|Cardinals offense rolling as season ends|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 December 2007 16:23|
Heading in to Sunday's season-ending home game against St. Louis, the Cardinals rank fifth offensively in the NFC and are among the league's best in the ``red zone,'' that critical land mass inside the opponent's 20 where Arizona had been so anemic in prior years.
``Even with the ups and downs of the season - everybody getting hurt, the games where we didn't play as well as we'd like, we're still one of the top offenses out there,'' wide receiver Anquan Boldin said after practice on Wednesday.
With last Sunday's 30-27 overtime victory over Atlanta, the Cardinals have scored more than 20 points in seven consecutive games, the longest such streak for the franchise since 1983-84.
Kurt Warner's 24 touchdown passes are tied for third-most in team history. Neil Lomax (1983) and Charley Johnson (1963) share the franchise record at 28.
The Cardinals have gained 339 yards per game. They rank fourth in NFC passing at 251 per contest. On the ground though, Arizona is 14th out of 16 teams, gaining 88 yards per outing. Only Chicago and Detroit are worse.
``I'm disappointed that we haven't run the ball better,'' Whisenhunt said. ``That's an area that we really need to work on. We've shown slight improvement in the last couple of games.''
Warner, who has multiple TD passes in a career-best seven straight games, has a different take on the running statistics. The team, he said, has altered its approach to give more emphases to a passing game that features one of football's best receiving duos in Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
``It just seems more to me, and I could be off base, that we've used the pass a little bit more to set up the run than the run to set up the pass,'' Warner said.
Boldin, who missed four games because of injuries, came back to catch 13 for 162 yards against the Falcons. Fitzgerald has 89 catches for 1,238 yards and is the team's lone Pro Bowl representative.
``I know those guys have been banged up,'' St. Louis coach Scott Linehan said, ``but it looks like they're healthy now. I could see why you'd have a tendency to put the ball in the air a little bit.''
Nowhere has the offense looked better than in the red zone, where Arizona has scored touchdowns 69 percent of the time. In the NFL, only New Orleans (71 percent) and New England (70) percent have done better. Many of those scoring plays have been improvised, Warner said.
``We try to design plays,'' he said, ``but things don't quite measure up like they do when you're on the 50-yard line, with spacing and all of that.''
While his overall offensive review is mixed, Whisenhunt praised the red zone play and the hurry-up offense, which against Atlanta scored touchdowns at the end of the first half and, most importantly, earned a game-tying field goal as the fourth quarter ended.
``That's something you can build on,'' he said. ``I think anytime you're good in those areas, it's going to give you a chance in a lot of games.''
If the offense has been effective, why are the Cardinals 7-8 and out of the playoff picture? Blame penalties, turnovers and an injury-depleted defense that's been increasingly leaky in recent weeks.
For example, Arizona has averaged 28 points in its last seven games. The Cardinals' opponents have averaged 29.