After struggling to get out of their own way during the first week of the season, the Arizona Cardinals offense looked like a well-oiled machine against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They rolled up 383 yards, notched 22 first downs and averaged 6.4 yards per play. The offensive was not only explosive but more importantly they were efficient with just one running play that resulted in negative yardage and zero sacks. Not a bad day at the office but when you add in an NFL record (ala Warner's completion percentage) and the team's first win on the east coast at 10 am since 2002 and you've got yourself one heck of a week two win.
- Kurt Warner's Near Perfection: Kurt Warner is old, he can't move in the pocket, his hip just isn't right and it's time to get Matt Leinart into the starting lineup. Oh wait, that was last week. This week Warner threw the ball 26 times and it only hit the ground twice. He set an NFL record with a 92.3 completion percentage in a single game and posted a QB rating of just over 131. Not bad for a broken down has-been. The difference between Warner's game this week and last week was the result of three key factors. First and foremost he had his full compliment of weapons at receiver. Anquan Boldin looked quicker, more agile and basically looked like the receiver that were accustomed to seeing from #81. Steve Breaston was back in action and I think the fact that he led the team in receiving yards and yards per catch (16.6) tells the story of his return to the lineup. The second factor leading to KW's big day is the play calling to start the game. We said last week that Warner is a rhythm oriented quarterback and Whiz's play calling to start the game was filled with short, quick passes. Despite throwing just four passes on the Cards eleven play opening drive, Warner was able to get into a rhythm that he was able to sustain all day long. The third and final factor seems pretty obvious, pass protection. Warner wasn't sacked all day long and he really wasn't under much pressure. We've said it before but any team that allows KW to stand it the pocket and go through his progressions is going to pay dearly. Despite his many faults, Warner is still one of the very best in the league if he doesn't have to worry about a pass rush.
- Running Game Actually Going Somewhere: Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells combined for 116 yards on 22 carries (5.3 ypc). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that a successful running game paired with this high powered passing game is a lethal combination. From the outset of the game the Cardinals tried to establish the running game with seven rushes on the opening eleven play drive that was capped off by a one yard TD plunge by Hightower. By the end of the game the Red Birds had converted seven first downs on the ground, scored on touchdown and had just one rushing attempt result in negative yardage. Of course the black eye of the whole operation were the two fumbles by Beanie, one of which was lost. Something tells me though that this week he'll be carrying a ball around 24/7 and be receiving quite a bit of extra coaching from the staff as well as fellow teammates on the importance of ball control. The bottom line is that if the Cardinals running game is anywhere near this productive in terms of yardage and yards per carry, the offense will have no problems moving the ball and scoring points.
- Offensive Line Mans Up: After a pitiful showing against the Niners that included three sacks and just 2.4 yards per rushing play the offensive line could not have had a better game against the Jags. It certainly helped that the Jaguars best pass rusher broke his leg the week prior but the fact remains that the offensive line kept Warner and Leinart very clean on their 32 passing attempts. They also opened some very nice holes for Hightower and Wells but the most promising aspect was the blocking at the second level. Both backs were able to break off 17 yard rushes thanks to stellar blocking at the second level. This is the type of game that we'd expect from a unit that's played together for 22 consecutive games.
- Play Calling Sets the Tone: Two things really stuck out to me about Ken Whisenhunt's play calling to start the game. First, the short, quick passing game got Warner into an unbelievable rhythm and secondly the early runs, especially on first down made sure that the Jacksonville defense couldn't sell out to step Warner. Eventually other teams will figure out that almost 65% of the Cardinals running plays have come on first down but now they're moving the ball well and keeping opposing defenses off balance.
- Special Props to Anthony Becht: According to the official box score Becht had one catch for 16 yards but his biggest contribution to the game had nothing to do with making a catch or even throwing a block. Becht, who admitted that he likes to be the first guy to help his running backs up after their tackled, was trailing Beanie on both of his fumbles. Becht was lucky enough to pounce on the first one, saving a drive deep inside the Jags' redzone, and on the second one he was close enough to touch Rashean Mathis before he got up preventing a 34 yard return. I'm sure these kind of contributions aren't what Ken Whisenhunt was bargaining for when he signed Becht but it's the kind of veteran savvy that is contagious to young players.
"You are in the right spot at the right time," Becht said. "I tend to get to the running backs after they are tackled to help them up, and sometimes that gets me near the ball and I happened to see the ball bouncing a couple times today."
Overall it's nearly impossible not to be pleased with the performance by the offense on Sunday. They rolled up more than 380 yards, put 31 points on the scoreboard (hat tip to CardsIrish who reminds up that the offense actually posed 24 points as Antrel Rolle put up seven on his own) and they basically did all of their damage in the first three quarters. Matt Leinart took most of the snaps in the fourth quarter (3 of 6 for 22 yards) and the Cards coasted to a victory on the east coast. Things will be tougher next week but for now the Red Birds celebrate their first win of the season.