Cardinals' Old and Restless a Surprise Hit
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
It didn't exactly seem like a recipe for success entering the season when the Arizona Cardinals sat down their would-be franchise quarterback, Matt Leinart, in favor of aging veteran Kurt Warner and were on the receiving end of a verbal attack by their own standout pass catcher, Anquan Boldin.
But two games into the season, all is well for the Cardinals, who are off to their first 2-0 start since 1991. And all is especially well for Warner and Boldin, who had huge performances in Sunday's lopsided triumph over the Miami Dolphins. It could make for some long nights for the defensive coaches of the Washington Redskins this week as they try to devise a way to slow down the Cardinals when the two teams meet Sunday at FedEx Field.
"It's nice to have those days," Warner said after the 31-10 victory over the Dolphins, in which he had a perfect passer rating of 158.3. "They don't come very often. . . . We're right where we wanted to be after two games. It's a great start for us."
Indeed it is, but things haven't exactly followed the script.
Leinart was supposed to be the beleaguered franchise's new centerpiece when he was selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft out of Southern Cal. Warner had arrived in Arizona a season earlier to wind down a remarkable career in which he'd risen from Arena League obscurity to become a two-time league most valuable player in St. Louis. He tutored top overall draft pick Eli Manning for a season with the New York Giants, and he presumably would break in Leinart in Phoenix.
It hasn't worked out that way, however. Leinart has yet to demonstrate that he can succeed at this level and when he got hurt last season, Warner put up solid numbers. Leinart had an offseason episode that brought unwanted scrutiny upon him and the team when photographs of him partying at his home surfaced on the Internet and led Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt to express his disappointment.
When Warner outplayed Leinart in the preseason, Whisenhunt went with the 37-year-old Warner as his starter.
Against the Dolphins, Whisenhunt was rewarded with a 19-for-24, 361-yard passing performance. Warner threw three touchdown passes, all to Boldin, and no interceptions and tied Peyton Manning's league record with his third career game with a perfect passer rating.
"There's a lot that goes into that and don't by any means think this is just about me because there are so many other factors in that," Warner said during his postgame news conference. "I mean, it's always nice to justify yourself in any way, shape or form by having games like this and let people know that no matter what's happened and what the scenario, that I can still play at this level and still play at a high level."
Warner said the offensive outburst by the Cardinals reminded him of his "Greatest Show on Turf" days with the Rams. As once was the case in St. Louis, he had plenty of help.
"He was on point today," Boldin said after the game. "The thing is, the coaches allow him to make decisions on the field. Kurt is a smart guy. But when you have a day like that, you've got guys around you, especially on the offensive line."
Boldin was pretty good himself, with six catches for 140 yards. He has 222 receiving yards in two games in a season in which he has been trying to get out of Arizona.