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Warner Nearly Perfect as the Arizona Cardinals Beat Jacksonville 31-17

One week after losing an important home division game to the San Francisco 49ers the Cardinals dominate the Jacksonville Jaguars for most of the game. The offense was in sync for the first time this year and looked even better than the 2008 offense. As for the defense, they again looked good and were able to hold the Jags to two touchdowns and one field goal. Overall the team looked very good and definitely alleviated some of the worries most of the Cardinals fans had after the week one loss.

The Good:

  • Kurt Warner: In week 1 Warner was starting to look like the 38 year old quarterback that most 38 year old quarterbacks look like. Not very good. In week two Warner did a complete and flip flop and decided to break the NFL record for completion percentage in a game (minimum 20 attempts). Warner completed 24 of 26 passes (92.3 %) beating out the old record held by Vinny Testaverde who had completed 21 of 23 passes (91.3) in 1993.  To add to that, Warner tied the team record for most consecutive completions with 15, a record originally held by Jake Plummer who made that record in 1998. Warner's final numbers were 243 passing yards and 2 touchdown passes. 
  • Tim Hightower: Hightower followed up his 12 receptions for 121 yards in week 1 with another good game carrying the ball 15 times for 72 yards (4.8 ypc) and 1 touchdown. This week the Cardinals offensive line opened up some holes allowing HIghtower to rumble for several long runs with his longest being 17, meaning that he was pretty consistent on each carry. Hightower also had 3 catches for 12 yards.
  • The Offensive Line: Compared to last week this line looked much improved. They gave Warner time and opened up holes for the run game, but they still had some penalties, though not as much. Levi Brown added to his resume another false start and Deuce Lutui had another holding. Those were the only two penalties that were really the offensive line's fault. Overall this unit was much more productive and if they continue to play that well the offense shouldn't have any trouble putting points on the board this year.
  • The defense (through the first 3 quarters): The defense again looked solid holding Jacksonville to just 17 points,10 through the first 3 quarters. They were able to get pressure on the David Garrard and if Garrard weren't so mobile and strong they probably would have come away with eight to ten sacks. They ended up only getting four sacks but that is not bad at all and is proving to be a lot better than people gave them credit for. They were also able to force four fumbles, recovering two. This unit is continuing where it left off last week and is not looking like they are going to slow down any time soon.
  • Special Teams: In week one the special teams was probably the most solid unit, pinning the opponent down to bad field positions, making all their field goals, and giving the Cardinals good field position. For the most part that was true for week two also. They didn't allow anything on kick returns and punt returns while LaRod Stephens-Howling made smart decisions on his kick returns and averages 25 yards per return. They also blocked a field goal that was returned by Antrel Rolle for a touchdown, giving the Cards a 17-3 lead. All that good made up for the sloppiness that happened for this unit. Antrel Rolle again is not looking good as the punt returner, not knowing when to run up and catch the ball or to just let it go by him. This indecision caused two fumbles and could have drastically changed the game if either of those had ended up mattering. Neil Rackers also missed a field goal but that happens sometime.

The Bad:

  • Chris Wells: Beanie actually had a pretty good game, carrying the ball 7 times for 44 yards (6.3 ypc). His problem was that he could not hold onto the ball and fumbled the ball twice. Now the first time they got lucky and the tight end, Anthony Becht, was there to recover the ball on the one yard line. The second fumble though, he was not so lucky as it was recovered by Rashean Mathis. Luckily for Beanie, the Cards defense didn't allow the Jags to do anything with that turnover.
  • Penalties: The penalties were not nearly as bad as they were in week one but they still were a problem. The Cards racked up another 8 penalties for 50 yards. They are definitely down from the 12 from last week but that is still too much and is something they will have to continue to work on.

The Ugly:

  • Fourth Quarter Defense: First, in the effort of full disclosure Whiz was subbing in some of the second string defense towards the end of the third quarter and into the fourth but their performance still has to be graded at the same level. The defense only allowed seven points to the Jags in the fourth but they were lucky that it wasn't more. There was several dropped passes by the Jags that would have gone for long yardage and one of them would have gone for a touchdown bringing the game within seven points. They also missed tackles, one of them by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie allowing the receiver to go in for the touchdown. The defense has played well in the first three quarters in the first two weeks of the season but has also played bad, or not as good, in the fourth quarter in that same time frame. This has got to get better as the better teams will take advantage of this.
  • Turnovers, or possible turnovers: This was already covered earlier but it is very important that it stops. There was a total of five fumbles on offense. That is way too many and the Cardinals got lucky that only 2 of them were recovered by the Jags. This has got to stop if they want to be an elite or top 10 team.

Overall, the Cardinals played very well this Sunday and they made it tough to really find anything negative to say about their play. The one negative that was pointed out though that needs to be fixed is Beanie Wells. The kid looks very good and fluid in his cuts when running but he needs to get the ball secured better. This is something a lot of rookie backs need to learn, so it is not a big concern but it is something that needs to be pointed out and fixed. The other position that needs to be addressed is the punt return situation. Rolle has either got to learn how to field those punts or find someone else more reliable, this may be a tough task but it has got to happen. Next week this team will travel back home to play the Indianapolis Colts for the Sunday night game and after this game they should have the motivation and confidence to play well in that game.