The Cardinals entered this season wanting to be productive in the deep passing game. They had plenty of plays that gained 20 yards or so, but they didn't have the huge plays, those 40 yards or more.
The Cardinals have had seven passes in that range this year, and they want more. Receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald aren't especially fast, but they can be effective deep. Boldin can get deep because teams are so aware of his ability to run after the catch. They try to stay close to him on shorter passes, and that makes them susceptible to double moves.
Fitzgerald is usually covered tightly when he's deep, but he loves being matched up one-on-one with a smaller corner. Fitzgerald is big, strong and has great body control. He's going to win most of those battles.
Both receivers are lobbying quarterback Matt Leinart to throw it to them deep, even if they are covered.
"It's something that we hope we can do every week," Boldin said of going deep. "We're a lot bigger than most corners, so we feel like we can go up and make a play."
Out of 10 one-on-one battles with cornerbacks, Boldin was asked how many he would win.
"9.5," he said with a smile.
Fitzgerald has reassured Leinart that there is little downside to throwing deep to him.
"The key I want him to understand is if he throws it to me in tight coverage, I'm not going to let the other guy intercept the ball," said Fitzgerald, who is 6-3 and 226 pounds. "So the worst thing that can happen is an incomplete pass. A lot of time you get pass interference when you throw the ball down the field, and things happen. But I'm not going to let him pick the ball off."
Fitzgerald showed that last week against the Vikings, catching 11 passes for 172 yards. Several of those were deep passes with Fitzgerald working down the sideline and simply out-jumping the defensive back.
Boldin was just as good, catching nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Of course, the Cardinals threw 52 times, but coach Dennis Green said his receivers' success wasn't just because of that.
"It wasn't like they were throwing 7-on-7," he said, referring to a practice drill. "They had players over there. They had to make a lot of very difficult catches."
While Leinart is further along than most rookie quarterbacks, he's not completely comfortable yet throwing it to Boldin and Fitzgerald when they are tightly covered. As with any young quarterback, coaches are emphasizing making wise decisions, so that runs counter to taking chances throwing it deep when a receiver is covered.
"I think as (Leinart) gets older, he'll be more comfortable making that throw," Fitzgerald said. "The quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, they always say, 'make smart reads. Make smart reads.' So he's coached not to throw the ball into bad positions, and I kind of like the ball thrown any way, throw into coverage or whatever. If it's coming my way, I'm a happy man."
--QB Matt Leinart has played well in consecutive weeks. Against the Vikings, he completed 31 of 51 passes for 405 yards. That broke the rookie record set by the Cardinals Jake Plummer, who passed for 388 yards against the Giants in 1997.
--RB Edgerrin James carried just four times against Minnesota, including just once in the second half. The Cardinals went to the pass, and James didn't play most of the fourth quarter. Marcel Shipp is the club's third-down back, so James stayed on the sideline.
--NT Kendrick Clancy aggravated a sore ankle and could miss some time. His absence would be damaging because he's an excellent run defender. His backup, rookie Gabe Watson, doesn't have the stamina to play an entire game, and he's not nearly as good as Clancy.
--CB Antrel Rolle struggled last week in Minnesota, as the Vikings picked on him. They continually threw in front of Rolle, who didn't challenge them often. Rolle had some problems in coverage, downfield, too, and there's growing evidence that he would be a better safety than corner.
--WR Anquan Boldin excels at running after the catch. He showed that ability last week when he caught nine passes for 140 yards against the Vikings.
Quan and Fitz Want to Go Downtown