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Making Up For Missing Pieces

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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald dives to make a touchdown catch Sunday during Arizona's 41-17 win over Buffalo.

Anquan Boldin wasn't at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday.

The injured wide receiver didn't make the trip to Glendale. Having just had surgery to fix a fracture bone in his face on Thursday evening, perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise Boldin stayed home, even if his teammates weren't forgetting about him.

"This one goes out to Anquan," fullback Terrelle Smith said. "I think everybody felt that."

The Cards were missing one of their Pro Bowl wideouts but still hammered

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Buffalo, 41-17. The win wiped way the rancid taste the Cardinals were collectively carrying from the previous week's beatdown in New York, and that was necessary.

The game in New York also cost the Cardinals Boldin, at least for the time being. And that's the other major benefit the Cards earned against the Bills – a victory minus a key piece of the puzzle.

Injuries happen in the NFL. Winning in spite of them separates contenders from pretenders.

"If you're going to be a good team in this league and you're going to win games," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "you're going to have to have guys step up."

The Cardinals didn't get that in New York. The defense lost Adrian Wilson and Bertrand Berry, and Jets quarterback Brett Favre feasted.

(Yes, the dozens of Cards' turnovers that game – or so it seemed – didn't help, but the point remains valid.)

What was the Cardinals' offense going to do without Boldin, the man who wears 81 on the field but is number one in many of his teammates' hearts? Apparently roll to a season-high in points.

Steve Breaston was solid. He tied Larry Fitzgerald for a game-high seven catches, he had the most receiving yards (77). Rookie Early Doucet, who hadn't played all season, debuted with six catches for 42 yards.

"It was pretty much the same scheme," Doucet said of offense-minus-Anquan. "I just tried to learn as much as I could from Q and hopefully I did just a little bit of it."

Quarterback Kurt Warner talked about his growing confidence in Breaston, and already he showed some in Doucet. In the first half, Warner tossed a pass that Doucet should have hauled in for a 17-yard gain on second-and-4. Doucet, worried about keeping his feet inbounds headed toward the sideline, dropped it.

On the next play, Warner threw it to Doucet again, and the rookie made an eight-yard reception for a first down.

Without Boldin, the offense got a couple more touchdowns from rookie running back Tim Hightower, who kept finding the end zone thanks to huge blocks by Smith.

"I said, 'We get on highway 45 today,' " said a beaming Smith, who wears number 45. "We had a good day today."

Without Boldin, Wilson thought it was even more important to try and play through a sore hamstring, and Wilson made both a physical and emotional impact. Without Boldin, the Cards turned to J.J. Arrington, who suddenly was Warner's easy outlet on some crucial plays.

Without Boldin, Warner made sure he played a clean game, making the right decision on practically every play.

Without Boldin, the Cards knew they still had one Pro Bowl receiver available, and Fitzgerald made two touchdown catches.

At one point in the game, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said, he looked up at the scoreboard to see division rival Seattle "getting mopped up" by the Giants and got excited. The NFC West is there to be taken, Dockett realized, and Sunday's win makes next week's game against the Cowboys that much more important.

Dockett said that game would be physical, a "bloodbath."

Odds are Boldin won't be back yet. Wilson might not be at full strength. Cornerback Rod Hood, who hurt his groin against the Bills, might be a question mark.

Good teams overcome.

"Anytime you gotta fill some shoes of 81, that's some big shoes to fill," Dockett said. "But that's how it is."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/5/08.

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