As wide receiver Steve Breaston (left) celebrates his touchdown last weekend, teammate Early Doucet adds congratulations.
When Early Doucet came to the sideline after his second touchdown catch-and-run last weekend against the Packers – the one in which he bounced off three tacklers before scoring – he mentioned to some teammates "I had a little bit of Anquan in me on that run."
The Cardinals will take a little bit of Anquan if all of Anquan can't play, which is why the play of Doucet and the already-proven Steve Breaston was so important to open the playoffs.
With wide receiver Anquan Boldin missing his sixth straight practice Thursday with a bad ankle – his availability for Saturday's Divisional round game in New Orleans will be a game-day decision – it's likely the Cards will have to lean on Breaston (seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown) and Doucet (6-77-2) again.
"You don't know who is going to be in there," Breaston said. "The difficult part about (defending) our offense is we get a lot of people involved. When you do see a person like Early come in and perform like he does, you can't just sit back and say, 'Prepare for Anquan.' You have to prepare for Larry (Fitzgerald) and Anquan, but the more people that make plays for the offense puts stress on the defense."
Breaston was already a proven commodity after his 1,000-yard season of 2008. His numbers dropped this season (55 catches, 712 yards) as the Cardinals were able to run more effectively and as Boldin returned to full health late the second half of the season.
But he stepped right in to some huge plays against the Packers, including a 28-yard rush on an end-around.
Then there was Doucet, who has emerged late in the season to fulfill some of the promise he had coming out of LSU as a third-round pick.
"Each time I would come off the field from an offensive series, I would let (Boldin) know, 'Q, you saw this?' 'Q, you saw that?' " Doucet said. "He was just encouraging me the whole time."
Boldin said Thursday nothing had changed for him. He said he was "still optimistic" he could play Saturday and that it wouldn't be a problem if he had to step into the lineup without practice. If not, Breaston and Doucet should play a big role again.
"It's fun to see young guys come along, gain confidence and play up to their potential," quarterback Kurt Warner said.
HAYES REMAINS SIDELINED
Linebacker Gerald Hayes also missed practice again Thursday with an ankle sprain. While the Cardinals will not have another practice tomorrow, they are not required to officially address a player's status until Friday. But Whisenhunt has already said Hayes is a game-day decision, and it seems likely he'll end up as questionable although Hayes was pessimistic he was going to be able to play. Veteran Monty Beisel would start in Hayes' place.
"Regardless of who is in and who is out, we put a solid team out there week in and week out," Beisel said.
The remainder of Cards' injury report was the same Thursday, with five players – CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee, toe), LB Will Davis (knee), DE Calais Campbell (thumb), CB Bryant McFadden (chest) and P Ben Graham (left groin) – limited.
The Saints had two players limited – CB Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) and WR Lance Moore (ankle) – and one player – DT Rodney Leisle (knee), who was with the Cards in the offseason – sit out.
THE SAINTS' DEFENSE CAN SCORE TOO
One of the reasons the Saints piled up 510 points this season – the ninth-highest total in NFL history – was their ability to score on defense. New Orleans scored seven touchdowns on plays where the other team started with possession -- five on interception returns, two on fumbles – although it should be noted none have come after the season's midway point.
The Saints forced 39 turnovers this season, second in the NFL behind Green Bay's 40.
"It was the one point of emphasis that (defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) has made, the importance of the turnover and how much it really relates to winning and losing," Saints coach Sean Payton said.
A turnover becomes crushing when it is immediately turned into points. One of the things former Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley used to stress was the offense's ability to tackle after a turnover to avoid such situations.
But wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he isn't worried about the Saints scoring on defense because the Cards' first concern is making sure the Saints don't get the turnover in the first place.
"We don't want to allow those guys to get their hands on the ball at any point in the game because those guys are difference-makers," Fitzgerald said. "The key is ball security and we went back to the basics on that, not throwing interceptions, tipped balls, all those things, we have to address them."
WILSON GOES ALL-PRO
Safety Adrian Wilson was named to the AP All-Pro team as the Cards' lone representative. The team, named by a panel of journalists across the nation, is considered the "official" All-Pro team for the NFL.
"It feels good but that's not the ultimate goal," Wilson said. "The ultimate goal is a Super Bowl championship, and the next step toward that is going to New Orleans and trying to get a win."