Three years ago the Arizona Cardinals were one instant replay shy of winning the Super Bowl. I’ve seen that Santonio Holmes catch 100 times and I’m convinced that one foot was on top of the other and not in bounds. The officials didn’t see it that way and the Steelers denied the Cardinals their first Super Bowl victory.
It was a heartbreaking result for the dozens of Cardinals fans out there. From 1970-2001 the Cardinals were the proverbial doormat of the NFC East posting only eight seasons with winning records in 31 years. So they fled for the NFC West where a team with a losing record “earned” a spot in the playoffs last year.
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The 2010 Cards felt they were a quarterback away from regaining the “highly touted” NFC West Championship, so they traded a Pro-Bowl cornerback and a 2012 second-rounder for Eagles back-up Kevin Kolb. While Rex Grossman threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants, Kolb matched those numbers against the Panthers last week.
If fans in Washington are hesitant to heap too much praise on the 2011 Redskins, then the dozens of retiree Cardinals fans should be downright fearful despite their Week 1 victory. For starters, the Cards’ secondary gave up over 400 passing yards to a rookie quarterback known more for his size and speed than his passing accuracy. Panthers’ receiver Steve Smith torched the Cardinals for 178 of those 422 passing yards and two touchdowns, and tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey combined for 129 yards. Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and Fred Davis are primed for stellar performances facing this struggling defense that is nowhere near as talented as the banged up Giants’ eleven.
Beanie Wells proved the Cardinals might not have needed Tim Hightower as he rushed for 90 yards on 18 carries and scored on a 7-yard run. Wells isn’t much of a threat as a receiving back, but Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet will keep the Redskins’ secondary busy. Fortunately, the Redskins only need to worry about Kolb, Wells, Fitzgerald and Doucet, an easier task if Laron Landry is back on the field.
But the decision to bring Landry back this week or rest him for one more is a difficult one. There’s no sense rushing him out there if there’s a chance the Redskins could lose him for next week at Dallas and maybe even longer. He’ll definitely be needed against a big back like Wells, and will throw a wrench into the Cardinals passing game, but there’s almost too much to risk without another dependable strong safety on the roster.
This Redskins team should look to pick up where they left off. Look for a balanced attack on offense to keep Arizona’s shaky defense on edge. The offensive line should have a better day against a weaker defensive front, and if Grossman can spread the ball around that box should open up for Hightower to slip through. The Redskins’ sophomore 3-4 looked great against the run, but the Cardinals best chance to win is through the air. If anyone gives a mean hammy massage I suggest you head over to Redskins Park and demand to see Dirty Thirty even if it makes Doughty pouty.
Mike Shanahan’s next challenge is thwarting the recent tradition of winning as the underdog and losing as the favorite. This will be one of the few times this season the Skins are actually the favorite, they should take full advantage of it in front of a home crowd. Fortunately, it’ll be all Redskins fans since the retirees don’t travel well and the one o’clock kickoff interferes with their brunch.