Saturday, October 6, 2007
Here is the story.
Kurt Warner has been a Super Bowl MVP. He has been a regular-season MVP. He
has been a starter and a back-up.
Now, he has a new role: not-so-secret weapon. In the past two weeks, Warner
has come off the bench to direct the Cardinals' no-huddle offense, leading
Arizona to a victory and near-victory.
His next target is a familiar one, the Rams, whom Arizona plays Sunday at
the Edward Jones Dome.
"When you step into that building and look up at the banners and what have
you, it just brings back a lot of great memories," he said.
Judging by statistics, Warner has the hot hand, but new coach Ken
Whisenhunt said Matt Leinart would start Sunday.
Whisenhunt's familiarity with the Ravens' defense in his years with the
Steelers led him to try the novel approach against Baltimore. Warner
entered for one series in the second quarter against the Ravens, then
returned late in the third to direct a 17-point rally that fell just short.
The no-huddle kept the Ravens off-balance.
"We wanted to use the no-huddle aspect of our offense because it had been
good against them and we felt like the least impact to our team was to let
Kurt run that aspect of it because he was much more experienced with it,"
Warner replaced Leinart in the second quarter last week "as a change of
pace," Whisenhunt said, and stayed in until the fourth.
"I didn't have any idea that it was going to play out like it has," Warner
said. "I didn't expect to be in as much as I was in the last two games, but
we have had a lot of success with it. It's worked for us and really has
kept the last two teams on their heels. It's been exciting. It's been fun
Warner seems juiced about his expanded role.
"Anytime you get out there and you have some success, it rejuvenates you
and your attitude," he said. "It lets you know that you can still play this
game, and you look around the league and you feel that you can start on a
lot of teams in this league."
Leinart, though, seems unsettled. Leinart told Yahoo on Sunday, "I just
want them to ride or die with me," but backed off Monday with reporters in
Phoenix, saying, the job sharing "is pushing me to become a better football
No matter the strain as pros, though, Warner said the pair remain tight.
"The funny thing is that what most people would probably think in a
situation like this is that we might talk less or not communicate as much.
But we probably have communicated more," Warner said. "I think that I have
always been, in Matt's mind, one of his biggest allies."
Other than the old quarterback switcheroo, Whisenhunt has brought a new
"We want to be a power running game, we want to be a tough football team,"
Warner said. "The past couple of years we were more under the philosophy
that we are going to be a passing team that can hopefully run along the
way. Now I think that we have taken the opposite approach."
Power didn't exactly describe the running style of Edgerrin James with the
Colts or in his first season with the Cardinals. But stats indicate he's
adapted. James ranks eighth in the league with 354 rushing yards and is on
pace for 1,416 yards. That total would rank second on the all-time
Cardinals list behind Ottis Anderson's 1,605 in 1979, when the Gridbirds
called St. Louis home.
Whisenhunt left well enough alone on defense, where he retained Clancy
Pendergast as coordinator. The unit finished 2006 ranked 30th against the
pass and 29th in points allowed but has returned to the form it displayed
in 2004 and 2005, when it was in the top half of the league in most
"I knew that he had success with that defense," Whisenhunt said. "I felt
very comfortable with what he was doing defensively as well as some of the
things that I wanted to do defensively and how we could incorporate those
together. We didn't have to change terminology, we didn't have to change
the system, which gave our defensive guys a better chance to get prepared."
More important than a smash-mouth offense or a tweaked defense was a change
in attitude for the franchise that was 16-32 under Dennis Green and hadn't
had a winning record or playoff appearance since 1998.
"There are enough good players, enough conscientious guys, on this team
that they wanted to win and they felt like they had enough talent on this
team to win," Whisenhunt said. "I think that they wanted an idea or a
direction to go in."
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