I’m writing this at 30,000 feet or so, flying somewhere high above the U.S., at around 1:45 a.m. Phoenix time. And let me state the obvious – while these red-eye flights home aren’t the best, they are much, much easier to take with a victory in the back pocket.
I’ve been covering the Cardinals full-time since 2000, and I can’t remember – and this includes last year’s playoff run – a time when the confidence felt more all-encompassing than it does right now. That’s why they could overcome some of the bad breaks in New York. They believe. You want to talk about a culture change in the franchise, that’s one major tell right there.
I mean, they’re 3-0 on the road. I remember sitting in the bowels of the Georgia Dome in 2006, after the Cards had been nailed for a 32-10 defeat and Denny Green had handed over the keys to the car to Matt Leinart and benching Kurt Warner (that alone just tells you how far this team has come). I did the math and figured that was the 50th road game I had covered as a beat writer. The Cardinals had lost 41 of them.
Indeed, the Cards are a long way from that era.
As for the immediate Giants’ aftermath:
— I’m sure I will get a bunch of e-mails on the subject, but yes, it certainly feels like there was a running back changing of the guard Sunday night. Beanie Wells only had 14 carries, but he averaged 4.8 yards a carry. The fumbling for the backs remains a concern – one each for Wells and Tim Hightower – but I’d be surprised if Beanie doesn’t get the majority of the carries now, with Hightower the receiving and short-yardage back.
All Beanie could say Sunday was how it was fun. No, it’s not eloquent. But it crystallizes his thoughts.
— The Cardinals have to hope the ankle injury to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t too serious. They may not absolutely need him this game, not with the Panthers struggling and possibly benching quarterback Jake Delhomme. But they need DRC and his playmaking abilities.
— The defense still hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the first quarter this season (only three field goals) and hasn’t allowed a first-quarter point in four straight games.
— You see the impact being made by Alan Branch and Calais Campbell and you have to have optimism for the future on the defensive line. Campbell has played so well the loss of Antonio Smith hasn’t been felt at all. As for Branch, I mean, this was a guy who many had written off, so for him to be this productive is just extra.
— Warner wasn’t bad Sunday, not by a long shot. But when it was over, I couldn’t help but think of the comments he made in training camp when he talked about often feeling last year that the Cards didn’t have a chance unless he played really well, and that he hoped the team would reach a point where it could win even if he had an off night. In my mind, I think that’s exactly what happened Sunday. Warner wasn’t off, per se, but he didn’t seem super sharp (the Giants’ pass rush will do that) and his teammates picked him up.
— The Giants had won 15 straight games when leading at halftime. That’s over.
— Unbelievable to me that Adrian Wilson had one of his biggest games – a pick, a fumble recovery, and another near pick – despite cramps. The secondary was banged up and scrambling at the end. By the way, Bryant McFadden didn’t have a gaudy stat, but I thought he played his best game of the year, especially with the defensive backfield leaning on him after DRC went out.
— Finally, a humorous anecdote. Apparently, some small critter raced across the field during the game, which, according to Beanie, scared fellow running back Jason Wright. “He hopped in my arms like a little girl,” Wells said with a smile. “It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life.” Wright, getting dressed next to Beanie in the cramped visitors’ locker room laughed but emphasized that because Beanie blabbed to reporters, “You’re gonna pay for that.”
Heck, Wright could afford to laugh it off. He scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Alan Branch, Antonio Smith, Beanie Wells, Bryant McFadden, Calais Campbell, DRC, Giants, Jason Wright, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Tim Hightower
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