Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cardinals impress, now must do it again

Note: This column appears in the 9/11 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 9/12 issue of the Peoria Times

There are almost too many positives to take from the Cardinals 23-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. Yes, too many. This is kind of scary.

Offensively, Edgerrin James looked fantastic and Tim Hightower served as the absolute ideal compliment. Kurt Warner played game manager and Anquan Boldin proved that any personal issues he has with the organization will be more motivation than distraction.

Defensively, the Cardinals forced turnovers and kept the 49ers at bay during the second half. From a coaching standpoint, the team exited the locker room at halftime and dominated the third quarter, a testament to Ken Whisenhunt’s motivational and tactical agenda. He also displayed his unique ability to mix things up by lining up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at wideout, which, ummm, didn’t exactly work out too well, but still. Steve Breaston and the special teams unit looked solid and in sync as well.

The Cardinals won. On the road. In the division. And in doing so, defeated the thorn in their 2007 side. The Seahawks and Rams also lost, and the Arizona Cardinals are all alone in first place. I can’t imagine what could possibly go wrong.

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Except, of course, a humongous letdown. Good news and the Cardinals don’t traditionally mix well, and now it’s up to this team to prove that 2-0 is not just a possibility, but that it’s exactly where they should be sitting come Sunday night.

It was months ago when we examined the Cardinals’ 2008 schedule and realized pretty quickly that it wouldn’t be an obstacle. If Week 1 of the NFL season was any indication, things have not changed. This Sunday the Cards come home to face Miami. Take it from someone who had Ricky Williams in his starting fantasy lineup last week (seemed like a good idea at the time): the Dolphins are not a good football team.

Miami won exactly one game in ’07, and last week they didn’t exactly set the world on fire. In fact, the lone highlight of their loss last week versus the Jets was when Joey Porter, their hotheaded linebacker, became so upset that the Jets’ kickers were warming up on his side of the field, that he felt compelled to kick their practice ball off the tee, almost inciting a pre-game brawl. (Sometimes I think Porter really would try to set the world on fire.) Apparently, the Cardinals can already cross “maturity” off the list of things they will face come Sunday. So that’s a start.


Hey, that guy in section 203 is sitting in the wrong seat! Hold my helmet...

It’s time for the Cardinals to take care of business. If the 49ers game was one that they had to win, then the stakes have only been raised for this Sunday. If this is indeed “their year,” then there should be no comfort in “same old Cardinals” logic. From an expectations standpoint, the Cardinals didn’t do themselves any favors with the way that they closed out last Sunday’s game, but such is the burden of a good football team.

The Arizona Cardinals and their fans aren’t used to being favorites, but with this team, and this schedule, and this opportunity, they better get used to it. For the second week in a row, there will be no excuse for them not to win. After all, they are a first-place team. Man, this is kind of scary.

Almost as scary as Joey Porter. Which reminds me -- maybe Neil Rackers should warm up on the sidelines before the game. Just to be safe.

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