GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 27: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball on a 80 yard touchdown reception past cornerback Antoine Cason #20 of the San Diego Chargers during the first quarter of the preseason NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 27, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The third pre-season game is always the best pre-season game of the season. Coaches generally play the starters into the third quarter in order to gauge the progress of the team to this point. Although the Arizona Cardinals suffered a 34-31 loss, I believe they won the game up until the starters were removed in the third quarter. There were several positives that you can take from this game and hopefully the Cardinals can build from them.
When Kolb arrived many wondered how the chemistry between these two would develop. The first two games this year showed flashes of would could be, however, they failed to reach the endzone in either game. Last nights game showed how their chemistry is growing and it will only get better. Larry Fitzgerald had 108 receiving yards and 3 receptions. The longest was an 80 yard touchdown pass by Kolb in the 1st quarter, that erupted the fans at University of Phoenix Stadium. Kolb is quickly learning what made Kurt Warner and Fitzgerald so special. Time will only tell how special these two can be, although it looks very promising so far.
First team offense
One thing that stood out to me was the Cardinals converting two quick first downs on their first possession of the game. Although they had to punt shortly after, this was very exciting to see and something we weren't used to seeing last season. "Three and outs" were all too common last year with Derek Anderson and Max Hall at the helm. Converting first downs is important on many levels and it's going to be an interesting season if the Cardinals can keep sustaining long drives as they did against the Chargers.
It was important for the first team offense to come out and be successful scoring the football like they did. The first team offense converted 17 points that included a field goal, touchdown pass to Fitzgerald, and a 34 yard touchdown run by Andre Roberts. This offense can be very successful if they continue to mix it up and not turn the ball over, which they didn't last night.
Is the running game finally developing?
I say "finally" because the Cardinals haven't had a successful running game the past few years. Last year the Cardinals were dead last in the NFL with only 1388 yards rushing as a team. The Cardinals had 167 yards rushing last night, 63 of those yards came from Beanie Wells on 10 carries. With the loss of rookie Ryan Williams for the season, Wells needs to continue to step it up in his "make it or break it" season. It was also good to see Stephens-Howling run the ball well and of course the touchdown run by Andre Roberts.
Patience is key with Patrick Peterson
I knew it was only a matter of time before Peterson would show why he was the number five pick overall in this years draft. Peterson had a great interception last night for a touchdown and definitely showed his ball hawking skills he was known for at LSU. I was at the game last night and when I came home I watched the game again and was very impressed with his interception. Peterson read the eyes perfectly of Phillip Rivers and made an impressive play towards the ball and ran it in for a touchdown. Peterson also had a nice punt return early in the game that nearly could have gone for six, but he was grabbed by his shoe strings from a falling defender. He just looks really natural returning punts unlike Andre Roberts early last year.
Now I'm not getting ahead of myself here, Peterson still has a lot of work to do. The Chargers threw his way repeatedly on the next couple of drives and he gave up some catches, however, he didn't give up the "big" play which is key to this defense. Cardinals fans just need to be patient and let him learn this complicated defense that Ray Horton has installed. He will be fine, he's a stud.
Good signs of things to come for the rush defense
Before you comment on the Chargers having 111 yards rushing let me explain myself. Ryan Mathews ran for 69 yards, however, 48 of those yards came on one play due to a mistake by rookie defensive lineman David Carter. David Carter has been a bright spot during training camp and actually played really well last night despite giving up the long run by Mathews. The Cardinals linebacking core did a good job filling the gaps and making stops behind the line of scrimmage causing third and longs. Minus the long run by Mathews, I was actually impressed with the aggressiveness of the rush defense last night and hopefully they can sustain it.
While some may not agree with these positives, we would all have to agree this team looks as if they are really going to compete in the NFC West this year. Let's just hope everyone can stay healthy and this team continues to gel like they have.