This season has taken a heavy toll on everyone in the organization, and while
last week's victory over Detroit was only the Cardinals' second of the year, it
was desperately needed.
"It's a big relief," said quarterback Matt Leinart, who won for the first time
in six starts. "Like I've been saying, one win can spark a football team. We did
great on both sides of the ball when it mattered, and hopefully this will spark
us to play well the rest of the season."
That might be a stretch, because this club still has problems. And the Lions are
obviously not an elite team.
The Cardinals played better offensively, but they still only scored 17 points.
That's not going to beat many teams.
With road games ahead at Minnesota and St. Louis, the Cardinals' fragile
confidence could be shattered easily.
Until the victory over the Lions, there were few signs this team has the
wherewithal to salvage even a small shred of respectability in the final weeks.
Practices were not crisp. Players wee feuding, and head coach Dennis Green
doesn't seem to have any answers.
The players have said all the predictable things about being professional,
having pride, continuing to work hard. But are guys actually doing that?
When asked that question recently, receiver Anquan Boldin paused for a long time
before he answered.
"Do I think enough guys (care)?" Boldin eventually said. "I hope so. I honestly
do. I'd be disappointed to find out that guys didn't see it that way."
Part of the problem is that this team doesn't have enough veteran leadership.
Since there's no history of success, it's hard for anyone to draw on anything
The fissures among players and between players and coaches are growing. At 2-8,
maybe it's natural for fingers to be pointed, although strong safety Adrian Wilson disagreed.
"No, it's not natural," he said. "I think when you get in the situation we're in
right now, the leaders on the team need to be more vocal, and guys who are not
receptive to it are the guys who lash out, or those are the guys who are not
doing the job."
The Cardinals responded last week. The defense made big plays, including a
goal-line stand and an interception that ended another scoring opportunity. The
offensive line has steadily improved, and James gained 96 yards, a season high.
James sees development in the offensive line.
"As we play more and more, we are going to get better and better," he said. "For
a while, it has been like a Rubik's Cube. It's something different every week
and we are just trying to find that perfect match."
Leinart played his best game in weeks and was 14 of 15 for 202 yards and a
touchdown in the second and third quarters. He was not sacked, and he had time
to look downfield for Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson. The Cardinals
had five passes plays of at least 20 yards.
Maybe all of those are reasons for hope. Or maybe the Cardinals played well
because the Lions just aren't very good. We'll find out in the coming weeks.
--QB Matt Leinart completed 14 of 15 passes in the second and third quarters,
one for a touchdown. He also ran for one. He was sharper than he had been in a
month. It helped that he had time to throw.
--RB Edgerrin James gained 96 yards rushing, a season high, against the Lions.
The offensive line is playing better, and the Cardinals are running from more
three and four receiver sets.
--DE Bertrand Berry suffered a sprained right elbow and he'll undergo an MRI
this week. Berry leads the team with six sacks and made some big plays last week
against the Lions.
--CB David Macklin started at right cornerback but Eric Green, whom he replaced,
also played. That position could change weekly for the rest of the year.
--OG Milford Brown is the starting left guard, and coaches hope to keep this
group of offensive linemen together through the rest of the season. Brown is a
solid run blocker and it showed last week against Detroit.