BALTIMORE - Steve McNair was ailing. Matt Leinart was awful. So Kurt Warner and Kyle Boller engaged in an unexpected fourth-quarter duel that wasn’t decided until the game’s final play.
After Warner rallied the Arizona Cardinals from a 17-point deficit, Boller moved the Ravens into position for a 46-yard field goal by Matt Stover as time expired, giving Baltimore a 26-23 victory Sunday.
The Ravens (2-1) led 20-3 at halftime and 23-6 entering the fourth quarter, but wilted in the final 15 minutes in a second straight game. Although the New York Jets never did pull even one week earlier, Warner rallied the Cardinals (1-2) to a tie at 23 with 1:50 left.
Leinart was sacked only once but received pressure on almost every throw. The second-year quarterback went 9-for-20 for 53 yards before being replaced for good by the 36-year-old Warner, who also made a brief appearance in the first half.
The Cardinals had used Warner in no-huddle situations in practice, and first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt decided the veteran was the best man to engineer the comeback.
“We were down three scores and we knew that was the best way to move the ball quickly,” Whisenhunt said. “It wasn’t a situation where Matt lost a job. It was Kurt did better with this package.”
Boller entered in the fourth quarter for an ailing Steve McNair. After the Cardinals pulled even, Boller went 5-for-5 for 32 yards to get the Ravens in position for Stover’s winning kick.
“You just try and put your mind in a place where hey, it’s showtime,” Boller said. “I’m warm, the body is warm. Just go through it and take one play at a time.”
The Ravens benefited from a questionable personal foul call on safety Adrian Wilson, who was called for a high hit on Todd Heap at the end of a first-down pass.
“We had an airborne receiver hit by a defender, who we called launched into him, and he had a blow above the shoulders into the head area,” referee Jerome Boger said.
Warner went 15-for-20 for 258 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Anquan Boldin, who had a career-high 14 catches for 181 yards.
“I’ll take the win over the numbers any day,” Boldin said.
Baltimore led by 17 late in the third quarter before Warner got to work. He went 6-for-6 for 72 yards in a drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Boldin.
After a punt by Baltimore, Warner took the Cardinals 54 yards in two plays: a 22-yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald and a 32-yarder to Boldin with 10:19 left.
“I think I was very fortunate to be in this situation,” Warner said. “This is one of those teams that tries to keep you on your heels and second-guessing. When we got into the no-huddle we were able to force their hand a little bit.”
Back after missing last week’s game due to a groin injury, McNair went 20-for-27 for 198 yards and led the Ravens to scores in three of their first four possessions. But Baltimore coach Brian Billick called for Boller to start warming up with the Ravens up 23-6, and the quarterback entered after Warner put up Arizona’s first touchdown.
McNair could have continued, but Billick said, “I could tell he was favoring it a little bit. I was worried about fatiguing; that’s when an injury comes. It was time to put Kyle in so it didn’t go further.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Stover kicked four field goals and moved past Norm Johnson into fifth place on the NFL career scoring list with 1,745 points.
Arizona fell behind 20-3 when rookie Yamon Figurs gathered in a punt and cut to his left en route to his first NFL touchdown. Figurs is playing for B.J. Sams, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
The Ravens got field goals on their first two possessions. Warner entered on Arizona’s third series, after Leinart went 2-for-6 for 10 yards, and moved the Cardinals in position for a successful field goal.
McNair answered with a 70-yard drive, connecting with Mason on a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Leinart returned with a three-and-out, which led to Figurs’ 75-yard return.
Notes: Ravens CB Samari Rolle was inactive because of illness. He was replaced by Corey Ivy. ... Arizona RB Edgerrin James’ 27-yard run in the first quarter was his longest since joining the Cardinals in 2006. ... Stover has 416 career field goals, third most in NFL history.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
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