Matt Leinart (left) and Kurt Warner discuss some in-game photos during Sunday's game in Tennessee, a 20-17 Cardinals' loss.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kurt Warner's concern turned into some good feelings for Matt Leinart.
Despite a difficult 20-17 loss to the Titans at LP Field Sunday, Leinart clearly was in good spirits after a start at quarterback forced when Warner's inconsistent vision forced the veteran to the sidelines.
Warner wasn't ready to pronounce his situation over, emphasizing once again he is looking at his ability to play through a day-to-day filter. The veteran said he wasn't sure if he'd call the reason he sat out light sensitivity – which is how coach Ken Whisenhunt phrased it – or "my eyes just aren't adjusted right." Either way, the Cardinals and Warner had hoped the problem was related to Warner's sore neck.
"We were trying to gauge if my symptoms were coming from my neck or if it was an issue with my head," Warner said. "Ultimately, we couldn't make that determination and that's what led us to the decision we made."
That led to Warner giving Leinart an idea Saturday there was a good chance Leinart would start, although it didn't become official until Sunday. All along, Leinart figured he may play, even if Warner could start.
That didn't get Leinart any extra practice reps, however – Warner practiced all last week as normal – making the Titans' game just a little more difficult.
"For a backup I think I get a decent amount of reps but … it's just hard," Leinart acknowledged. "The starting quarterback has to prepare. I get that. But it's tough, because I don't get to run a lot of the new plays. Today, you kind of wing it."
Leinart winged it fairly well. One of the biggest plays of the game, a 21-yard pass to running back Beanie Wells dropped just over cornerback Nick Harper, was a new wrinkle in the Cards' playbook that Leinart didn't get a chance to run in practice.
Leinart did well enough that Whisenhunt opened up the playbook, including switching out of a run play with the Cards at their own 5-yard line – a pass that eventually went to wide-open tight end Ben Patrick for a 23-yard game.
"I felt good about the way Matt was handling himself early," Whisenhunt said.
"To be honest, I think it would have been the same had Kurt been in there," Leinart said. "Maybe the first couple of series (it was conservative) but we did a lot of stuff in the game plan new this week that I was prepared to run. I don't think he held back, especially in the second half when I got in a groove, so I was happy with that."
There's still a chance Leinart will have an opportunity to show his skills again. Warner said that while he is neurologically OK, he didn't know what will happen this week in terms of his playing status.
DOCKETT'S HUGE DAY
Darnell Dockett, officially listed as a defensive tackle while playing mostly defensive end in the Cards' 3-4 looks, wasn't happy when the initial Pro Bowl balloting had him fourth at his position. He's apparently tried to influence it with one of the hottest stretches of his career.
Dockett tied a career high – set originally in the Super Bowl – with three sacks against Titans quarterback Vince Young. Dockett now has seven sacks on the season, six of which have come in the last four games.
"We just had mutual respect," Dockett said. "(Vince) said he was watching me on film all week and he knew I'd get to him a few times."
Dockett also had three tackles for loss, adding to his already career-high this season, which now stands at 15.
The Cardinals sacked Young four times, after Young had been sacked just once previously this season. The Titans came into the game with a league-low seven sacks allowed.
"They were supposed to be one of the most physical offensive lines in the league but we didn't take no crap from them," Dockett said. "They had to pay respects to us."
A SPECIAL STEPHENS-HOWLING
LaRod Stephens-Howling may have a hard time winning the NFC's special teams player of the week award given that the Cards lost, but it's hard to believe anyone could have had a finer day in the transition game than the rookie running back.
The highlight, of course, was his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a play that came right after Titans running back Chris Johnson had broke off an 85-yard touchdown run of his own.
"It took everyone on the field," Stephens-Howling said. "I didn't have to do anything extra. I didn't have to stop my feet at all. I just keep running with what they gave me.
"I felt it was a big boost to get ourselves back on the board before we got too deep in the hole."
That wasn't all. Stephens-Howling made a great tackle of Michael Griffin on a kickoff return and downed three Ben Graham punts at or inside the Tennessee 5-yard line – including Graham's final boot to the Titans' 1, a perfect kick until Young engineered a game-winning 99-yard drive.
Tackle Mike Gandy left the game in the second half after aggravating his lingering pelvis injury, with backup Jeremy Bridges coming to and doing a solid job on the left side. Safety Matt Ware also left the game with a neck injury, but he returned to play and said he was OK.
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