Running back Edgerrin James looks for running room during the Cardinals' 24-17 loss in Washington Sunday at FedEx Field.
LANDOVER, Md. – So many times, the scenario had worked for the Arizona Cardinals, a two-minute drill with Kurt Warner running the huddle.
It worked so many times except for this time, on this Sunday at FedEx Field against the Washington Redskins. Trailing by seven, the Cards had three plays and then a punt, and the Redskins bled the clock to hang on to a 24-17 win.
Undefeated no more, the Cardinals (2-1) insisted afterward they were already looking forward to next week's opponent, the New York Jets. But there was certainly a sense they also blew a chance at what could have been a significant victory.
"There were just too many mistakes today in situations where we had a chance to make plays," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
The Cardinals talked all week about avoiding slow starts, but the Redskins (2-1) marched down for a touchdown on their first drive and built a 10-0 lead deep into the first half. The Cardinals knew they couldn't commit turnovers, but they twice turned it over – with a tipped interception of quarterback Kurt Warner leading to what became the game-winning points for Washington.
Yet the Cardinals did just enough to have a chance, making the loss that much more painful.
Defensive end Bertrand Berry got his third sack in three games to make a 47-yard field goal a 52-yard attempt by Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham – and Suisham pulled it wide left.
That gave the Cards the ball at their own 42-yard line with 3:23 left. Edgerrin James – who gained 93 yards on 18 carries – picked up six yards on a run.
But Warner's second-down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage. His third-down pass, while scrambling, fell well out of the reach of running back Tim Hightower. With 2:46 left and the Cards still with two timeouts, Whisenhunt called for the punt.
"The really disappointing thing we had a chance with our two-minute drill and we just missed," Whisenhunt said.
"That's why you lose," Warner said. "You hang your hat on certain things."
With all the time left, "I didn't really consider" going for it," Whisenhunt said, but hindsight – and the Redskins -- proved that erroneous.
Washington picked up two first downs, the last when Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell ran a perfect play-action pass to tight end Chris Cooley. The game was over.
Campbell completed 23-of-31 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 68-yard touchdown pass called back because of a personal foul penalty away from the play, which would have ended Cardinal hopes much sooner.
"They tried to slow us up and make us play their game," linebacker Karlos Dansby said.
Warner had another solid outing, throwing touchdown passes to both Larry Fitzgerald (a 62-yarder, en route to a seven-catch, 109-yard game) and Anquan Boldin (only three catches for 25 yards). Warner completed 16-of-30 for 192 yards.
The game-changer, however, was his interception. The Cardinals' defense, which gave up touchdowns on the Redskins' initial drive of each half, got a stop with the score tied 17-17. On second-on-8 from their own 21, Warner had Steve Breaston open deep.
But the ball never quite made it to Breaston. Redskins defensive back Leigh Torrence made a nice play to bat the ball in the air – Warner said he probably underthrew the pass, Breaston said he had to find a way to make the catch – and Redskins cornerback made a nice play to make a diving interception.
Rogers got up and ran it back to the Cardinals' 15, and two plays later, the Redskins led, 24-17.
"I thought we had the play," Whisenhunt said. "But there were lots of plays like that today."
A short time later, the Cards were sitting with their first loss, and a similarly bitter one like the one they suffered last season in Washington.
"The finish was the same, that's all that really matters," Warner said.
"We hurt ourselves," Warner added. "It wasn't one or two things. It was us not playing up to this game, when we should have made more plays than we did."
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 9/21/08.