Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, making his first preseason appearance, throws a pass during Saturday's 27-17 win in Kansas City.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Kurt Warner was held out of the Cardinals' first preseason game, he said it didn't matter much because the coaching staff already knew what he could do.
Saturday night, Warner got to play – starting against the Chiefs. He also played just like everyone expected.
Matt Leinart had a much rockier beginning to his night, but even the other half of the Cards' quarterback competition finished in similar style as coach Ken Whisenhunt won his first preseason game as Cardinals' coach in a 27-17 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I guess the monkey is off my back," Whisenhunt joked, before adding, "The best part is that we won on the road."
The quarterbacks helped, with Whisenhunt's immediate evaluation simple: "I have to look at the tape, but on the surface, both played well."
Warner's two series and 16 plays produced a touchdown drive that was capped by a four-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Tim Hightower. Warner finished the night completing 6-of-9 passes for 54 yards.
"It's always fun to be out there," Warner said. "I wanted to go out and redeem myself with a couple of more drives."
His first playing time didn't quite pan out. Warner's first throw of the season was a bomb attempt to Anquan Boldin that was batted away by Chiefs rookie cornerback Brandon Flowers. Warner's third-down pass fell incomplete when he threw expecting Larry Fitzgerald to break inside and Fitzgerald instead broke outside.
Warner said afterward the play was his fault.
The next drive was vintage Warner, however. He followed a six-yard Edgerrin James run with a 22-yard pass to Fitzgerald, sparking a 13-play, 78-yard march. Hightower's run ended with him leaping near the right pylon and holding the ball over the goal line.
"We made a couple of mistakes early, which didn't make me real happy," Warner said. "But we got into a rhythm with the second drive. That is really what the preseason is about. You have to manage the game and understand the situations."
Hightower was initially ruled out of bounds on the play in which he sprinted to the outside, but Whisenhunt challenged the call and it was overturned, giving Hightower his second score in as many weeks.
"I have been working on (my speed) and it feels like it is translating on the field," Hightower said.
Leinart finished the half, overseeing three straight three-and-outs, although he was victimized on the first series. A completion to Fitzgerald that should have generated a first down was dropped by Fitzgerald after contact – and was at first ruled an interception before a second successful challenge by Whisenhunt.
Leinart almost threw an interception on his first pass, however, and missed an open Jerheme Urban on another attempt.
"I just didn't think it was a fair representation in the first half," Whisenhunt said of Leinart's nine plays. "Matt wanted to go back in."
So after a "discussion" at halftime, Whisenhunt said, the coach sent Leinart back out to play the first series of the second half – with the starting offensive line – and Leinart responded.
The Cardinals went 11 plays for a touchdown, finishing with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Leinart to Steve Breaston. Leinart completed all five of his passes on the drive.
"You always want to get a drive going," Leinart said, noting with a grin the offensive linemen weren't thrilled they had to go back out for the second half. "We stumbled a bit at the beginning and we wanted a drive and that's what we did."
Leinart finished 7-of-11 passing for 62 yards.
Third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre even had his moment, following up a 78-yard kickoff return by J.J. Arrington by tossing a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide-open fullback Tim Castille.
That was plenty for a Cardinals' defense that didn't yield a touchdown and got two sacks from new linebacker Travis LaBoy. Rookie safety Dennis Keyes added an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"I was pleased that we held them to field goals," Whisenhunt said of the defense's performance prior to a touchdown with just 15 seconds left. "When you've only given up three points, you've accomplished something."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 8/16/08. Updated 8/16/08.