg Toler and Will Davis, were also very close to recovering one of Rackers' signature pooch kicks.
Post game comments from Anquan Boldin were not very good as he slammed the team. Boldin obviously wasn't happy about being deactivated but he was even more unhappy about how the situation was handled. According to him, he had gone for warm ups with his stuff in his locker but when he came back in his locker was empty. After the game he was quoted as saying, "no one was man enough to tell me themselves". Now I do agree someone should have told him rather than do what they did, but do not go and voice your displeasure with the media after a big win like that. If you have a problem go to the head coach or keep it to yourself. Also does not bode well for Boldin that the Cards continue to win without him, 5-1 when Boldin does not play going back to last season.
There really was not much else to mention that went wrong in this game that was not mentioned all ready. The fourth quarter defense was already mention and is why it kept them out of the great section. Matt Leinart was mentioned for his interception under the passing game.
Overall the Cardinals played great in this game. This is how they should be playing every game, not the crappy play they showed against the Carolina Panthers. Even though they played well, it is not time to celebrate or talk like they have the division locked up just yet though; they still have to start winning at home. That will be their next challenge next week as they have Seattle coming into town, looking for revenge on the thumping we gave them a few weeks ago in Seattle. How do you think the Cards did against the Bears?