The View From The Press Box: Cardinals vs. Jets
By Michael -Louis Ingram, Editor
(first presented October 1, 2008)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) At the quarter pole of the NFL season, the Jets and Cards lock up in an “identity game.”
The Jets, long one of the most predictable offenses in the league, have become an intriguing team with the late addition of quarterback Brett Favre, whose arm on its worst day is far better than the former starter, Chad Pennington (now with the Miami Dolphins).
For the Cardinals, an equally surprising but perhaps disappointing development is Kurt Warner wresting the starting job away from would be superstar Matt Leinart. Warner clearly beat Leinart out for the position; a move Cardinal brass can only hope pushes them to a playoff spot in a weak NFC West conference.
The quarterbacks and their performance this day would prove to be the prime element in the flow of the game.
It’s rainy at game time, and I’m in seat C-62, third row of the East press box at the Meadowlands, game announced attendance, 78,222.
Jets and Favre open up with an aborted first drive, but Favre hits the air with a third down deep seam route to rookie TE Dustin Keller, who drops the ball only after a very timely hit by DB Antrel Rolle.
Cards set it off from their 21 and Warner looks good, mixing run and pass to four different receivers to the Jet 9 and a first and goal, eating up six minutes of clock.
But on second down, DE Shane Ellis sacks Warner for a 12 yard loss; Warner fumbles going down, and eventually RB Edgerrin James flops on the piggy at the Jet 32.
On third and goal, a short pass to WR Anquan Boldin gains only 3 yards, but Boldin fumbles. Hank Poteat recovers the fumble at the Jet 29.
Favre immediately goes deep to Coles, but misses badly. The X-factor of Favre’s arm, however, does have the Card DBs playing the Jet receivers honest.
On another look to Coles on third down, LB Chike Okeafor picks off Favre and rumbles to the Jet 16.
Cards stall and opt for a field goal from the Jet 19, but DT Kris Jenkins blows up the pit with a massive up-the-gut block. After some slipping and sliding, Jets get possession on downs at the Card 49.
Favre works RB Thomas Jones into the mix for a couple of carries, including a ‘money time’ fourth and one buck to the Card 38.
Set on his plan of attack, Favre again through his TE and former teammate Bubba Franks catch S Aaron Francisco napping, with a 25 yard snag to Franks for first and goal at the 1. Regular Arizona starting safety Adrian Wilson would be missed in this game as the first quarter ends.
History would be made in the second quarter for the Jets, while history would repeat for Kurt Warner.
After a holding penalty negated a TD pass from Favre to Franks, Favre again goes back over the middle and finds WR Laveranues Coles for the score.
As Arizona started the next drive, Warner commits a cardinal sin in locking in on TE Ben Patrick on third and eight from their 26. CB Darrelle Revis read it like the New York Times and strolls in with his first INT for touchdown.
Now working from a 14-point hole, Warner starts from the Card 28. He manages a first down on the way, but he is feeling the pressure, coming primarily from Jenkins and LBs Calvin Pace and David Harris.
Jets get it back on their 17, and after two Favre tosses move them to the Card 34, Favre spots Coles roaming free after Card DB Eric Green was injured, falling to the ground in pain after apparently twisting his knee. Favre hits Coles in stride and in less than 8 minutes, it’s 21-zip, Jets – Jets – Jets.
No sooner do the Cards get it back, Warner gives it up with another INT, this time safety Eric Smith is the culprit. Smith picks it off at the 25 and returns to the Card 19, where the Jet drive stalls.
Placekicker Jay Feely badly misses a chip shot 22 yard attempt, but a running into the kicker penalty gives Feely a second chance; he’s good from 20, and it’s 24-0.
With less than four minutes in the half, Warner wants something, anything good to happen. After moving the Cards to their 43, Warner is sacked by Pace, who forces a fumble. Harris picks up the piggy and is brought down at the Arizona 40.
The Jets, with time running out in the half, don’t hesitate and move the necessary yardage in four plays, with the capper a third touchdown strike from Favre to Coles; so much for chemistry!
The 31 points scored by the Jets is the most ever scored by the team in one quarter of football; but just as they were starting to pat themselves on the back, another Cardinal fumble allows Jay Feely to hit a 30 yard field goal with two seconds on the clock!
The total damage: six turnovers (including the blocked FG) add up to some home fans leaving at halftime…
The third quarter began with the Jets sitting in a soft two deep zone. Warner is now in no – huddle mode, and starts off with a six play, 79 yard drive for a score. The Cardinals’ radio team, in the next booth, erupts with joy as the team, calling the game in Spanish, passionately celebrates the score.
After a rare Jet three and out, Warner goes to work and generals a 13 play drive, all in no – huddle mode, for another score; an Edge James two yard run. Cards go for two, and James is successful.
Arizona kicker Neil Rackers squibs an onside kick, which DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie recovers for the Cards at the Arizona 46. Now a of couple of the press who were more engrossed with the Mets choking at Shea are slowly paying attention again to a game that in the minds of many was already over.
Warner finds his main man, WR Larry Fitzgerald for a couple grabs and gets down to the Jet 12. Four plays later, RB Tim Hightower plows in from the one, and the Cards roll again for two!
The pass to Boldin is incomplete, but Arizona has scored 21 points in less than 11 miuntes. What’s that thing about the prevent defense?
Jets wake up in time to get back on course, and Favre engineers the money drive: 12 plays, 80 yards with WR Jerricho Cotchery on the receiving end of a 17-yard TD pass.
The game reached a scary climax when Boldin was blasted by Jet safeties Eric Smith and Kerry Rhodes at the goal line. Boldin lay motionless on the ground and was eventually carried off. Players from both sides huddled in prayer as the euphoria of a home win was briefly stifled.
The 56-35 win had Favre setting a personal record of six TD passes (three to Coles, two to Cotchery, and one to Keller); and Jet fans dreaming of infinite possibilities.
Favre kept it all in perspective. “It’s a win, but we have a lot of work to do.”
On the great day by Coles, Favre said, I was told if I get to LC, he will make a play; he is a great receiver.”
For head coach Eric Mangini, the progress of the Jets as of right now is still somewhat of a secret. When asked if this is where he’d thought he’d be at this stage (2-2), Mangini would only say he would only concentrate on the next game.
For FB Tony Richardson, the win was satisfying. “Anytime you move from another team, you are wondering whether a move was right or not. This offense is one I know because we ran it in Minnesota when I was there, and the playmakers in it as you saw today, have the potential to do really great things.
“This is a great start, and now we’ll grind out the middle of the season.”