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The Tape: 2nd Qtr

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This wasn't grind it out, win in the trenches, smashmouth football. No, this was Gerry Cooney versus Ken Norton, nothing but haymakers, beat to a bloody pulp, ass-beating football. That the Cards scored at all was mostly the product of a drive the football equivalent of Dr. Gonzo demanding a toaster in the tub, plus Plack's (in)famous "Trouble Punt". We won't linger on that though, because, how can you complain when your team's up 20 heading into the half?

  • Third play, first drive of the quarter, Cards ball. Hawks are in a base formation. Larry Fitzgerald runs a simple pump and go route. Tru doesn't get beat, he's clearly faster than the hobbled Fitzgerald, but he does lose a step and is now in a trail position. Warner tosses a lob, hoping, perhaps, that Fitzgerald will be able to outcompete Trufant on the jump ball. That's when Grant, from the deep cover 3 shell, jumps the route and nearly nabs a spectacular pick. If his previous play was right place, right time, this was right read, right move. He doesn't hold on to the football, but it's a great play.
  • Deion Branch had two big receptions this quarter, one for 31 yards that set up a score and another for 15 and a score. What you see on both receptions is Branch's excellent ability to track the ball in flight and control his speed without breaking stride. In both abilities he looks a bit like a lesser Jerry Rice. Like Rice, Branch makes passes look impossibly accurate, as if the ball appears in his hands. On the 31 yard reception down the sideline, Branch is never able to get much separation from Roderick Hood, but he doesn't break stride or come back to the ball. He runs under it. That's because he knows exactly where the ball will fall and has a clutch crafted in Modena. He changes speeds seamlessly. We get a second look at Branch's potential on his touchdown reception, where he looks to be almost behind the defender at the time of reception. Yet the ball hits him square. It's been a disappointing season so far for Branch, but he could be a monster in this system. His route-running and hands are both excellent, but it's his ability to run into every catch that makes him so deadly on timing routes. One of these weeks, dude's gonna go off.
  • For aspiring offensive coordinators curious as to why you don't single block Brandon Mebane, the Cards' third series of the quarter might be constructive. First play Bane walks Reggie Wells back to Warner, pushes him right and out of the way, sacks Warner and then, uh, curtsies. Now second and fourteen, Whisenhunt attempts to run Edge up the left "A" gap. The Cards double Rocky Bernard, but Edge finds a dent with a pair of arms where his hole should be. That forces James to cut back right, and right into Rocky Bernard. You can't blame Arizona for doubling Rocky - but then, who's gonna double Mebane? After a Julian Peterson Neutral Zone Infraction, it's 3rd and 7. The Cards align w/ Trips left, a single WR tight right, a single back and Warner in shotgun. Rock's been subbed out for Craig Terrill. The Hawks run a stunt that has Terrill and Mebane converging against the Cards three interior linemen. That's not what you're looking for from a stunt. Mebane shades behind the more aggressive Terrill, Terrill falls between his double team, and then, from the scrum, Mebane comes unblocked around the right side and forces Warner to dump the ball off to Leonard Pope short of the first down. Not a play for the highlight reel, sure, but Bane doesn't quit, and when an opening arrives he delivers the critical pressure to force Warner to check down.