While the Arizona Cardinals remain alive in the playoff hunt, a
disastrous start to the season likely put their postseason hopes
out of reach.
Finishing with a winning record, though, is looking like a
The Cardinals look to match their longest winning streak in more
than 12 years Sunday when they host the woeful Cleveland
After winning its season opener, Arizona suffered a season-worst
six consecutive defeats to drop into a last-place tie with St.
Louis in the NFC West. The Cardinals, however, have since won three
straight and five of six to get their record to 6-7.
Arizona, which hasn’t won four in a row since Nov. 14-Dec. 5,
1999, still is a longshot for the playoffs with several teams
sitting ahead of it in the wild-card standings.
“I’m proud of our guys, the way they have played, and the way
they have hung together after facing a lot of criticism,” coach Ken
Whisenhunt said. “… A lot of times that will fracture your team,
but our guys believed in it and stuck together.”
Having a winning season “would be incredible,” he added. “It
would be very significant for the character of our football
The Cardinals have to like their chances of inching closer to
accomplishing that feat with Cleveland (4-9), riding a five-game
road losing streak, coming to town. Arizona visits Cincinnati (7-6)
next week before concluding its schedule against Seattle (6-7).
The Browns, who haven’t lost six in a row on the road since
Sept. 25-Dec. 11, 2005, were handed their sixth defeat in seven
games overall Dec. 8, 14-3 at Pittsburgh.
“We felt good, we just couldn’t score points,” said Colt McCoy,
who threw for 209 yards and two interceptions. “That’s the problem.
We’ve got to figure it out.”
While McCoy’s effort on the field wasn’t really of note, it was
the Browns’ handling of their starting quarterback’s injury that
became a topic of debate.
Though team president Mike Holmgren says McCoy didn’t show any
symptoms until well after the game, McCoy sustained a concussion on
a helmet-to-helmet hit from linebacker James Harrison. He was
helped off the field but returned less than four minutes later.
McCoy continued to feel symptoms through the week, meaning
Seneca Wallace will start in his place. Cleveland went 1-3 in
Wallace’s four starts last season.
The Browns could struggle to move the ball through the air
versus an Arizona defense surrendering an average of 214.4 passing
yards since Nov. 14 – the 10th-best mark in the league.
The Cardinals’ quarterback situation remains unsettled, as Kevin
Kolb was forced from last Sunday’s 21-19 win over division-champion
San Francisco after taking a knee to the head on Arizona’s third
play of the game.
John Skelton stepped in and completed 19 of 28 passes for 282
yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions to finish with a
career-high passer rating of 106.5.
“You’re only as good as your last play, your last game. You kind
of have to live with that until you get another opportunity,”
Skelton said. “You never know when that opportunity is. You’ve just
got to be ready and make the most of it.”
Kolb, however, practiced this week and could return Sunday.
Having All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald makes things easier on
both quarterbacks. Fitzgerald had seven receptions for a
season-best 149 yards last week – including a 46-yard TD.
“Every day, every single day, he comes to work and works his
tail off to try and get better,” Whisenhunt told the team’s
official website. “You are talking about one of the best players in
the league. How much better do you think you can get by doing that
every day? Well, obviously, Larry thinks he can.”
With 1,092 receiving yards, Fitzgerald is the eighth player in
NFL history to post six 1,000-yard campaigns in his first eight
With his team on the rise, Whisenhunt was presented with one of
last Sunday’s game balls. The coach has 42 victories – including
playoffs – is one away from breaking a tie with Don Coryell and
becoming the winningest coach in franchise history.
“It was very meaningful that our team did that,” Whisenhunt
said, “but it’s a team game, so we are worried about focusing on
Cleveland this week.”
These teams haven’t met since the Cardinals won 27-21 at home
Dec. 2, 2007. Cleveland holds a 33-12-3 advantage in the