With QB Kurt Warner relegated to the sidelines, backup Matt Leinart thought he picked up right where the potential Hall of Famer left off. The Arizona Cardinals had prevailed in five straight away games and were seconds from improving to a perfect 6-0 on the road this season. Despite not having Warner under center, Arizona was positioned to distance itself even further from the NFC West competition but it was not meant to be, thanks in large part to Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young.
Young and the Titans’ improbable run continued on Sunday as Tennessee won its fifth consecutive game after a dismal 0-6 start. Young has been at the helm during all five of those outings and has now led to Titans to victory in nine straight games in which he’s been the starter. After being completely written off prior to the midway point of the season, Tennessee could push for a playoff berth. The Titans have an extremely manageable remaining schedule which includes three games at home.
Although he’s predominately known for running the ball and buying time in the pocket, Young was prolific through the air against the Cardinals. Young completed 27-of-43 passes for 387 yards and one touchdown. He avoided a single turnover and hooked up with rookie wideout Kenny Britt in the back of the end zone on a 10-yard strike to win the game with zeros on the clock. Brit also had the best performance of his young career, hauling in seven passes for 128 yards along with the game-winning score.
Back to Leinart, who did everything in his power to secure the victory for Arizona. Leinart finished 21-of-31 for 220 yards while completing passes to nine different receivers. Leinart protected the ball and managed the game as the Cardinals’ rushing attack continued to pick up steam. Arizona’s running yardage was underwhelming but timely runs by Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells kept the offense balanced. Hightower led the team with 55 yards on the ground while Wells chipped in with 20 yards.
For those who remember the 2006 Rose Bowl game between USC and Texas for the national championship, Sunday’s result in Nashville was almost a mirror image. Leinart arguably came in with the better team in the two contests but Young has single handily led his team to victory on both occasions. In 2006, Young scored on an 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left and converted a 2-point conversion to eventually win 41-38. This time, Young left no time on the clock after converting on three fourth downs on the final drive.
While Leinart showed signs of improvement in the 20-17 loss, the former Heisman Trophy winner remains in the shadows of his past success. Warner is expected to return for a Sunday night showdown against the Minnesota Vikings, leaving questions regarding the future of Leinart still unanswered. Although Warner’s injury isn’t considered serious, this may not be the last we see of Leinart this season. Regardless of the outcome, Sunday’s performance in the Music City was certainly a step in the right direction and could be a sign of things to come.
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