OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland Raiders caught nearly as many passes from Matt Leinart as his Arizona Cardinals teammates did in a performance that didn’t look like that of a former first-round pick.
Leinart threw three interceptions in less than two quarters before Arizona’s offense opened things up in the second half of a 24-0 victory over the Raiders on Saturday night.
Leinart entered the game with the lead over Kurt Warner in the competition for the Cardinals starting job. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the lackluster performance against Oakland wouldn’t change that.
“I know Matt’s down because he didn’t play as well as he would have liked,” Whisenhunt said. “This competition, being pushed by Kurt, has made Matt tougher. It’s one of the things you have to be as a quarterback.”
The Raiders had plenty to be down about, getting shut out at home and losing two key players to possible season-ending left knee injuries. Fullback Oren O’Neal went down on the opening kickoff and receiver Drew Carter got hurt catching a pass on the fourth play from scrimmage.
Coach Lane Kiffin said he thought both players would be out for the season, key losses for an offense that shows it still has much work to do.
“Not a very good day,” Kiffin said. “That’s way more important than the outcome of the game. Nobody remembers those outcomes. They really don’t matter. We lost two significant parts of what our offense hoped to be.”
Leinart’s first pass was a deep one to Larry Fitzgerald that floated up long enough for safety Michael Huff to pick it off.
The performance didn’t get much better after that. Leinart led the Cardinals on a field goal drive midway through the first quarter, but that was it as far as positives go.
On a rollout in the second quarter, Leinart stared right at cornerback Stanford Routt and then threw it his way for the second interception. His final pass was a floater to Anquan Boldin that backup Rashad Baker intercepted.
Leinart finished the game with only one more completion to his receivers than he had to Raiders defenders, going 4-for-12 for 24 yards.
The Cardinals offense got going in the second half under Warner, scoring on a 14-yard run by rookie Tim Hightower and a 67-yard run by J.J. Arrington on the first two possessions of the third quarter.
“We didn’t run the ball as well with Matt as we did with Kurt,” Whisenhunt said. “It helps a quarterback to do that. It wasn’t all Matt. I was pleased with the response of our team, the way we responded. Just based on what Matt’s done this spring, what he’s done this camp, tonight doesn’t negate any of that.”
Kiffin said he wanted to let JaMarcus Russell air it out a bit in the final real test before the regular season opener against Denver on Sept. 8.
Russell completed four straight passes to open the game as Oakland came out in a shotgun formation with no running backs. But things did not come nearly as easily after that, and he finished 14-for-28 for 140 yards and an interception. Russell was sacked four times.
“No matter what the down and distance was, we were out there throwing the ball,” Russell said. “It was pretty fun. At the same time the run game will help out.”
The second drive ended when Russell underthrew an open Ronald Curry on a rollout and linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepted the pass for Russell’s first turnover of the preseason.
On the next drive, the Raiders simulated a 2-minute drill by going without a huddle, but went three-and-out when Russell missed Zach Miller on third down.
The Raiders were unable to capitalize on Leinart’s two second-quarter interceptions that set them up inside the Arizona 30. Oakland turned it over on downs and Aaron Elling hit the upright on a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Russell played the entire third quarter but still couldn’t generate any points. His night ended when he badly overthrew Chaz Schilens on third down, leading to boos from the home crowd.
“Unfortunately I think that I saw what I already knew,” Kiffin said. “If we try to just throw the ball around you are going to get penalties, you are going to get your QB hit, he is going to start running around a lot, he will be in trouble.”
The one bright spot offensively for Oakland was the play of Javon Walker, who had four catches for 60 yards. Walker, who got a $55 million contract in the offseason, struggled in practice and had been harshly criticized by Kiffin.
Notes: Raiders rookie Darren McFadden had 40 yards on 12 carries. ... Warner attempted just four passes, completing two for 40 yards. ... There was a video tribute and moment of silence for Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw, who died Wednesday. Upshaw won two Super Bowls with the Raiders and later became head of the players’ union. ... Brian St. Pierre added an 18-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Pope in the fourth quarter.
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