Arizona has won 9 of 11 after upset at New England
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)
The day-after enthusiasm for one of the Arizona Cardinals' biggest road victories ever was subdued at team headquarters.
The players and their coach understand too well how close that one was, but the 20-18 triumph at New England, secured when the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal with one second to play, fits a pattern for this resurgent Arizona franchise.
The Cardinals, 2-0 for the first time in four years, have won nine of 11, dating to last season, but none by more than six points. Four of their last five wins, including both this season, have gone down to the final play.
''We like it that way. We get better TV ratings that way,'' said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who uncharacteristically had just one catch for four yards on Sunday. ''We like to make sure our fans' blood pressure is on the rise every week.''
That penchant for hair-raising finishes seems fine with coach Ken Whisenhunt, as long as his team wins.
''As long as we get the W's, I really don't care,'' he said on Monday. ''... It's definitely stressful, but our guys have gotten mentally tougher because of it.''
The Cardinals were 13 1/2-point underdogs at New England before handing the Patriots their first loss in a home opener in 11 years.
Whisenhunt called the victory ''a great step'' for his team, but said there's no way a defining moment can come in the second game of the season.
''I think Patrick (Peterson) said it yesterday,'' the coach said, ''we have a lot of games left. We still have a story to tell as far as who this team is going to be.''
So far, it's a team centered on a fast, strong defense that didn't allow the Patriots a touchdown until Tom Brady passed for one with just over two minutes left in the game.
''It was huge,'' defensive end Calais Campbell said, but his confidence was mixed with caution.
''A game like that, it can go two ways,'' he said. ''You gain a lot of confidence and sometimes you get arrogant and you might not work as hard because you think you have arrived.
''Some other teams, you get the confidence and you know that if you continue to put the work in that we did, you can continue to be great. I think that's the mindset we've got to take.''
The Cardinals almost never blitzed but still harassed Brady, sacking him four times with another six quarterback hits.
The 6-foot-8 Campbell had 10 tackles, including two sacks and two tackles for loss. He also had three quarterback hits. Inside linebacker Daryl Washington led Arizona with 13 tackles, one for a loss.
The defense, Whisenhunt said, was ''physical, fast and executed the scheme very well'' for the second week in a row, and it was a far different approach than the one used to beat Seattle 20-16 in the season opener.
''We had a different scheme going in against the Patriots because of the way they try to attack you, and our guys worked very hard at it,'' Whisenhunt said. ''I think they have a lot of belief in what they are trying to get done, and they are playing that way.''
Ryan Williams, the young running back who almost was the goat of the game when his fumble allowed the Patriots to go for the game-winning field goal, was absent from Monday's team meetings because of the death of his grandfather.
Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said he watched in disbelief when the Patriots recovered that ball.
''I was thinking `Is this how lucky the Patriots really are?''' he said. ''Really, we beat them all game and they come down to a play and they kick a field goal and win the game.''
The Cardinals are known for blocking field goals, and they figured they at least had a shot. Campbell blocked one in the season opener and had three last year.
''But he shanked it,'' Campbell said, ''so we didn't have to do anything spectacular.''
Campbell said just the knowledge that the Cardinals can block kicks can affect a kicker.
''It definitely gets in kickers' heads,'' he said, ''especially when you know we're going to give it our all on that play. We give it our all every time out there, but it's just more motivation in a situation like that.''
Whisenhunt said he was unsure of the status of tight end Todd Heap, who had five catches for 62 yards before leaving with a knee injury. The coach said Heap underwent an MRI exam but the results weren't in yet.
The coach praised quarterback Kevin Kolb, who lost out to John Skelton in the preseason competition for the starting job. Skelton sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter against Seattle, then Kolb came in to direct the game-winning touchdown drive. With Skelton injured, Kolb got the start at New England.
''Kevin did what we expected. He played well,'' Whisenhunt said.
Kolb's statistics were unspectacular - 15 for 27 for 140 yards with a lost fumble - but he threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts and, in a play he called at the line of scrimmage, scored on a 5-yard quarterback sneak.
Next up are the Philadelphia Eagles, who opened the season with a pair of 1-point victories.
Kolb, assuming he still is the starter, knows just what to expect.
''The way things are going,'' he said, ''history tells us we might as well get ready for another two-minute drive to see who wins the game.''
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