By kickoff time for the Cardinals 33-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers yesterday, the Redbirds knew their shot at a No. 2 playoff seed was not to be. The Minnesota Vikings beat down the Giants earlier in the day making the outcome of the Cards game meaningless -- and they played accordingly.
Many of the Cards' starters didn't last long before hitting the bench in the loss, but three lasted just long enough to get hurt, possibly jeopardizing their ability to play during the playoffs.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a left-knee contusion on the third play of the game. Receiver Anquan Boldin twisted his right knee and ankle in the third quarter. And right defensive end Calais Campbell hurt his left thumb in the second half.
As for the performance of the Cardinals B-squad: It was ugly.
First-and-foremost, Matt Leinart played awful. Leinart completed 13 of 21 passes for 96 yards and hurled two awful interceptions. Interceptions aside, Leinart was missing receivers, throwing the ball either too short or too long, and throwing dumb passes into double coverage.
Leinart's backup, third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre, didn't do much better.
In what was St. Pierre's first NFL performance, he completed his first pass only to fumble and throw an interception.
Turnovers have plagued the Cards all season, but giving up the ball four times on Sunday may have actually helped them prepare for next week, when they play the Packers again in the first round of the playoffs.
Since the Cards knew at kickoff yesterday that they had nothing to play for and the Packers would be their first-round playoff opponent, the game gave the Redbirds an opportunity to have a look at the Packers offense.
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By watching what Green Bay would do against different defensive alignments, the Cards had a nice preview of what to expect next week, when the game actually matters.
Were the Cards' defensive shortcomings part of a grand scheme or just another bad week in what has been an incredibly streaky season? Whatever... the way the defense played yesterday clearly won't cut it next week when the season is on the line.
The Cards host the Packers again on Sunday -- let's just hope that under no circumstance does Matt Leinart find himself anywhere but behind the clipboard.