The Arizona Republic
By KENT SOMERS
The Arizona Republic
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There are times a team plays so well in the NFL preseason that players wish the game counted.
There are other times when they give thanks that the outcome doesn’t matter.
It’s not hard to guess which side the Cardinals were on as they lost to New England 30-3 Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
“You have to show up every time you step on the football field, and we didn’t do that tonight against a good football team,” quarterback Kurt Warner said. “I just thank God it’s preseason.”
Backup quarterback Matt Leinart, who signed a contract a week ago, looked better than anyone had the right to expect. It was the rest of the team that looked shaky.
“I thought he did what he could do,” coach Dennis Green said. “Hopefully when he plays again, we’ll do better.”
The plan was for Leinart to replace Warner in the second quarter, but that almost didn’t happen thanks to a sputtering offense and a defense that couldn’t stop the Patriots on third down.
The Cardinals’ starting unit couldn’t run the ball, and the passing game wasn’t much better. As he did last week in the preseason opener, running back Edgerrin James made a cameo appearance, carrying twice for five yards.
Warner wasn’t sharp. One of his passes was intercepted, and a second interception was called back because of a penalty. Green kept him in the game in the hopes the offense would find a rhythm, but it was off the whole half.
Leinart, coming in just before the end of the first half, led the club to its one score, a 48-yard field goal by Neil Rackers with four seconds left in the half.
“Two-minute drill, my first series was pretty cool,” Leinart said. “I felt all right. I’ve only been practicing for a few days, so I have to get better.
“It’s obviously not college anymore. It’s different. I’m playing the best of the best.”
It’s not as if Leinart moved the Cardinals downfield with his arm. New England played conservatively, trying to prevent a big play. That left the middle of the field open for Leinart to run, which he did twice for 29 yards.
That’s 15 yards more than James and backup running back J.J. Arrington had combined in the first half.
Leinart completed 4 of 11 passes for 45 yards on the night. Two of the throws were dropped.
“I was nervous a little,” he said. “I just have to find a comfort zone when I’m playing, and that’s going to come sooner or later.”
Leinart played through the third, before giving way to John Navarre.
Leinart dispelled the notion that he’s not mobile.
“I always knew I could run around. I just didn’t have the opportunity at USC,” he said. “I didn’t have to. I know here that I’m not going to have to do that a lot. But they were in two-man (zone defense), and there’s no one who accounts for the quarterback in that situation. There were some big holes.”
Navarre took over at quarterback in the fourth quarter and completed 1 of 8 passes. He said he was taking some chances downfield because the Cardinals were so far behind.
“I might have thrown some balls I normally wouldn’t have,” Navarre said. “We called some plays downfield. I tried to force some balls into some tight situations.”
Navarre and Leinart are battling for the No. 2 job behind Warner.