After a tough loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals were looking to rebound against the Detroit Lions. Everything indicated that happened when the Cardinals took an early 17-0 lead going into the half. Coming out of the half was a different story. Detroit came out and scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter. The Cardinals pulled it together in the fourth quarter however, by putting up 14 points. The Cardinals were supposed to use this game to make a statement. They did - the Cardinals play down to the competition they face.
Beanie Wells had quite possibly, his best game since becoming a pro. He recorded his first 100 yard rushing game by putting up 110 yards on 17 carries (a 6.5 yard per carry average). He also tacked on a pivotal 18 yard touchdown in the 4th quarter that would get the Cardinals back into the game. Beanie is clearly the best back on the team, and it's evident coach Whisenhunt is aware as Wells had 17 carries compared to Tim Hightower's 6. Wells also recorded a 13 yard catch in the game.
Anquan Boldin got his usual catches in the game - plowing over defenders and making vintage Boldin runs. Q's last catch was a touchdown that only he could've pulled off, forcing his way into the end zone. This catch would be the deciding touchdown in the game, giving the Cards the win. Boldin continues to play hard this season and has definitely been a big reason the Cardinals have won nine games this year.
The Cardinals Special Teams is one of the best units in the league right now. That didn't change in Sunday's game. Punter Ben Graham pinned the opposition three more times inside the 20 yard line, adding to his league-leading total of 37. He also averaged 45.4 yards per punt on his seven punts. LaRod Stephens-Howling also had another impressive game, averaging 23 yards per kick return and playing very well on coverage. He helped recover a fumble on a Lions muffed punt in the first half. Newly signed kicker Mike Nugent also chimed in with a 48 yard field goal and hit each of the extra points. The Cardinals defense and offense should take some notes from special teams, as they have been the only unit to play consistently well week in and week out.
The Defense played well enough to win despite allowing over 100 yards rushing to a back up running back. They began the first half shutting out the Lions but sadly, they couldn't keep up the effort in the second half, as they allowed 24 points. Part of the problem can be attributed to the offenses sloppy play with turnovers, as the defense has less time to rest and less field position to defend. Despite allowing 24 points they were able to make the Lions make mistakes, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepting two passes. Adrian Wilson also got one step closer to his 20/20 goal by splitting a sack with Clark Haggans. Overall the defense played well enough to win the game, but a consistently good effort for an entire four quarters is something that is needed as the playoffs draw closer.
Kurt Warner had a decent game but not the type of game we have been accustomed to seeing from him. The good from him was his two touchdowns and 233 passing yards, but he had problems turning the ball over for the second game in a row, throwing an interception and losing a fumble. He now has 5 turnovers in his last 2 games, and the Cardinals should be lucky they played a bad team like the Lions, who weren't able to take advantage.
Turnovers have been awful for the Cardinals at times this year. They had a six turnover game against the Panthers earlier this year, then 10 in their last two games. Last week Stephens-Howling, Hightower, Wells, Boldin, and Warner couldn't hang onto the ball, and this week it was Warner and Steve Breaston. The Cardinals had issues turning the ball over late last season, but were able to clean up their act in the playoffs. If they want to make a serious run this year, they'll need to do the same.
Despite some erratic play they did manage to win and also got an early Christmas present from the Eagles as they beat the 49ers, allowing the Cardinals to clinch the division. Now should the Cardinals try and win their next two games to hope for better playoff seeding? Or should they rest some of the starters like Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald so they are fresh for the playoffs?