Kurt Warner throws a pass during the Cardinals' 28-21 win over Houston Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The offense was clicking, scoring 21 points in two quarters and coming so close to another seven, if it hadn't been for a red-zone turnover.
Then the spigot was shut off, with plays interrupted through near-misses or sound defensive efforts by the Texans, and it left the Cardinals with mixed feelings after what turned into a roller-coaster 28-21 victory over Houston.
"I'm a little bit frustrated the game turned out like it did," said quarterback Kurt Warner, who shined statistically with his 26-of-38 passing day, for 302 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
But the Cardinals went from sparkling (297 first-half yards) to scuffling (one second-half first down) as the Texans rallied to tie the game at 21.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged he was "disappointed" with the production. The Cardinals didn't pull back in any way; They threw nine straight passes to open the second half and Whisenhunt said the Texans were expecting the run because of Arizona's lead.
That led to a lot of run-pass "checks" at the line for Warner, who then turn to his receivers.
"As long as we're getting those favorable matchups, we expect to win (them) and make the plays," Warner said. "I'll never pass up an opportunity to go to 81 (Anquan Boldin) or 11 (Larry Fitzgerald) in those situations."
Fitzgerald had five catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns; Boldin had seven for 81 (while having 12 passes total thrown his way). Meanwhile, the Cardinals only ran 16 times, with two being Warner sneaks at the line to run out the end of the game. Beanie Wells had 24 yards on seven carries; Tim Hightower, who scored the game's first touchdown, had 17 yards on six carries.
"They were playing an extra guy in the box on every (check)," Whisenhunt said. "We tried to run it a couple of times where we had called runs and we got a couple of yards. But we feel like if they are going to take away the run, our strength is throwing the football."
The Cards did just miss on some of those plays in the second half. Sideline throws to Fitzgerald and Boldin were checks out of run calls, and they were broken up by good defensive plays by the Texans. And a third was a slant to Jerheme Urban where Warner and Urban simply couldn't quite connect and the ball glanced off Urban's outstretched hands.
"We felt good about our attack," Warner said. "We just didn't execute as well (in the second half) and it stopped us. There were things that could have put that game out of reach."
CAMPBELL SHOWS SPECIAL TALENT
Calais Campbell saved the Cards 10 points Sunday and all because of his play on special teams.
First, he blocked his second field-goal attempt of the season, a 34-yard attempt by Kris Brown that kept the Texans off the scoreboard in the first half while the Cards were up, 7-0.
"I have to take my hat off to (defensive lineman) Gabe (Watson), because he's a force inside," Campbell said. "They give me a little crease and I'm 6-(foot)-8, so I just try to get up."
But Campbell also showed up early in the second half when the Cards were up 21-0. Jacoby Jones broke off a punt return that ended up going for 62 yards. Campbell, playing in punt coverage on because of an injury to tight end Stephen Spach, managed to trip up Jones at the Arizona 31-yard line. Had Campbell not made the play, Jones would have reached the end zone, a play that gained importance when the Cards' defense stopped the Texans from gaining a first down and forced a fourth-down incompletion.
"It's been a while since I have played on punt team," Campbell said. "I ran down the field as fast as I could. … I was surprised he got down that far but I just ran as fast as I could and tried to make a play. I'm just glad he went down."
As for the idea a defensive lineman chased down the whippet-quick Jones, Campbell smiled. "I pretend. It's all angles. I look fast, but it's all angles."
FITZ VERSUS ANDRE
The comparison of Fitzgerald and Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson played close, just like it should have. Fitzgerald owned the first half with his two scores, but Johnson had two touchdown catches in the second half, including a spectacular game-tying score in which three Cardinals – Gerald Hayes, Antrel Rolle and Bryant McFadden – couldn't bring him down.
"I didn't even know I was in the end zone," Johnson said. "I just heard some guys celebrating."
Warner became only the second player in NFL history to surpass 13,000 yards passing for two different teams when he reached that level for the Cardinals with a 10-yard pass to Hightower in the first quarter. Warner, who also did it with the Rams, joined former Vikings and Giants quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
Meanwhile, Boldin had seven receptions to give him 525 in his career, pushing him past Roy Green (522) for second on the all-time Cardinals list. Larry Centers, with 535 catches, is atop the franchise's leaderboard.
The Cardinals reported only one injury. Spach left the game after hurting his right ankle and he did not return.
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