In an effort to give everything a conveniently catchy label, we in the media will often attach nicknames to certain games or moments.
It's a Statement Game. Seperation Saturday. A Turning Point Game. I even heard somebody once describe a game as a GPS game (a game to determine exactly where that team is "located" in terms of their ability to contend….very clever).
In that vein this Cardinals game against the Raiders was a "Compass" game. What direction is this football team heading in? It's the Oakland Raiders; the last time they won more than five games in a season, denim shorts were cool. It's the home opener, a time of supreme motivation. You're coming off the annihilation in Atlanta. If the Cardinals are indeed headed in the right direction it should be a game they win relatively easily.
Despite a 24-23 win, the needle of my little compass is spinning right now. 2-1 never felt so wobbly. It's like trying to balance on one of those stability balls while floating on top of jello.
It's spinning because the Cardinals have yet to demonstrate any measurable improvement or discernible progress since the start of the year. I can't name one thing that they're better at since the opener. Coach Whisenhunt said tonight "at some point we're going to be pretty good." Perhaps. But it hasn't happened yet.
They won despite the fact Sebastian Janikowski missed a potential game- winning field goal from 32 yards out. Coming into this game, Janikowski had made 93% of his field goals from 39 yards or closer.
They won despite another onslaught of untimely penalties, including Adrian Wilson's personal foul in the first quarter (Raiders scored a TD on that drive), a Greg Toler pass interference (gave the Raiders a first and goal), and a DRC pass interference (that helped set up what could have been the game winning kick).
They won despite three turnovers that led to 13 Raider points. Andre Roberts and the punt return team couldn't get out of their own way…twice.
They won despite an offense that gained only 227 yards. The coach says they're still looking at ways to feature Derek Anderson's strengths. I'll let you insert your own joke on that one. And oh, that faint buzz you hear? That's another week of when-are-they-going-to-play-Max-Hall chatter.
They won despite a defense that made plenty of mistakes, but worst still, went invisible at times. Joey Porter finally impacted a football game today, while Darnell Dockett has yet to leave his mark on the 2010 season. It turns out that the Cardinals team meeting had about the same impact of most of the meetings I am forced to attend at KTAR.
But…they won. As the cliché goes, you are what your record says you are. And the Cardinals are 2-1. Look at the NFC West standings. Only one other team has scored fewer points than the Cardinals. The Niners. Only one other team has given up more points than the Cardinals. The Niners. They're 0-3; the Cards are 2-1. On some level that feels pretty good.
The run game looked better, the defense held its ground on first and goal from the one, Anderson had a couple of moments, and the division looks utterly desolate of a decent team. On that fact alone the Cardinals may never be out of it. For now, that will have to do.