Matt Leinart & Leonard Pope embrace after TD
After a three-pick performance in Oakland, Matt Leinart stepped up in the pocket and aimed perfectly. The confidence some questioned one week ago was back and his progress was visible. With a bit of a swagger and a smile Leinart just might have strong-armed Kurt Warner after reports claimed Warner would be tabbed the starter. Here’s a look at the Cardinals 28-14 loss.
Matt Leinart’s opening snap at the University of Phoenix Stadium Friday night didn’t match his overall execution. With four seconds left in the first quarter, Leinart got his chance to compensate for the Oakland Raiders’ game but was sacked instead. His pocket collapsed around him and it didn’t look good for Leinart.
Enter Jerheme Urban, who received 58 yards from Leinart on the touchdown drive that brought the ball to Denver’s 17, which gave Leinart the chance to throw to Leonard Pope for the game’s opening end zone celebration. J.J. Arrington, Steve Breaston and Tim Hightower combined for 20 yards to move the chains as well, but it was Urban who took care of the football and fought for every inch.
Ken Whisenhunt was watching closely to see how Leinart would bounce back from his dismal showing in the Cardinals’ third preseason game against the Raiders.
“This is a process and an evaluation over time,” Whisenhunt said after win in Oakland. “Part of the process is how (Leinart) handles it. I know Matt is down but I’m not worried about Matt’s confidence. I expect Matt to respond.”
Whisenhunt will likely lose some sleep in the days to come as Warner looked solid against the Broncos as well. Before he was sidelined for Leinart, he put the ball in Broncos territory with a 25-yard reception to Anquan Boldin. The ball was ultimately fumbled but the right ideas were there.
RB Tim Hightower
Unfortunately for Tim Hightower he was the man to blame for the fumble. With some of the surest hands in college, putting the ball on the ground for the second consecutive week was likely tough to swallow for Hightower. Following the Raiders game, Hightower stressed that fumbling was unacceptable and Whisenhunt wasn’t pleased as well. The mishap negated the progress Warner had made.
Brian St.Pierre started the second half with a not so high margin of 14-10, but managed to sustain the lead. Before he checked out the Broncos took it to a one-point game in the fourth quarter then Anthony Morelli stepped in.
The Broncos earned the lead with less than nine minutes left on the clock with an 87-yard touchdown reception by Keary Colbert, followed by a two-point conversion by quarterback Darrell Hackney to get a 21-14 edge, which woke everyone up.
The Broncos weren’t finished as Jack Williams embarrassed the Cardinals with an 89-yard interception return. Overall the Cardinals had two interceptions and four fumbles, three of which were lost.
Arizona’s run defense continued to look weak as Denver ran up 190 yards.
Broncos’ rookie running back Anthony Alridge out of Houston was able to compile 110 yards. The rookie, whose size was questioned, appeared to have landed a place in the league.
The Cardinals ground game saw J.J. Arrington score another touchdown for his third week in a row to lift Arizona to a 13-10 lead and 14-10 with the kick. Whisenhunt was looking for consistency in Arrington and looks like Arrington is giving him what he wants. Although he was tripped on Leinart’s foot later on, Arrington should breeze through Saturday’s cuts.
Quick Nest Notes
--Last time the Cardinals and Broncos met was in December 2006 when Denver handed Arizona a 37-20 loss at home.
--Leinart handed the game to Brian St. Pierre with a slim 14-10 margin. Ken Whisenhunt has stressed importance of closing out close games. In 2007, the Cardinals played a dozen games that were decided by eight points or less, a statistic that led the league. Six of the Cardinals eight wins were decided by eight points or less.
--Edgerrin James is currently 13th on the league’s all-time rushing list. He needs 636 yards to pass the current 10th place holder Marcus Allen. James needs another 1,000-yard season to move to the No. 8 spot.