Steve Breaston just had the game of his life, but he wasn't concerned with his stats. Instead, he was focused on the play that helped his team win.
In Week 1 at St. Louis, Breaston had seven catches for a career-high 132 yards, but he also helped the Cardinals escape with a 17-13 victory with a defensive play. Rams defensive lineman Clifton Ryan recovered a Derek Anderson fumble, but Breaston chased him down and stripped the ball just shy of the goal line. Arizona center Lyle Sendlein recovered in the end zone for a touchback, and Breaston said Thursday he's been hearing about the play all week.
It all worked out for Breaston and the Cardinals in the first game without Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin. Anderson played well with 297 passing yards and a touchdown, and Breaston looked like he's ready for a starring role.
But being in the spotlight is something Breaston will have to get accustomed to since he feels like he constantly has to prove himself. Breaston was a fifth-round pick out of Michigan in 2007, and he was drafted as a punt returner. He has turned himself into a quality wide receiver, but he is still looking for respect.
"Very few people expect me to do much," Breaston said in a phone interview. "I have a chip on my shoulder to get the job done. That's why I play hard every play. I try to work hard so I can always reach my potential."
Breaston had a breakthrough season in 2008 with 77 catches for 1,006 yards and three touchdowns when he was the No. 3 wide receiver for the Cardinals behind Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin, but some viewed that year as a fluke. He then battled injuries in 2009 and finished with respectable stats of 55 catches for 602 yards and two touchdowns, but it didn't help his on-field image that he took a step back in production.
This year, the Cardinals showed plenty of faith in Breaston by trading Boldin to Baltimore, allowing him to step into the starting lineup. After one week, he has made that decision look like a genius move.
"I go off what my coaches tell me, and they expect me to play at a high level," he said. "They put a lot of faith in me, and that's all I can ask for."
Breaston was excited to help the team open the season 1-0, but he knows Week 2 will be tough at Atlanta. He believes the Cardinals are ready for the challenge, and he also expressed confidence in Anderson.
There was a lot of speculation how Anderson would do after he beat out Matt Leinart for the starting job and trying to replace Warner. Breaston said Anderson is off to a great start.
"He is doing a great job," Breaston said. "He has been making progress since he got here, and he's only going to get better. He's still new. The best thing about him is he's still learning."
Fantasy owners who were concerned about the Cardinals' passing attack should breathe a sigh of relief, at least for one week, based on the performance against the Rams. Sure, St. Louis doesn't have the greatest secondary in the NFL, but Anderson had a solid debut, Breaston had a career performance and Fitzgerald scored a touchdown.
Will they all play at a high level week in, week out, including Sunday at Atlanta? Probably not. But all three remain viable Fantasy options, with Fitzgerald a guaranteed starter in all formats as long as he's healthy.
Before the season started we called Breaston a breakout candidate, and he looked like it with his Week 1 performance. It's too bad he also won't get credit for his defensive prowess because Breaston is an all-around player.
If he continues to play like this then maybe then he will get the respect he deserves. Breaston is on the verge of becoming a star, and he's going to continue to work hard to make that happen.