Leaky defense an obstacle in Cardinals' hopes for .500 season Print
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Thursday, 27 December 2007 15:19
NFL Headline News

 GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -The Arizona Cardinals' increasingly leaky secondary might ruin the team's chances to finish 8-8.
If Atlanta's Chris Redman can throw for 315 yards against Arizona, imagine what the Rams' Marc Bulger could do.
With Arizona's passing game humming along, too, a desert shootout might loom when the two teams end disappointing seasons on Sunday.
``Those kinds of games are always fun when you come out on top,'' said Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who has thrown at least two touchdown passes in each of the last seven games. ``Let's just hope that we keep building on what we've done the last few weeks, put points on the board and try to make it easier on the defense.''
St. Louis (3-12) is as healthy as it's been since early season, but the Rams have lost three straight, the last two 33-14 to Green Bay and 41-24 to Pittsburgh.
But Arizona couldn't hold off the passing game of one of the league's worst offenses in its 30-27 overtime victory over Atlanta last Sunday.
The Cardinals, without starting safety Adrian Wilson and cornerback Eric Green because of season-ending injuries, gave up 421 yards to New Orleans and 405 yards to Atlanta their last two games.
If Bulger was seeing a big opportunity ahead, he wasn't about to say so.
``We're in no position to be predicting any success,'' he said.
Bulger said he thought about taking the rest of the season off after he was sidelined for two games and most of a third with a concussion. He sought the advice of Warner. The two are friends, even though Bulger took the Rams' starting job from Warner.
``The general advice that I gave him was if you don't feel right, don't go back out there,'' Warner said.
In the end, Bulger decided to come back and finish the season.
``I knew there were three games left and I wanted to play,'' he said. ``It's real easy to go on IR and watch the team suffer. I think it's important, especially as a quarterback, to be with the guys when they are struggling, because then you have their respect and you can say, `Hey, I've been through it, too.'''
When Arizona played at St. Louis in Week 5, the Rams didn't have Bulger or running back Steven Jackson. Still, the Cardinals barely won 34-31 and lost starting quarterback Matt Leinart for the season with a broken collarbone.
Now Bulger and Jackson are back.
``They're a scary offense for what they can do,'' Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``They strike fast, move the ball. They've got a number of playmakers.''
Although Whisenhunt said he's sees no great reward from finishing 8-8, it would be the team's best record since 1998 and only the third time since 1984 the franchise has not had a losing season.
Rams coach Scott Linehan, given a vote of confidence by team president John Shaw earlier this month, said ``it's always important to finish your season the right way.''
That would be playing hard and avoiding mistakes in a welcome end to an injury-ravaged campaign.
``This year it was pretty much who didn't get hurt for us in our offense,'' Linehan said. ``We're at over a hundred missed starts by starters going into this game, which is pretty significant. Someone told me the other day that when the Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999, counting the playoffs they had five missed starts.''
The game features four of the NFL's best receivers. The Rams, with Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, represent the old guard. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin might be the best young duo in the league.
Boldin, who missed three games this season with hip and toe injuries, caught 13 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons.
Bruce, in his 14th season, last week passed James Lofton for third in NFL yards receiving, behind Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.
Linehan believes the 35-year-old Bruce has plenty more football left in him.
``It seems like every week he's going up some kind of Hall of Fame ladder that just amazes me,'' Linehan said. ``You saw last Thursday he had a typical Isaac Bruce Day. He had a touchdown and made some big plays. It just seems like he never really ages for some reason.''
 

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