The Raiders came in ranked 26th against the run and 18th versus the pass through their first 5 games. Coach Art Shell came in still searching for the right formula for the QB Aaron Brooks-led offensive unit, which has had limited success at best, even with WR Randy Moss playing at his typical high-level. Both teams came in to the day's match-up knowing that a win was crucial. For Arizona, a win would prevent them from slipping below .500 for the first time this season and for Oakland, a win would garner an even record and prevent them from slipping any further into the AFC West cellar.
From the outset, the Cardinals made it clear that if they were to be served a third consecutive loss, it would have to be force-fed as they were not going to lay down in this one. KR Bryant Johnson followed up his sweet and sour performance of a week ago with a solid return performance in both the kickoff and punt return games. He opened the game with a 40-yard return to midfield to set up a short field for the offense.
This time, the offensive unit took advantage of the good field position as they started the game with 3 consecutive passes from QB Kurt Warner that found their targets. TE Leonard Pope pocketed the first two for gains of 7 and 13 yards and WR Anquan Boldin hauled in a 17-yarder to the Chicago 13. RB Edgerrin James then got into the act for two consecutive runs of 5 yards each, giving the offense a fresh set of downs at the 3 yard line. Turns out, they would need only one down as Pope capped off the drive with his second TD of the season on a diving effort in the far corner of the endzone.
Coach Dennis Green was also pushing the right buttons on defense. His unit would finish the day having collected 7 sacks, good for third best all-time for the franchise. Of those, 5 came in the first half alone. LB James Darling picked up 3 on his own, his first coming on the second defensive play of the game for Arizona. On second and 10, Aaron Brooks dropped back to pass, but with no one open, he decided to run. He never saw Darling coming in off the left edge, who had read the quarterback's intentions quickly. Brooks fumbled away his first of 3 in the game when DT Langston Moore picked up the fumble for the Cardinals on the Raider 22, setting up a 3-yard Edgerrin James TD.
By the time the third quarter rolled around, the boys in red had a comfortable 20-3 lead that they would not relinquish. They would not score in the 3rd, but did not allow a score in that frame, either. Warner was taken out midway through the 4th for what appeared to be leg cramps and would not return after going 19-26 for 211 yards and a TD. QB John Navarre picked up where Warner had left off, playing off of James' rushing success (25 carries, 134 yards, TD) and picking up a late TD pass to WR Larry Fitzgerald from 32 yards out.
Oakland's offensive woes continued until the 6:00 minute mark in the 4th, when Brooks threw it up for grabs down the right sideline, and of course Moss was able to come down with the ball even though blanketed by both Cardinals safeties and Rolle. Moss' 73-yard TD was his first in nearly 4 games, the longest drought of his career. He wasn't done in this game either, as he ran the exact route on the opposite side of the field with 2:30 left in the game, resulting in another TD. The catch wasn't nearly as impressive as the first due to the fact that Arizona blew the coverage causing LB Karlos Dansby to attempt the impossible task of guarding Randy Moss. He was nowhere near Moss when he made the catch that led to his second TD in 4 minutes. As impressive as the finish was for the Raiders, it wasn't enough.
Cardinals win 27-17.
Arizona next travels to Green Bay, where the weather has already begun to chill. Fortunately, the only thing colder than the Green Bay climate is the Packers offense. It appears the Cardinals may be facing a lesser opponent for the second week in a row, as they should have no problem handling QB Brett Favre and company. The Packers defense is also leaving a lot to be desired, as well, especially when considering the off-season moves made to bolster the unit, including the addition of CB Charles Woodson. The Cardinals know that a victory would be the perfect way to head into a bye week that ends with a visit from the rival Dallas Cowboys. There is little doubt that they'll be properly motivated for this important match-up.