Sloppy, but a win nevertheless for the Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston strips the ball away from St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Clifton Ryan, preventing a sure TD.

There’s nothing to brag about after the Cardinals week one victory against the Rams.  Arizona is very lucky to start the season 1-0 considering they didn’t play very well.  Aside from numbers, which are available via ESPN’s box score here, let’s take a more in depth look at how the team played.

The Bad

  • Turnovers: First off, the Cardinals fumbled seven times, losing four in the process.  Arizona will not beat many teams turning the ball over four times.  Tim Hightower coughed the ball up twice (though the second clearly wasn’t a fumble), Derek Anderson fumbled twice, and Max Komar fumbled a whopping three times.  Even though Hightower’s second fumble should have been overturned, the ball shouldn’t have been out of his hands in the first place.  Blaming the turnover on the bad call is no excuse.
  • Anderson’s beating: Derek Anderson was only sacked twice, which isn’t terrible, but he took a pounding without the ball too.  Anderson was rocked nine times, with one hit almost knocking him out of the game.  Brandon Keith did a decent job in not allowing a sack, but Chris Long accounted for 3 of the 9 QB hits.  Keith can’t be content with just preventing sacks; he’s got to keep Anderson upright or we’ll being seeing Max Hall sooner than expected.
  • Anderson’s Accuracy and Timing: Anderson missed a few passes throughout the game, especially with Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitz had his man Bartell beat on more than one occasion only to watch Anderson’s pass sail over head or bounce off the turf.  In addition, Anderson and Fitzgerald weren’t in sync.  Anderson repeatedly delivered the ball before Fitz had a chance to come out of his break.  That might be a protection issue on the line, but it’s something Fitz and Anderson need to get together on and correct.  Finally, Anderson got away with two dropped interceptions, which will likely become game changing interceptions if he keeps putting it right in the defense’s hands.
  • Whiz’s Playcalling: I think Ken Whisenhunt may have taken his “don’t do too much” scheme too far with the offensive playcalling, which was predictable and unimaginative.  The Rams blitzed early and often, but the Cardinals declined to take advantage of the openings, instead deciding to repeatedly run up the middle right into the teeth of the blitz.  Perhaps with this first game out of the way Whisenhunt will 0pen up the game plan a little against Atlanta.

The Good

  • Steve Breaston: Steve Breaston had himself a game.  Although he didn’t grab a TD reception, he grabbed 7 other balls for a 132 yards.  His biggest contribution, however, came when he stripped Clifton Ryan at the 1 yard line, which the Cards recovered for a touchback.  Breaston is a gamer and he does whatever it takes to get his team a win.  He certainly seems ready to take Boldin’s place.
  • Stephens-Howling: With Beanie Wells inactive, we got a chance to see what Hyphen can bring to the offense.  The shifty back rushed for 49 yards on only seven carries.  He secures the ball and is a great receiving threat out of the backfield.  If Hightower can’t get his fumbling issues under control, Stephens-Howling seems ready, willing, and more than able to step into Hightower’s place along side Beanie Wells.
  • Anderson’s Competitiveness: The starting QB showed some courage standing in the pocket after the beating he took.  He showed a lot of emotion, erupting on the sideline after throwing a TD to Fitzgerald to take the lead.  That intensity is something we would never have seen from Matt Leinart.
  • Ball Hawking Defense: Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes both had very good games.  Wilson recorded two INTs, a blocked field goal, and a sack and Rhodes picked off Sam Bradford at the Cards’ 6 yard line as the Rams were driving to take the lead with under two minutes to play.  They defense did give up 325 total yards, but only allowed 13 points.

Game Awards:

  • Offensive Player of the Game: Steve Breaston
  • Defensive Player of the Game: Adrian Wilson

Check out the Cardinals post-game video here, courtesy of the Cardinals’ official website.

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