Fortunately, a few extra days rest was just what Warner needed and was ready
to go from the starting gun.
Arizona received to open up the contest and KR Troy Walters evaded a mediocre
coverage unit quite nicely, giving the Redbirds the ball at their own 41
yardline. As mentioned, QB Kurt Warner was rearing to go from the get, finding
WR Anquan Boldin with two straight passes to begin things. Unfortunately, the
injury bug bit early in this one, as RB Edgerrin James went down on his first
rushing attempt when DT Shaun Rogers took him down with the "horsecollar"
technique at the line of scrimmage, then landed on the back of his legs. The
running back would not return to the game. The early diagnosis was cautiously
optimistic, with team doctors stating that in all likelihood James suffered only
a hyperextended knee, which would only require minimal downtime. Again, Cardinal
fans will have to hold their collective breath until after an MRI, which is
scheduled for early this week.
Warner and the rest of the offense stayed in sync, however. RB Marcel Shipp
entered the game and promptly took his first handoff of the day for a 34-yard TD
run, which quickly changed the somber mood in Cardinal Stadium. On the ensuing
extra point try, LS Nathan Hodel uncharacteristically flubbed his snap, forcing
K Neil Rackers to pick up the loose ball and make a run for it. Fortunately,
just before being viciously dropped by DE James Hall, he found DT Jonathan Lewis
by himself in the endzone. The wounded duck was good for two points as the home
team staked out an early, albeit lucky, 8-0 lead.
Taming the Lions offense turned out to be even a more difficult challenge
than anticipated. After KR Eddie Drummond answered his counterpart by setting
his team up with great field position at the Detroit 45. From there, QB Jon Kitna began bombarding the Cardinals secondary with mid-to-long range passes all
day. The offensive gameplan was an unmistakably familiar one for the Arizona
squad and again they had little success in stopping the Martz-designed attack.
RB Kevin Jones was impressive as well, finishing with more than 100 yards
rushing for the 8th straight week (17 rushes, 103 yards). The real star of the
game for the Lions offensive unit was WR Roy Williams who easily manhandled CB
Antrel Rolle and had already hauled in 2 TD before the end of the first half.
As smoothly as the Detroit offense was running, the Redbirds never trailed in
this one. With the score 24-20 at the start of the 3rd, the Lions' rookie KR
Brian Calhoun coughed up the ball at his own 23, thus beginning the second half
onslaught by the boys in red. Warner picked up right where he left off in the
first half, throwing a quick slant to WR Larry Fitzgerald that resulted in the
receiver running over two defensive backs en route to the endzone and an
11-point lead. The Arizona squad would not look back, racking up over 440 yards
of total offense for the game.
The Lions continued to be productive in the second half, as Williams picked
up another TD to finish with 3 on the day to go with 129 receiving and 24
rushing yards. The Cardinals defense did increase the difficulty level in the
4th as the Lions were forced to become one-dimensional as time for their
comeback attempt dwindled. For the second time in as many weeks, SS Adrian Wilson had a multi-sack game, collecting two in the decisive 4th quarter, adding
an interception as time expired. Meanwhile, the Cardinals finished with their
best offensive output of the season, statistically. Warner was 23-29 for 319
yards and 3 TD, while Boldin hauled in 9 catches for 111 yards and cashing in
for a TD. TE Leonard Pope also picked up a TD to go with 3 receptions and 49
yards and Shipp added 2 TD on an outstanding effort in which he gained 94 yards
on 14 carries.
Arizona Wins 46-31
Arizona hopes to hear good news from Edgerrin James' doctors for the road
trip to Minnesota, but will be comforted by the excellent performance the rest
of the offense put on in his absence. Also encouraging was the play of Marcel
Shipp as he stepped into James' shoes seamlessly. Minnesota is coming off a
21-13 road loss at Miami in which they may have lost QB Brad Johnson for the
year on what appears to be a torn knee ligament. Without him in the lineup, the
Cardinals' task will be a much easier one as QB Mike McMahon doesn't figure to
be an overpowering presence on the gridiron. In lieu of this injury, don't be
surprised to see Edgerrin James sit, even if cleared to play.