Larry Fitzgerald stretches to score on one of quarterback Kurt Warner's five touchdown passes Sunday in a 41-21 win.
CHICAGO – The very first play, Larry Fitzgerald dropped the ball.
The second, a blitzer came free, forcing another incompletion.
Kurt Warner didn’t flinch.
His next throw was a 23-yard strike to Steve Breaston, gaining a first down, at once puncturing the Soldier Field crowd and clearing the way for Warner to do what he almost always does – follow a poor game with something much better.
Maybe he wouldn’t have predicted five touchdown passes, tying a career high he set in 1999 when playing for the Rams. More easily considered would have been a victory, like the 41-21 win the Cards recorded over the Bears.
Either way, it was an impressive rebuttal to the five interceptions he had thrown the week before in the loss to Carolina.
“You never envision coming out and having a game like this but you appreciate them,” Warner said. “It’s especially nice after throwing five picks last week to be able to balance it out with five touchdown passes. But that’s part of the game.
“It’s one of those things I’ve been through a number of times and unfortunately probably go through again. But so much of this business is how you respond and how you come back.”
The day was all about how the Cardinals responded, but perhaps no one more so than Warner. The questions had come like a hailstorm the week leading to Chicago, not so much about Warner and turnovers but the general inconsistency of the offense.
There was too much sputtering, something even Warner acknowledged. There weren’t enough long passing plays, enough explosion. Then came pre-game Sunday, when coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to inactivate wide receiver Anquan Boldin to rest Boldin’s injured ankle, changing the offensive dynamic.
Yet Warner didn’t seem affected. He cherishes his weapons and heaps praise on all of them, whether it is Boldin or Fitzgerald or anyone. But he’s also a believer in a system and his own talents, so when the Cardinals marched for touchdowns in every one of their first four possessions – the first time the Cards had done so since 1980 – it didn’t feel like the personnel would have mattered.
That was the offense for which everyone had been wanting.
“We didn’t change anything,” Whisenhunt said. “We just executed better today.”
The running game was spectacular, with the duo of Tim Hightower (15 carries for 72 yards) and
Fitzgerald didn’t do much wrong after that initial drop, torturing the Bears for nine catches and a season-high 123 yards.
“We haven’t really hit on all cylinders this year,” center
But it all went back to Warner, who never was supposed to get that fifth TD pass. He was taken out of the game in favor of Matt Leinart, only to go right back in when the game got too close.
Perhaps it was apropos, since Warner had a record of 9-4 in his career in starts following a game in which he threw at least three interceptions.
Can it really be any surprise that record is now 10-4?
“Kurt was phenomenal,” Fitzgerald said.
“Kurt Warner,” said safety Antrel Rolle, “was clutch.”