Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner played the whole game with a bulky brace on his left elbow, but Arizona still fell to Washington, 21-19.
LANDOVER, Md. – As the Cardinals drove for their final field-goal attempt Sunday, the players on the sidelines were sure of a victory.
Kurt Warner had gamely played through torn ligaments in his left elbow and overcame two early interceptions. The defense had all but shut down Redskins running back Clinton Portis and quarterback Jason Campbell. The Cardinals had outgained the Redskins by more than 200 yards.
The Cards had even come up with an onside kick to preserve their chance to win.
Yet kicker Neil Rackers' last-second 55-yard try fluttered wide left to allow the Washington Redskins to hang on to a 21-19 win at FedEx Field -- and the Cards were left with another heartbreaking road loss, this time one to gnaw on through the bye week.
"This one hurts and it's going to hurt for two weeks," center Al Johnson said. "When we watch the film, we're going to be sick."
The Cardinals (3-4) got into a 14-point hole early in the game, in both cases because Warner (27-of-41, 282 yards, two touchdowns) threw interceptions. The second was returned 27 yards by Redskins linebacker London Fletcher for a touchdown.
Warner also missed out on what he said later would have been a third touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin when he was blindsided on a sack by Andre Carter inside the Washington red zone and fumbled the ball away.
But Warner also scrambled on a fourth down play to hit Boldin for a key TD right before halftime and played almost every snap despite being unable to hand off with his left arm because of the pain.
"It wasn't decided until game time, but in the back of my mind I think we were all optimistic I would play," Warner said.
"We put ourselves in position to win."
The Cardinals held Portis to just 43 yards rushing (although he had two touchdowns) and Campbell struggled (12-of-18 for 95 yards). The defense set up the Cards' first score when linebacker Calvin Pace picked off a batted screen pass for his first career interception.
Mistakes killed Arizona, however, and the Redskins (4-2) benefitted.
Besides the three turnovers, the Cards had another nine penalties for 75 yards. And Rackers, who was unavailable for comment after the game, had an extra point blocked when holder Mike Barr dropped the snap and had to scramble to get it upright.
The missing point was costly.
Trailing 21-6 early in the fourth quarter, Warner hit Boldin for the second of his two TDs. But the next time the Cards ventured into Washington territory, Warner had his fumble.
Warner got a final chance with 2:37 left, and led the Cards down the field, helped immensely by a 29-yard catch-and-run of a dump pass by running back J.J. Arrington down to the Washington 2.
Then coach Ken Whisenhunt dove into his playbook. Because Warner was having trouble handing off, the plan all week was to have backup quarterback Tim Rattay play in goal line situations.
So in Rattay's first play of the day -- third-and-goal with 30 seconds left in an eight-point game – Rattay pulled off a perfect play-action fake and hit tight end Leonard Pope for a touchdown pass.
The Cardinals, forced to go for two points, broke out more trickery. Boldin lined up in shotgun and Rattay was sent out left. Boldin took the snap and rolled right with a run-pass option. The Redskins had the run covered, but Larry Fitzgerald was open in the back of the end zone.
But instead of throwing high, Boldin tried to squeeze it in low, and the ball never reached Fitzgerald.
"Everybody on their defense flowed, and I kind of lost (sight of) him," Boldin said. "I should have thrown it a little higher."
The Cards somehow came up with the onside kick. But they couldn't get closer than the Washington 38, when the goal was to reach the Washington 35 and give Rackers no longer than a 52-yard try.
"If Neil's kick goes different then we are all talking differently right now," Warner said.
Instead, the Cardinals were left with their third road loss in four tries – and losses by three, three and two points.
"We had too many mistakes," Whisenhunt said. "I am proud we stayed together. But this is a bitter disappointment."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 10/21/07