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Cardinals Passing Fancy

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Quarterback Kurt Warner (13) and receivers Larry Fitzgerald (11) and Anquan Boldin (81) gave a vintage performance Sunday against Miami.

The announcements came early and often, about Anquan Boldin making the longest catch of his career (79 yards) to Larry Fitzgerald doing the same (75 yards) to Kurt Warner finishing with an NFL-record tying third game in which he posted a perfect passing rating (158.3).

"All I can say," Warner said with a big grin, "is that it's nice to have those days."

A week ago, it was easy to talk about the bludgeoning the Cardinals handed the

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San Francisco 49ers and how the Cards controlled the clock. But Sunday, as the Cards were rolling past Miami, 31-10, Sunday to reach 2-0 for the first time in 17 years, the offensive texture was decidedly airy.

And when Warner – who has built his career on freely tossing the ball around the field – hooks up with the Cards' pair of Pro Bowl receivers, it's easy to be seduced into playing that way.

Statistics alone are emphatic. Warner threw for 361 yards on only 19 completions (in 24 attempts). Three ended in touchdowns to Boldin – a career-high for Q. Both Boldin (140 yards) and Fitzgerald (153) had six receptions.

The bombs in the first quarter painted a more colorful picture.

The Cards had two offensive penalties – a delay of game and an illegal formation – before they even ran a play. Then Boldin got in the slot, matched up with linebacker Akin Ayodele.

And no one else.

"For some reason, they left their one free safety back to the weak side," Warner said. "I was expecting him to run back to the middle of the field."

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano called it a "mental error." What it turned into was Boldin streaking down the middle of the field, having easily blown past Ayodele, creating a play that will be on the Cards' 2008 highlight reel 79 yards later.

"It helps when you hit an 80-yarder on one of the first plays of the game," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Fitzgerald was kept from the end zone, but his 75-yard catch was another step in his development. The catch, a classic jump ball over cornerback Will Allen, was about 25 yards downfield. The other 50 yards came as run after the catch, a facet of Fitzgerald's game he has worked on constantly.

He was caught from behind by Allen at the Miami 4. Fitzgerald said it was unfortunate but "we got a touchdown out of the drive and that's all that matters."

Boldin, however, wasn't going to let it go so easily.

"He's going to hear about it all week," Boldin said.

Boldin already tormented the Dolphins. His second touchdown came when he doubled his motion pre-snap, noting that the Cards had seen on video the Miami cover men getting lazy chasing the motion. Right before the snap, Boldin reversed motion– the Cards were on the Miami 3 -- and sprinted to the pylon.

Warner hit Boldin in stride, and the Miami defenders never had a chance to catch him.

The third throw was vintage Warner, threading the ball between two defenders to Boldin's back shoulder for an eight-yard score.

"It was really exactly where I wanted to put it," Warner insisted, and when a man has finished with a perfect passing rating, who can argue?

The most popular topic this week – besides the Cardinals carrying a 2-0 record for the first time in a long time – will be Warner. In posting his first perfect passer rating since 2000, Warner joins Colts quarterback Peyton Manning as the only QBs to do so in three games during his career.

Warner isn't one to ignore such facts; the effort clearly meant a lot to him at age 37. It's further proof to him that his ascension to the starting job was the right decision by Whisenhunt and staff.

To play so well as the Cards fired pass after pass, well, that's plays into Warner's interest as well.

"I love the fact last week we were able to run the ball and control the clock and this week we were able to explode and exploit the Dolphins in the passing game," Warner said.

Whisenhunt said again Sunday that if throwing gives the Cards the best option to win, he has no problem doing so. The Cards didn't dominate time of possession as much as the first game, but it didn't matter.

Last week, Fitzgerald – even in the aftermath of the balanced offense in San Francisco – talked about how the Cards were still pass-first and built from the outside in.

Fitzgerald. Boldin. With Warner pulling the trigger.

It was impossible to think otherwise Sunday.

"Once we got going," Warner said, "it felt like we couldn't be stopped."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/14/08.

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