It wasn’t pretty, but 4-0 Cards got the job done

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There will be plenty of noticeable blemishes when the Cardinals roll the film of Sunday’s 24-21 overtime win over the Dolphins at University of Phoenix Stadium.

• The offensive line and quarterback Kevin Kolb allowed eight sacks.

• Kolb tossed maybe the worst interception of his career with his team poised to seize control of the game.

• The running game limped its way to 28 yards without Beanie Wells (injured reserve) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip), the lowest total since a 13-yard effort against the 49ers on Nov. 29, 2010.

• And the defense surrendered 431 passing yards to a rookie quarterback who entered the game with the NFL’s 32nd-best passer rating. That total included an 80-yard touchdown pass one play after Kolb tossed an interception in the end zone with the Cardinals leading by one.

“It wasn’t pretty,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

But, true to form, the cardiac Cardinals slapped some lipstick on this spotted, deformed pig. And when Jay Feely’s 46-yard field goal sailed true in overtime, that pig looked sexy.

“Do I want a lot more of those? Heck no!” Whisenhunt said in his postgame press conference. “It’s about to kill me, but I don’t care. We’re 4-0. I don’t care how you do it. If you can find a way to win, that’s what’s important.”

Coming off emotional wins the past two weeks against the Patriots and Eagles, this performance should not have been surprising. The Cards were due for a letdown, even if they insisted all week that they were guarding against one.

Toss in the fact that the team was playing without its top running back, its third-down back, two tight ends and one of its defensive captains and you’ve got the recipe for a dud. It was evident from the get-go that the emotion present the past two weeks was lacking. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill lit up the defense for 219 yards on 15-of-21 passing as the Dolphins built a stadium-silencing 13-0 halftime lead.

Arizona posted four sacks in the game, but the pressure wasn’t consistent, and much of that may have been due to the absence of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who missed just the second game of his career with a strained hamstring.  

“I don’t know if it would have made a huge difference,” strong safety Adrian Wilson said, “but obviously when you don’t have one of your starters in there then it hurts you.”

Even so, the Cardinals did enough defensively to win the game. For a long stretch, it looked like the offense wouldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Kolb was repeatedly under pressure in the first half. He held the ball too long on a couple other sacks, and the line never seemed to get in sync in the running game or in pass protection.

Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie allowed Cameron Wake three of his 4 1/2 sacks — and all of them were Massie’s fault.

“We struggled a little bit today up front,” Whisenhunt said. “Our rookie tackles struggled. That’s going to happen. They’re a good defensive team. They’ve got a good rusher over there, and that makes it tough on the QB.”

But when the Cardinals needed it most, Kolb drove the team 51 yards on 10 plays late in the fourth quarter, completing two fourth-down passes to Andre Roberts (who had a career-high 118 receiving yards), including a double-move, game-tying route to the left, front corner of the end zone on which the line gave Kolb time to step up into a perfect pocket and deliver the tying touchdown throw.

“Team-wise, personnel-wise, offense-wise, that was crazy,” Kolb said of the uneven performance. “We obviously weren’t ready to play in the first half. They were more physical than us. They were executing better than us.

“But we’ve seen so many miracles in this stadium that we just don’t ever give up hope.”

Ultimately, that is the only important takeaway from this game. Every Cardinals player knows there are plenty of leaks to fix before the team plays the Rams in St. Louis on Thursday. But the Cardinals are 4-0, one of just three undefeated teams in the NFL.

To borrow a popular cliché, it is what it is.

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