Sunday, September 12, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 17, Rams 13
By Mike Sando
What It Means: The Arizona Cardinals are going to have to grind, grind, grind as long as Derek Anderson is their quarterback. Anderson makes some plays, especially when he has time, but his inaccuracy will test the Cardinals' patience. It's a huge adjustment from Kurt Warner. St. Louis Rams rookie Sam Bradford, meanwhile, looked at times Sunday like the second-best quarterback in the division -- and he only figures to get better. Bradford threw three picks, including one on fourth down as the Rams tried to rally in the final minutes, but he gives the Rams hope and that will help them stay in games this season. The Rams' defense fed off that hope, creating turnovers and keeping St. Louis in position to win. Adrian Wilson made a spectacular play on one of the Bradford interceptions. The second came on a fourth-down play when Bradford had to take a chance. The third was on a Hail Mary to end the game. Bradford's performance was better than his stats.
What I liked: The Rams did not become overly conservative to protect a rookie quarterback. They did the opposite, actually, putting Bradford in the shotgun and trusting him to make the difference in key situations. Bradford was often up to the challenge. His touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson on fourth-and-goal from the 1 was one example. Bradford repeatedly rolled out and made accurate throws on the run. The Rams pretty much declared Bradford ready for prime time. He tossed 55 passes -- too many -- but anyone watching this matchup would take Bradford on its team any day.
Tomorrow's Talker: If the Cardinals could dump their projected starting quarterback, Matt Leinart, how long before they consider giving rookie Max Hall some reps at quarterback? Look, I know it's early and Anderson finished with a respectable 85.1 rating. He made plays. But he completed only 54 percent of his passes and he repeatedly missed open receivers. Warner would have lit up the scoreboard if he were still the Cardinals' quarterback. Even a reasonably accurate passer would have scored more points for Arizona. Anderson won the game and that's what matters in the end. But there were six or seven times when I wondered what Hall would have done.
Trending: There was much fretting over the Cardinals' situation at safety after losing Antrel Rolle. Kerry Rhodes picked off one pass to kill a late Rams drive. Adrian Wilson picked off two others. On the surface, it looked like safety will not be a problem for Arizona.
Hero: Steve Breaston caught seven passes for 132 yards, making several big plays for the Cardinals. He was open often and showed, again, that Arizona can produce at receiver without Anquan Boldin. Breaston's hustle play to force a fumble and save a touchdown return was also critical.
Critical Call: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt called those five consecutive running plays after the passing game showed inconsistency. It was a smart move and the Cardinals responded. With Beanie Wells out, the Cardinals turned to LaRod Stephens-Howling more as a runner. The second-year pro carried seven times for 49 yards. He caught three more passes for 16 yards. Stephens-Howling's running was important in sustaining that touchdown drive featuring the five consecutive runs.
What's next: The Cardinals visit Atlanta for what figures to be a tough game. Taking a 1-0 record into that game gives Arizona welcome breathing room early in the season. The Rams head to Oakland and figure to have a good shot at their first victory of the season.