Brad Wilbricht goes inside the critical numbers from the Cardinals 14-9 victory over the Chicago Bears.
6: The big story entering the night was the controversy between Derek Anderson and Matt Leinart. Both quarterbacks were outstanding, accumulating QB ratings of over 110.0. Coach Ken Whisenhunt simply wanted more first downs on offense and he got just that with Anderson under center. Anderson led the Arizona offense to six first downs during the initial half of play and set the tone for the evening. Matt Leinart also moved the chains but Anderson got the offense off to a good start and provided the unit with some much needed confidence.
53: After converting just 3 of 15 third downs a week ago against the Tennessee Titans, the Cardinals were much better on Saturday. The offense converted 8 of 15 (53 percent) of its third-down conversions and as result were able to sustain more drives. The offensive line played a major part in this number, providing the quarterbacks ample time in the pocket while opening lanes in the running game. The Arizona offense is far less potent that it's been in recent years, so gaining first downs through a more methodical style of play will be essential this year.
7.8: The running game had been virtually non-existent through the first two preseason games, but Tim Hightower single handily put an end to the team's struggles on the ground. Hightower carried the ball eight times for 62 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Hightower's highlight of the night came on a 29-yard scamper during third-quarter action. While many considered Beanie Wells the prime breakout candidate of 2010, Hightower has received more carries with the first-team offense. Hightower has demonstrated a more explosive aspect to his power running style and is making his case for more playing time. Hightower and Beanie will still split carries, but Hightower won't be lost in the shuffle.
5: Undrafted rookie sensation Stephen Williams seemingly gets better and better each time he steps on the field. Whether it's practice or a game, Williams has performed at a high level since signing in Arizona out of the University of Toledo. Williams was targeted five times Saturday night and reeled in passes on each of those occasions. In total, he made five catches for 79 yards and the opening score of the game on a 27-yard strike from Anderson. Williams is the real deal on the perimeter and might be the Cardinals' second best wideout on the roster. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet probably think otherwise, but that trio along with Larry Fitzgerald is shaping up to be an impressive receiving corps.
4: While the offensive line was less than impressive in camp, it may have been due to the ability of the team's defenders up front. The Cardinals racked up four sacks against the Bears and had several other quarterback hurries. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell headline an extremely deep and talented group that has the potential to be amongst the league's best. Two players flying under the radar that have experienced tremendous preseasons are DE Kenny Iwebema and DT Gabe Watson. Both players are slotted in a backup role but will be a part of the rotation. Rookie Dan Williams has been getting expanded time with the starters and might leap Watson and Bryan Robinson on the depth chart soon.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at email@example.com
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