Mission accomplished for Cardinals' Leinart

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Leinart gave the Cardinals what they wanted from him Thursday night: a performance good enough to justify their continued faith in him.

The exhibition opener wasn't necessarily going to cost Leinart his job if he faltered. He hadn't faced live action since suffering a season-ending injury 311 days earlier. But by running the offense effectively and putting up a solid stat line, Leinart did nothing to bolster the case for Kurt Warner to lead the offense. That is a victory for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have wanted to get their screen game going. They have wanted to involve their running backs more prominently in the passing game. Leinart found fullback Terrelle Smith for a near-touchdown on a short pass to set up Tim Hightower's touchdown run. Saints defensive end Charles Grant was in Leinart's face and hit him on the play.

The chart compares Leinart's stats to those of the other starters Thursday night. Most completed a high percentage of their passes working against vanilla defenses. Leinart fit in nicely with that group. This was a step forward for him.