Last year at this time (at least, as I am writing) I was also sitting on a plane coming back from a road trip in the second round of the playoffs. Obviously, that had a whole different feel. Saturday certainly didn’t go the way the Cardinals wanted it to go. There really aren’t any true regrets, because it felt like the Saints were going to find a way on their home turf.
I mentioned about a billion times (OK, exaggeration) this past week how, if the Cards could not lose the turnover battle, they had a good chance to win. Saturday, they come up with that amazing 70-yard run to start, and, even after the Saints answered (a little too easily), that next play was a 28-yard gain to a wide-open Jerheme Urban … and then Urban allowed himself to get stripped from behind and the ball was lost.
That was the beginning of the end.
Had Urban hung on, maybe the Cards march down and take a 14-7 lead. But the injuries mounted. Had Antrel Rolle not suffered a concussion, maybe he makes the tackle missed by Rolle backup Hamza Abdullah on the screen to Devery Henderson – which, after the blown tackle, was the play on which DRC wrecked his left knee. Maybe if the game was closer Kurt Warner doesn’t throw the pass picked off by Will Smith and, in the process of chasing the play, gets hurt when he is drilled by Bobby McCray.
Teams need health to win, however. Even the kickers were banged up. Neil Rackers knew it was going to be tough to make that 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half his right groin was hurting so bad. He had no chance on the second-half kickoff either. And punter Ben Graham would’ve had a little better opportunity to at least angle Reggie Bush out of bounds on his 83-yard punt return, except Graham can’t sprint with a bad left groin pull.
No use dwelling, however. As for a few other kibbles and bits from the game …
— The defense played arguably the two best offenses in the NFL the last two weeks and had trouble stopping them. The Packers scored 35 second-half points last game and the Saints had 35 in the first half Saturday. There was more bad tackling but the Cards needed more of everything. “It’s frustrating,” defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. “You want to win every down and you can’t win every down.” It doesn’t need to be every down, but it has to be more downs that what was happening.
— Who says Tim Hightower can’t break away for a home-run sprint like his 70-yarder (pictured below). How the Beanie/Hightower combo continues to evolve when it comes to playing time may be one of the more interesting — and crucial – stories of this team heading into 2010.
— It’s always tough to pressure Drew Brees anyway, and the Cards were limited when Rolle and DRC got hurt. Greg Toler was going to play more in lieu of Michael Adams, but Adams was forced in once the injuries cropped up. The Saints took advantage, and that’s why coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t want to blitz more. It was an ugly catch-22.
— Cornerback Bryant McFadden had his issues and it will be interesting to see if the Cards go try for veteran help or if Toler can wrest the starting job away. Toler is still very raw. And now you have the knee issue of DRC that, if indeed needs major surgery, will keep DRC off the field all offseason at the least.
— Warner took the blame for the bad exchange between he and Beanie Wells to start the Cards’ third possession. The Saints were in a possible safety blitz and Warner is supposed to blow off the handoff and make a quick throw in that case. But at the snap the safety sprinted back into the hot read’s passing window, and Warner tried to pull off the handoff. He just missed.
— Before you ask, I don’t know what Kurt Warner is going to do. I know everyone on the Cards desperately hopes he returns. I don’t know if that will mean enough for him. I’d like to see him play out this one final year of his contract and give this group one more shot.
— The Cards will have their exit physicals tomorrow morning. It’ll be a short night, but after Saturday, I think everyone is ready to put the season to bed and heal up mentally and physically.
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Bryant McFadden, Darnell Dockett, DRC, Greg Toler, Hamza Abdullah, Jerheme Urban, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Michael Adams, Neil Rackers, playoffs, Saints, Tim Hightower
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