Arizona Cardinals win game one with big plays and just enough defense

It was the home opener for the 2011 Arizona Cardinals and their new starting quarterback Kevin Kolb.  Only four starters remain from the Cardinals offense last season.  Eight starters on the Cardinals defense are returning from last year.  The Cardinals were playing the Carolina Panthers who were 2-14 last season.  They also had a new starting quarterback in Heisman Trophy winner and first overall draft pick this year, Cam Newton.  The game was full of exciting plays, mistakes, and just enough defense at the end to allow the Arizona Cardinals to defeat the Carolina Panthers 28-21.

Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie WellsThings were looking good for the Cardinals early on.  The new look Cardinals offense took their opening drive 54 yards on six plays, which ended with a seven yard touchdown run by Beanie Wells.  The lead didn’t last long as the Cardinals defense blew pass coverage, and allowed a 77 yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith, tying the score at seven.  It only took the Cardinals three plays and 1:34 to give up the early lead.

In the second quarter, the Cardinals moved the ball 76 yards to the Carolina four yard line.  On second and goal, Kolb pitched the ball to Beanie Wells for what looked to be an easy score, except Wells never received the ball.  The ball was pitched behind Wells and Thomas Davis of Carolina recovered the fumble.

On the very next possession, the Cardinals drove the ball 56 yards down to the Carolina 5 yard line.  Kolb had two completions for over 20 yards in the drive, but on second and goal Andre Roberts was penalized 15 yards for an illegal crackback.  The Cardinals were pushed back to the Carolina 18, and the drive ended with a missed 36 yard field goal.  The Cardinals had first and goal inside the Carolina five yard line twice and came up empty.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl WashingtonWhen Carolina took over possession after the missed field goal, Daryl Washington intercepted Cam Newton’s pass intended for Greg Olsen.  Unfortunately a roughing the passer penalty on Richard Marshall nullified the turnover and gave Carolina a first down inside Cardinals territory.  Cam Newton hit Steve Smith for a 26 yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the first half to give Carolina the lead 14-7.

Daryl Washington ended up getting another interception on the Panthers first possession of the second half.  This time the turnover stood, and on the very next play, Kevin Kolb hit tight end Jeff King for a 48 yard touchdown to tie the score.

On the ensuing drive, Newton drove the Panthers 80 yards down field in eight plays, resulting in a touchdown.  Down seven in the fourth quarter, Kolb hit Early Doucet on a short pass over the middle, and he ran 70 yards for the touchdown to even the score at 21-21.

Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick PetersonWhen Carolina got the ball back, they could only generate one first down and had to punt the ball.  Rookie Patrick Peterson was back to receive the punt but did not call for a fair catch even though he caught the punt on the Cardinal 11 yard line.  Peterson broke straight up the middle of the field and ran through one attempted tackle.  After breaking the tackle, he saw daylight and sprinted up the right side of the field untouched for the 89 yard touchdown return.  Peterson started to celebrate a little too early, and had to dive into the endzone before being caught from behind.  This was the second longest punt return in Cardinals franchise history.

Cam Newton and the Panthers were down seven, but were not done yet.  On their final drive on the game the Panthers moved the ball 72 yards to the Cardinals 11 yard line.  The drive was assisted by another Cardinals penalty.  Clark Haggans was called for roughing the passer.  On fourth down, the drive was kept alive again when Joey Porter jumped offsides on fourth and ten.  Given another opportunity to score, or at least get the first down, Newton hit running back Mike Goodson on a short pass in the middle of the field.  Paris Lenon was there to tackle Goodson on the two yard line, one yard short of the first down marker.

Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kevin KolbThe Cardinals got the ball on downs and ran out the clock for the 28-21 win.  The Cardinals ended the game with four sacks, but didn’t pressure Newton on enough plays to slow him down.  He ended up 24 of 37 with 422 passing yards, the most ever by a starting rookie quarterback in the NFL.  Patrick Peterson and the rest of the defensive secondary were not always on the same page, and were beat repeatedly by Steve Smith and the Panthers receiving corps.  Penalties cost the Cardinals several scoring opportunities and an interception during the game.  The offense moved the ball well, with Kolb going 18 for 27 and 309 yards.  He played well under pressure, and made good decisions on the fly.  Kolb had two touchdown passes, both for over 40 yards, and no interceptions.  The Cardinals only had three passing plays over 40 yards all last season.  Beanie Wells had 18 rushing attempts for 90 yards and a touchdown.  This was a very good game offensively for the Cardinals, but the defense, especially the secondary, still needs some work.

The Cardinals take take on the Washington Redskins next Sunday at FedEx Field.  The Redskins beat the New York Giants in their first game of the season 28-14.  We will see if Cardinals new Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton can make the defensive adjustments necessary to slow down the Redskins.  It will be difficult for the Cardinals to win two games in a row if they allow their opponent another 400 yards passing.

~ by Troy Erickson Realtor on September 13, 2011.

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