The Chicago Bears have a historically great defense, and the Kansas City Chiefs possess a much better defense than most people realize. So we probably shouldn't crucify Matt Leinart for his record-setting chokes just yet. Additionally, the rookie quarterback had begun both games surprisingly strong, and deserves the corollary credit for that success.
But to say that Leinart's poise is what will make him a star NFL quarterback is a mistake.
One man's "poised" is another man's "complacent," meaning that there is something to be said for emotion on the field. The Bears game was the first Monday Night game at University of Phoenix Stadium, and the first one that the Cardinals had even participated in since 1999. Leading the undefeated Bears by 20 points with 15 minutes left to go in the game under these circumstances should have pumped up Leinart and given him confidence. Instead, he allowed fellow rookie Mark Anderson to relieve him of the football and spark one of the most prolific comebacks in the history of the NFL.
At least Leinart looked poised when the ball was rolling behind him.
Think of the 399 yards and four touchdowns that Brett Favre threw for in the final Monday Night contest three seasons ago. His father had passed away the night before. Favre did not have his best performance in years by remaining poised, he did so by channeling his emotions and using them to raise his level of play. Sometimes you win with a veteran's poise. Sometimes you win with a rookie's fire.
So it is not necessary to be poised to perform as a quality NFL quarterback, nor is poise even necessarily a positive trait in a QB. Matt Leinart's poise "helped" him complete 11 of 24 passes in the second half of that Bears game and throw a fourth quarter interception in the Chiefs game; time will tell whether that poise actually proves beneficial in the future.
But in all honesty, the role that Leinart's poise has played in his inability to close out the past two games is negligible. The fact that Edgerin James has suddenly lost the ability to run down the clock is of a much greater concern. And James' success will determine more about Matt Leinart's future than some vague intangible like poise ever will.