Quarterback Kevin Kolb gives receiver Larry Fitzgerald a hug after Fitzgerald scored on an 80-yard touchdown reception from Kolb Saturday night.
If the third preseason game is indeed, as quarterback Kevin Kolb said earlier in the week, "the one where you measure everyone up," the Cardinals had to be happy where the yardstick ended up.
With AFC West favorite San Diego visiting University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday night, the starting offense scored a couple of touchdowns, rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson made his first NFL interception and the starters outscored the Chargers' starters. San Diego did score a touchdown with three seconds left to pull out a 34-31 win, but the Cardinals were generally happy with how things turned out.
"There were still some things we wanted to work on … and we are so far behind some other teams because of new players and a new quarterback," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "And we missed some things. But I was pleased with moving the ball and making some plays."
Kolb's accuracy was shaky early – he completed just two of his first eight passes – but the ninth was a perfect down-the-middle bomb to Larry Fitzgerald, who split two defenders. Fitzgerald hauled it in and ran some 40 yards for an 80-yard touchdown that sparked the offense.
"That was the first of many, hopefully," Kolb said.
Kolb ended up orchestrating another touchdown drive – wide receiver Andre Roberts took the pitch from running back Beanie Wells on a reverse and scampered 35 yards for a score – and finished 11-for-20 for 205 yards and a touchdown.
"(Kevin) is just a guy who wants to make the big play, wants to make the right pass," said Fitzgerald, who ended up with 108 yards on three catches. "That attitude is infectious."
Peterson also made his best play of the preseason, stepping in front of a receiver to intercept Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and racing 34 yards for his first NFL touchdown. Peterson insisted he hasn't been frustrated this preseason as Whisenhunt has worked him into the lineup slowly, but he did admit "I was screaming all the way to the end zone" in celebration of his first turnover.
The Cards did lose starting cornerback Greg Toler early in the game, after his foot got caught in the grass and he suffered a sprain. Toler said it was of his ACL and he will be tested further to see the extent of the injury.
Rivers did eventually get to the Cards' defense – Arizona didn't have a sack, although it was close several times – to bring the Chargers back. Whisenhunt was happy with the three-and-out the starters provided to open the second half, however, with Rivers still playing (he led a field goal drive against the second unit after that).
Rookie backup nose tackle David Carter played well and linebacker Daryl Washington flashed some of his speed.
"I wish we would have held them out, but we're not really running a lot of our plays," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "I really feel when we put our whole package together we can go out and shut down any team."
Backup quarterback Rich Bartel played well as he tries to wrest the No. 2 job away from the injured John Skelton (ankle), completing 8-of-10 passes for 76 yard and a touchdown. Running the ball, starter Beanie Wells gained 63 yards on just 10 carries and then LaRod Stephens-Howling added 40 yards on six carries (plus a touchdown reception).
"We did a better job," Wells said, "but there are still things to clean up."
The Cardinals have just a couple of practices left before their preseason finale against Denver Thursday. The starters figure to play a lot less, although that must be balanced with the work that still has to be done.
"I think we are in for high-intensity, high-tempo football, and that is what is on everybody's mind," Kolb said. "If we can continue to clean things up and keep getting better, there is no telling where we might be."