Cardinals pull out sloppy 24-23 win over Raiders

Virtually no one was immune from the plague of mistakes that

infected the Arizona Cardinals’ 24-23 victory over the Oakland

Raiders.

Sebastian Janikowski saved his worst for last.

The Oakland kicker has made 90 percent of his field goal

attempts from inside 40 yards (74 of 82) in his 10-plus NFL

seasons. When he lined up for the game-winning try from 32 yards on

Sunday, a Raiders’ victory seemed a foregone conclusion.

But the man who hadn’t missed one this short in four years

shanked it wide left, and the Cardinals escaped.

”A win is a win but I don’t necessarily feel like we outplayed

them,” Arizona outside linebacker Joey Porter said.

The two-time reigning NFC West champion Cardinals are 2-1, but

the wins have been shaky and the loss was a rout.

”We obviously have a lot of work to do to get the puzzle that

our team is together,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Janikowski, who left without talking to reporters, missed two

other field goals: a 41-yarder and a 58-yarder. Both were wide

right. He made kicks from 22, 54 and 23 yards. His shot at the

final field goal came when Cardinals cornerback Dominique

Rodgers-Cromartie drew a 39-yard pass interference penalty.

”As I told our team, I don’t feel like the game was won or lost

on the last play right there,” Raiders coach Tom Cable said. ”It

certainly could have been won, but we had a lot of opportunities in

the second half to put some exclamation points out there and we

couldn’t do it.”

LaRod Stephens-Howling returned the opening kickoff 102 yards

for a touchdown for Arizona and Derek Anderson threw two touchdown

passes, including an 8-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald with 1:01 left in

the third quarter that proved to be the game winner.

Oakland (1-2) committed 11 penalties for 123 yards, Arizona

seven for 104.

”In realistically assessing our football team, when you have

the number of changes that we have, we understand that we’re going

to have to go through a process like this,” Whisenhunt said. ”If

we can eke out wins, I’ll take as many of them as I can get.”

New Raiders starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was 17 of 34

for 255 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He threw 12

yards to Darrius Heyward-Bey on fourth-and-10 from his own 36 to

keep the final drive alive. But he also was the culprit in a

delay-of-game penalty after another pass interference call – this

one against Arizona’s Greg Toler – gave the Raiders the ball on

first-and-goal at the Arizona 1-yard line midway through the fourth

quarter.

The penalty pushed the ball back to the 6 and Arizona’s defense

held, forcing Oakland to settle for Janikowski’s 23-yard field goal

that cut the lead to 24-23 with 7:59 to play. Gradkowski got the

start after coach Tom Cable benched Jason Campbell at halftime of

last week’s 16-14 victory over St. Louis.

”We had a lot of opportunities, but that one goal-line stand is

right now killing me,” Gradkowski said. ”I take responsibility. I

should have called a time out, but my competitiveness said, `We can

pull this off.’ I saw the clock and knew I wanted the ball and QB

sneak and get in there. I have to be better than that – call a time

out, regroup and put it in the end zone.”

Cable said Gradkowski was ”up and down” in his play

”His leadership was great,” the Raiders coach said. ”When we

needed to make a play, it seemed like on third down he was pretty

sharp that way. But again I think he would be the first to tell you

that we had four or five opportunities in the red zone and only

scored one touchdown.”

Two of Oakland’s field goals came after Raiders punts bounced

off the legs of an Arizona player – first Matt Ware, then

Rodgers-Cromartie.

Oakland’s Darren McFadden gained 105 yards in 25 attempts,

giving him 345 yards rushing in the first three games of the

season.

Anderson completed just 12 of 26 passes for 122 yards and was

intercepted once, but was 3 for 3 for 41 yards on the drive to the

deciding touchdown. Beanie Wells, in his first game of the season

after sitting out two games following arthroscopic knee surgery,

gained 24 yards on his first carry and finished with 75 yards and

14 attempts. Teammate Tim Hightower had 40 in 11 carries, including

a 13-yarder in the final touchdown drive.

”I know it’s getting old,” Anderson said, ”but I feel like we

are a better football team than we played again today.”