The doctors also expressed concern that their may be
bulging discs, but would not know for at least a couple weeks, after the
swelling subsided. This pretty much assures Cardinals fans a healthy look at
QB Matt Leinart, who has been named the starter
for this weeks’ contest with the Denver Broncos. After beginning the season
singing the company line that Leinart would be
moved along slowly, it appears that the coaching staff is now content to
hand him the reigns for the remainder of the season. For his part, the young
quarterback appears hungry and ready, especially after his success in
limited action against the Seahawks last weekend.
Matt Leinart may have come
in believing he was ready for this match-up versus the Broncos, but he left
the first series knowing he hadn’t been. RB Marcel Shipp looked confused on
the first passing play, missing an obvious blitz by LB Al Wilson that put
Leinart on the ground for the first of many
times on the day and the league-leading 51st sack given up on the
season. Shipp would continue to look silly against this Denver 3-4
formation, so much so that Head Coach Dennis Green began to rotate in RB
J.J. Arrington even on first and second downs as early as the second
quarter. Shipp would finish the day with 11 yards on 10 carries with two
lost fumbles. WR Anquan
Boldin also struggled against the defense and was benched after it
appeared that he had tweaked his injured ankle.
The Cardinals defense played extremely well throughout
the first half, despite being on the field for 23 minutes. With the offense
providing no rest for them, the defensive unit began taking things into
their own hands. After giving up touchdowns on the first two Denver
possessions, the Redbirds stiffened, sacking QB Jake Plummer on back-to-back
plays. Then a botched handoff to RB Mike Bell allowed LB James Darling to
scoop the ball up and return it 33 yards to the Broncos’ 36.
After Leinart immediately
handed the ball back to Denver by throwing a pick on first down, the
Cardinal defense again was forced to come up with a big play to keep from
going down by an insurmountable deficit. Denver was able to drive as far as
the Arizona 28, but that was where CB David Macklin and SS Adrian Wilson
teamed up to separate WR Javon Walker from a
perfect Plummer pass and then pick it off. It was Wilson’s 3 INT of the
Although the defense showed its mettle by limiting the
Denver offense to only a 14-0 halftime lead, their extended time on the
field started becoming evident on the first series of the second act.
Plummer was forced to check down to his third target on second-and-short
from his own 17 as he dumped to ball off to RB Tatum Bell, who then just
took advantage of the sluggish pursuit to the tune of 67 yards. Once inside
the redzone, it was the Bell Boys show as Head
Coach Mike Shanahan just had his front pound away at the tired Redbird D.
The drive resulted in a 2-yard dive by Mike Bell for a TD and a 21-0 lead
that would hold until the middle of the 4th quarter.
Leinart finally did show
up in the final stanza, completing 8 of 11 passes in the quarter for 2 TD,
both of which went to WR Larry Fitzgerald. The first occurred on a fluky
play in which CB Champ Bailey should have had his second INT of the day.
Instead, he bobbled the ball, allowing Fitzgerald to come over and snatch
the pass away, then running through several arm tackles to complete the
54-yard passing TD. The second was a bit more conventional, coming with only
1:03 left in the game, as Leinart found
Fitzgerald in the left corner of the endzone
just behind Bailey, capping an 8-play 66-yard drive. Unfortunately, the
ensuing onside kick failed, ensuring a sixth straight Denver victory.
Cardinals lose 21-14.
Things have gone from bad to worse, in a hurry.
Leinart and Arrington have shown promise, but
with the team’s playoff hopes fading, the Cardinals are more in need of
production than promise. This is definitely the perfect spot for a 49ers
contest as the Redbirds no longer control their own destiny and will need to
win out while hoping that the Rams drop their two remaining contests. At
this point, it may be time for fans to stop buying playoff tickets so as to
avoid waiting in line for their refunds in two weeks.