Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin runs with one of his career-high 14 catches during Sunday's 26-23 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore.
BALTIMORE – Kurt Warner always promised he could still play.
The Cardinals insisted they were a different team.
Because of both, the Cards made Sunday scary for the Baltimore Ravens and almost stole a win.
Instead, the storybook ending was thwarted, with Ravens' kicker Matt Stover booting a 46-yard field goal on the last play of the game in Baltimore's 26-23 win at M&T Bank Stadium.
It was the second road loss for the Cards this season, and the second to come in the game's final 20 seconds.
"This team, across the board, showed a lot of heart and grit," guard Reggie Wells said.
The Cardinals trailed, 23-6, in the second half before Warner – who was always going to be inserted into the game during the Cards' no-huddle packages – began dissecting the Ravens' defense, which had made life hard on starter Matt Leinart.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear after the game that Leinart will remain the starting quarterback.
The package that Warner orchestrated worked well, however.
"We planned (Kurt playing) going into the week," Whisenhunt said. "There was too much for Matt to focus on. It was effective for us.
"We were down three scores, so that's why we stayed with it (and played Warner)."
Between Warner (15-for-20, 258 yards, two touchdowns) and receiver Anquan Boldin (14 catches, 181 yards, two touchdowns), the Cardinals (1-2) stormed back. Trailing 20-17, Warner took the Cardinals on the game-tying drive with less than two minutes left.
Warner tried to hit receiver Bryant Johnson on a third-and-5 play at the Ravens 23-yard line, a play broken up by Corey Ivy that the Cardinals thought might have been pass interference.
Instead, they settled for the Neil Rackers' field goal to tie the game. Then, on the Ravens' game-winning possession, Ravens tight end Todd Heap hauled in a 12-yard pass and was drilled by Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson on what looked like a shoulder-to-body collision.
The officials flagged Wilson, saying he led with a forearm. The questionable call gave the Ravens the yards they needed to just get into Stover's range, and eventually Stover converted.
"It was a judgment call," Wilson said.
This is what referee Jerome Boger had to say on the play after the game:"The unnecessary roughness call was called because we had an airborne receiver hit by a defender, who we called launched into him, and he had a blow above the shoulders into the head area."
Boger added it was Wilson's forearm that collided with Heap.
The explanation didn't make it easier to take.
"I can't say what I want to say," Defensive end Darnell Dockett said. "Let me just say we are going to be a very good team."
With Leinart ineffective (9-of-20, 53 yards) Warner finally came in for good in the second half.
"Kurt came in and gave us the best chance to win," Leinart said.
Warner, who has looked sharp throughout training camp and the preseason, showed little rust in playing for the first time this season.
"We were hitting quick and we got them on their heels," Warner said.
The Cardinals needed that boost. The Ravens (2-1) all but took running back Edgerrin James out of the game after a 27-yard run on the first series.
The special teams that played so well the week before? That unit had a backbreaking close to the first half, surrendering a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown to Ravens rookie Yamon Figurs and then having kicker Neil Rackers leave a 47-yard field goal attempt just right of the goalpost seconds before halftime.
Ravens quarterback Steve McNair tore up the Cardinals' defense, completing 20-of-27 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. But he eventually had to leave the game in the fourth quarter because he reinjured his groin, forcing backup Kyle Boller to play and eventually lead the game-winning drive. * * *