Scott Bordow: JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Ah, nothing like the Florida sun to make an old man feel good. All Kurt Warner did in the Cardinals’ 31-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday was set a single-game NFL record for completion percentage.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Ah, nothing like the Florida sun to make an old man feel good. So much for the talk about Kurt Warner’s gray hair and sore left hip. All Warner did in the Cardinals’ 31-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday was set a single-game NFL record for completion percentage.
The numbers: 24 of 26 (92.3 percent) for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Oh, he also tied a team record set by Jake Plummer by completing 15 straight passes.
“It probably means everybody thinks I’m a little younger than I was last week,” Warner said with a smile.
Yup, that’s the NFL. Every Sunday brings a rush to judgment.
Take the Cardinals. Their season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers – following an awful preseason – had some fans and media thinking the season already was on the brink.
Then they come to Florida, win an early game on the East Coast – something they do about as often as Larry Fitzgerald drops a pass – and suddenly they’re again the team that won the NFC championship a year ago.
The truth, as usual, isn’t so easy to manipulate.
Yes, beating the Jaguars was essential. And the way the Cardinals did it was impressive. But the victory doesn’t define Arizona just as the loss to San Francisco didn’t. The fact is, we still don’t know who the Cardinals are yet, or what they can accomplish this season.
“We’re not where we want to be, but based on what we did last week, we’re a lot better,” Fitzgerald said. “So that’s progress.”
The most encouraging news, of course, was Warner playing pitch-and-catch with nine different receivers, the Jaguars’ defense seemingly helpless to stop him. This wasn’t the Warner who seemed out-of-sync in the preseason and against San Francisco.
He was assertive, he was sharp and he looked like the quarterback who torched the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. And Todd Haley wasn’t calling plays for him, either.
“Kurt’s found the fountain of youth somewhere,” Fitzgerald said … “When he’s back there in that kind of rhythm, it’s hard to deal with him.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the offensive line did a much better job protecting Warner. He wasn’t sacked and he was hit just once.
Also, coach Ken Whisenhunt, mindful of a shoulder stinger that Warner tweaked early in the game, employed a conservative passing scheme. Warner’s longest pass completion was 22 yards and 11 of his 24 completions went for 10 yards or less.
“It was nice after the way I played last week to have this kind of game,” Warner said.
Whisenhunt thought Warner might have put up big numbers based on several conversations they had during the week.
“Yeah, I felt like it was important to him,” Whisenhunt said. “I felt he was frustrated with the way that he had played and a little bit with the way we had played.”
It’s eerie how similar the Cardinals’ start is to their first two games last year. Remember, they struggled in the season-opener against San Francisco – although they won – then Warner played brilliantly in a 31-10 victory over Miami.
This year, lose to the 49ers then Warner takes advantage of another Florida team.
“We got it going the second game and picked it up from there,” Warner said. “Hopefully this will be a mirror image.”
The signs are there. Anquan Boldin (eight catches, 69 yards) is getting his explosiveness back, Steve Breaston (five catches, 83 yards) is again part of the offense and if rookie Beanie Wells learns how to hold onto the ball, he and Tim Hightower will give the Cardinals their best running game in years.
“We’re still the same offense we were last year,” Boldin said. “We just needed to focus better and play hard.”
Now, Jacksonville is one lousy football team. The city doesn’t believe in the team – the game was blacked out locally – and coach Jack Del Rio may well be on his way to getting fired.
How the Cardinals play next Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts will give us a much better idea of their future.
Still, a road win never requires an apology – particularly an early game on the East Coast – and given the alternative of a 0-2 start and Cardinals’ fans freaking out, Arizona should feel good about itself.
“We answered all the questions,” Boldin said.
More will come. But the Cardinals found their offense Sunday, and Warner got his groove back.
It’s a start.