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The Setup
The Cards were 1 & 1 coming off a brutal drubbing by the Falcones. The Raiders were 1 & 1 coming off a tight win over the Rams. To add spice to the contest, the Niners lost their third game in a row (decisively may I add). By winning, the Cards could take over (at least on a shared basis) the NFC West division lead.

The Raiders - who made a halftime shift last week to Gradkowski (knows the west coast offense/ fires up his teammates) from Jason Campbell (athletic but out of synch with his receivers) - decided to stay with Gradkowski vs. the Cards. Meanwhile, the Cardinal QB, Derek Anderson was still getting acquainted with his receivers and blockers. Interesting dual in the desert.

The Bottom Line:
I'll admit it. I'm back from a day-long hospital visit, sitting hunched over my TV set (still smarting from being chewed out by the Missus for leaving the dinner table early), watching in horror as the Raiders use 3:32 of clock time to move agonizingly but inevitably from their own 20 yard line to the Cardinal 14 where (with 0:01 left on the clock - the game log claimed it was 0:04). Sebastian Janikowski is about to boot home an easy 32-yard field goal. I have the sound on the TV on "mutant." Do I really want to watch the inevitable happen in front of my very eyes? Am I a true masochist? "What the bleep!" I figure. Who knows - anything can happen (yeah, right).

But it did.

Janikowski's kick was pulled wide-left. Cliche time: A win is a win is a win."

But I would be lying if I didn't confide that, as a Cardinal fan, I find it painful to watch the Cardinal offense operated by Anderson. True - he sometimes will come through with a big play, but every down is an adventure. You just don't get the feeling that his ability to execute the plays he has to run is money in the bank. (And this afternoon, he added to his repertoire of scary activities designed to surrender the ball to his opponents, the poorly executed forward underhanded pass (one of which got picked off on a deflection/another that should have).

Then there was the matter of weird personnel and play-calling; including the choice of Andre Roberts to field punts despite a track record of muffed catches and bouncing balls. That plus a couple of strange looking and badly executed gadget plays including one from what looked like the old Steve Owens "A" formation - with a RB on each side of Anderson. The formation drew run blitzers like a magnet, and they were all over the play like a blanket before the trickeration had a chance to develop. Those are the types of things you perfect in preseason/not during the regular season when money's on the line.

Just call me Mr. Grouchy. After all, we did win. Whew!

Game Recap

1st Quarter

  • Raiders won the toss and elected to kick off. Bad move - LSH took the kickoff 2-yards deep in his end zone and brought it out to the Raider 0-yard line (i.e. for a TD) On the opening drive of the game, the Falcons used 9 plays (5 on the ground and a Cardinal penalty) to score first on a pass to White. Cards 7 - Raidiz 0.

  •  An offensive pass interference call derailed Oaklands first possession. They punted so that it was downed at the Cardinal 2. Cards went 3 & out. Oakland started from their own 36. And unsportsmanlike penalty on Adrian Wilson was followed by a 22-yard TD pass to Miller (whose multiple moves turned Wilson around 2 or 3 times. Cards 7 - Raidiz 7

  • Cards couldn't get past the Oakland 45 on their next possession, and punted. Oakland took over on their own 5-yard line and stayed bottled up there on a 3 & out. But Roberts botched the punt return, giving Oakland the ball back on the Cardinal 28. Gradkowski led his men to the Cardinal -yard line, but the Big Red defense stiffened and Janikowski's 22-yard attempt was good. Raidiz 10 - Cards 7.

  • Cards replied with a drive of their own. A24 yard scamper off LT by Beanie and a 27-yard pass interference penalty on Routt helped set up a game-tying Cardinal FG. Raidiz 10 - Cards 10

  • Oakland returned the favor, moving into FG range (which apparently means "anything within 55-yards." Janikowski was good from 54.  Raidiz 13 - Cards 10.

  • The next cardinal possession extended into the next quarter. A 27-yard interference call helped extend the drive.

2nd Quarter

  • It wound up a 12-play 76 yard touchdown drive, capped by a pretty Anderson to Breaston completion for a 2-yard score. (The lead again at last!)   Cardinals 17 - Raidiz 13.

  • The following 0-play possession by Oakland went nowhere, and they punted. Cards next possession had them bottled up at the 5. Graham's punt was less than earth-shattering, and Iwebema's roughness foul on the punt gave Oakland the ball at the Cardinal 42. On the first play of the ensuing series, a Gradkowski pass was batted around in the secondary and finally picked off by Lenon, but 4 plays later (inside the Raider 35) Anderson attempted the first of his abortive underhanded forward laterals. It was picked off. With 2:40 still left til the half, a 33-yard scamper by McFadden helped set up a TD 4 plays later on a 2-yard McFadden run with 0:15 left on the clock. Score at Halftime Raiders 20 - Cardinals 17.

3rd Quarter

  • Oakland received, and we held them to 3 & out. We got the ball back on our own 23 and were able to hold onto the ball for 10 plays, but a sack for minus-7 forced us to punt. Oakland took over on their own 11 and made it all the way to the Cardinal 23 (key play was a 70-yard deep throw from Gradkowski to Murphy), but our defense stiffened, Janikowski's 41-yarder was no good. Cards took over on their own 31 and turned their next drive into a touchdown. A 25-yarder to Breaston and a 13-yard run by Hightower set up a 7-yard Anderson-to-Fitz TD score.  Cardinals 24 - Raidiz 20.

  • CNext Oakland drive carried over to the 4th quarter.

4th Quarter

  • A couple of penalties caused Oakland to punt, but once again the Cards (this time DRC) muffed the punt. Oakland got the ball again at the Cardinal 16. They got as far as the Cardinal one-yard line, but a stout goal line defense plus a delay of game infraction forced Janikowsk to kick a 23 yard field goal (Pressure's on - Cardinals 24 - Radiz 23..

  • A questionable face-mask call on the ballcarrier (Beanie) helped stall our possession. To make a long story short, the 2 teams traded possessions with Janikowski missed a FG from 58 yards out. They traded possessions again - this time with Oakland getting the ball back with 3:33 left in the game. A "ghost" interference call on Cromartie on a deep throw, set things up for a Janikowski chip shot from the Cardinal 14 with 0:01 left on the clock. He was wide left. End of story.

Bright Spots

  • With two long TD returns (one unsullied by penalty) in his resume, LSH appears to be the real deal as a return man.

  • 119 ground yards may not sound scintillating, but for us it's a decent number. Not only that; we gained 4.6 yards per carry.

  • We were 2 for 2 in the red zone. (Raiders were 1 for 5).

  • Anderson was picked off just once.

  • Breaston went 4 for 8 including a TD).

  • The TD passes to both Fitz and Breaston were both crisply and accurately thrown. The goal for Anderson should be to deliver 75 - 80% of his passes as crisply and confidently.

  • Kerry Rhodes was the leading Cardinal tackler (10) followed by Lenon (8 including a sack) and D-Dock (7 including a sack). Joey P had the final sack of a total of three for the afternoon. Lenon and D-Dock each had 2 tackles for loss. Rhodes led the team with 3 passes defended. Lenon had a key interception.

  • Beanie's 14 carries for 75 yards was decent (THT's 40 yards on 11 carries was OK).

  • Though he's far from where he needs to be as a QB. Anderson's 2 TD's (vs. one pick) is an improvement. He's moving in the right direction.

The Dark Side

  • Although Anderson displayed some bright spots, a below-50% completion rate isn't going to win many football games - especially operating a passing offense that relies on accuracy and timing. The lowly perfection figure doesn't. by any measure, signify improvement in that category.

  • Anderson seems to lack faith in his ability to arc deep passes with the flick of a wrist. Instead, he seems to attempt to make higher the release point of his delivery in order to "steer" what would otherwise be a flat-trajectory "rocket ball" to a more "hump-backed throw. Doesn't work; won't work. It's the reason he can't connect with Fitz (because there's no high-point within the trajectory for Fitz to leap to.

  • Anderson also failed to pick up a wide-open Fitz deep downfield on one (maybe two) plays.

  • Fitzy only caught 2 footballs (despite being thrown to 7 times). However, chalk part of that up to Oakland's Pro Bowl corner (Asamugha).

  • As good as LSH has been returning kickoffs, Roberts was a disaster back there, and DRC wasn't much better.

  • The penalties - I found 9 in the game log (Stats summary lists 7). Three were in the first half/six in the 2H (You almost get the feeling the officials - who nailed Oakland numerous times in the 1H) - were trying to even things out.

  • Three turnovers (including 2 lost fumbles).

  • Memo to Derek Anderson - Bag the desperation shovel pass. (It didn't work twice - a disaster once and a near-disaster the other time).

  • Don't make games OJT for gadget plays (If they can't be consistently executed slickly in practice, they probably won't work in real games.

  • After a dumb unsportsmanlike conduct (USC) penalty early in the game, followed by his total undressing by the Raider TE (Miller) on a TD pass, we were close to changing Adrian Wilson's nickname to "A-Flub" (but fortunately he redeemed himself with solid defensive play later on).

  • This year, Cardinal defenders - while better than their counterparts forcing fumbles - seem to be a split-second too late diving to (& securing the ball). We're not getting our share of those fumble recoveries. Maybe some midweek time playing ping pong or other reflex-sharpening games on the X-Box would sharpen our collective reaction-time..

Last Word:
Arizona fans - what you have witnessedright before your very eyes was the first time in history that a break of this magnitude actually went the Cardinals' way. For all these years -dating back to the Jimmy Conzelman/Charley Trippi championship season - the Cardinals were always "the team that things happened to." Finally a game-winning break out of the Book of Impossibilities - a chip shot that went wide.

Many (if not most) Super Bowl-bound football clubs build reputations of being "teams of destiny" - in at least 2 or 3 losable games, the ball always seems to just bounce their way. Maybe this year, the Oakland  squeaker will be first in a series. I'll take it.

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 09/27/2010