Let’s just say the bye week is going to be much more enjoyable than expected.
The Cards don’t have a game for two weeks but know they will go to Seattle Oct. 24 no worse than tied for first place in the NFC West, and reside there by themselves tonight. The Rams and 49ers both lost Sunday (the Niners 0-5? Wow) and the Cards are where they should be.
All the ills aren’t cured. It’d be easy to say rookie quarterback Max Hall could have had four turnovers and not just one, since the Cards fell on two fumbles and Hall was fortunate his end zone pass right before his infamous fumble-TD-to-Levi-Brown was picked off.
But you can play that game all day. You think the Saints aren’t sitting back saying, “If we just hadn’t fumbled that ball that Kerry Rhodes returned …” etc, etc? This is football. The bounces sometimes have to go your way.
— Kurt Warner, moments before Rhodes had his game-changing fumble return for a TD, was asked by play-by-play guy Chris Rose about the Cards nursing a 16-13 lead in the fourth quarter. “I’m definitely surprised,” Warner admitted. Me too. But in a good way.
— With two big TD fumble returns in two weeks (and a long INT return in the season opener) for Rhodes, who says the Cards lost the ability to have a playmaking free safety with the ball in his hands when Antrel Rolle left?
He doesn’t do flips in the end zone, but I noticed he brought a little Lambeau Leap action to the north end zone crowd.
— Rhodes is the first Cardinal to have two fumble returns for a TD in one season since the great Leo Sugar in 1957. No, can’t say I knew of him either.
— Running back Beanie Wells wore a wide smile when he walked off the field. “Today,” he said, “we ran it.” Beanie only had 35 yards but he had a career-high 20 carries (compared to four for Tim Hightower). I asked coach Ken Whisenhunt if there was a reason the Cards went so heavy with Beanie today and Whiz said “Not really,” but obviously Beanie was thrilled.
— Wells had a fumble Sunday that wasn’t noticed much. It was his last carry on the drive in which Jay Feely booted his final field goal for a 16-13 lead. The ball bounced right back to him, but it was could have been disaster.
— I’m sure I’ll be writing about Hall – again – this week. But let’s say it was a good start. He wasn’t going to rip it up. But everyone can see why he engenders such confidence by the way he played. Was he a little crazy to barrel in toward the end zone on the play in which he was drilled and knocked woozy? I mean, didn’t he see Michael Vick get hurt on the same kind of play?
You know what? I still liked it. So did TD-scorer Levi Brown. “He’s a tough little guy,” Brown said. “He’s trying to gain respect of the team and I think he has it now. He doesn’t need to do that anymore. But he’s trying to make plays.”
— Here are some stats for the Cards’ defense to put on the résumé: The Saints had 13 snaps in the red zone Sunday. They gained 22 yards. Drew Brees threw eight passes, completing just three for all of two yards. And there was a false start in there.
— Cards are 3-2 under Whisenhunt for a fourth straight year. They have never been 2-3 under Whiz. And that’s nine straight times the Cards have followed a loss with a win.
— I feel bad special teams didn’t get more props today. The Hyphen has 60- and 48-yard kickoff returns to start, punter Ben Graham pinned the Saints deep a few times (including the effort by Michael Adams to down it at the 1 just before the Paris Lenon interception) and Andre Roberts looked solid on punt returns. Feely simply kicked all his field goals. A great day for Kevin Spencer’s charges.
— Special teams killed the Saints, especially the miss of the 29-yard field goal by veteran John Carney. That was the Saints’ last chance to lead (it was 13-13 at the time). After the Sebastian Janikowski easy miss last home game, maybe there is a such thing as field-goal defense even without a block.
“It gave us momentum when they missed the field goal, gives you that spark,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “The big thing, it was getting pressure, getting a push. The kicker he sees us and maybe he adjusts his kick a little bit if we get our hands up. I think our crowd gets in the heads a little bit. They are loud. That was I thought as loud as I’ve heard it since the NFC Championship game.”
— DRC must love Breast Cancer Awareness games. His last two INT returns for TDs came in that game – sporting pink today and last year too in his game-winning pick-6 at UoP Stadium against Houston.
— Larry Fitzgerald had his best game today of the season (seven catches for 93 yards, including a spectacular grab over the middle while being facemasked) but take away the catches and Fitz was just as clutch. Fitz was the one who broke up the near-interception by Malcolm Jenkins in the first half to give Levi his chance, Fitz grabbed the Saints’ try at an onside kick, and he also saved the Cards when Ben Patrick fumbled in the last few moments and the Saints managed to keep it from going out of bounds.
OK, that’s plenty. I write this while watching the game on DVR (Fitz is just getting the onside kick now). A big win. A lot of season to go. But at the bye, 3-2 sounds pretty good.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Ben Patrick, Calais Campbell, DRC, Drew Brees, Jay Feely, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Spencer, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Max Hall, Michael Adams, Paris Lenon, Rams, Saints, Seahawks, Tim Hightower
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