Hard-hitting Cardinals shedding finesse label

The Arizona Cardinals are pummeling that “finesse team” label

into submission.

Sure, Kurt Warner throws some pretty passes and he has some

marvelous receivers to catch them. But the Cardinals’ tough side

was on national display Sunday night in a dominating 30-17 victory

over the Minnesota Vikings.

“We played a good football game yesterday and we won that game

for that sole reason,” said Warner, who sustained a hip pointer

late in the game but said he was feeling much better on Monday.

“We won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”

The Cardinals held Adrian Peterson to 19 yards rushing in 13

carries, the second-lowest total of his career. Peterson was

stopped for a loss or no gain seven times.

Brett Favre was sacked three times, twice by Bertrand Berry, as

the Cardinals increased their sack total to 35, tied for third-most

in the league.

Favre, who had thrown three interceptions through 11 games, was

picked off twice, and the Cardinals outrushed the Vikings

113-62.

On offense, receiver Anquan Boldin snatched the ball from the

outstretched arms of a defender, knocking the defender down, then

breaking another tackle on a 39-yard touchdown play.

“What do you say?” Warner said. “Those are the plays that you

love to watch on replay. What makes him so special is you get the

ball in his hands, I mean he’s second to none. It was a special

play at a big time for us.”

Larry Fitzgerald got into the act, carrying a pile of tacklers

seven yards after a catch.

“We’ve got the receivers and a good quarterback and I know we

threw the ball around a lot, but we’ve got some tough guys on this

team,” running back Tim Hightower said. “Just because

schematically that’s what we do I don’t think that makes us a

finesse team at all, but for whatever reason that’s been the word

on us.

“I think the more you start watching us, the more and more

you’ll see that’s not the case.”

For the first time in two seasons, the Cardinals had a personnel

change in the offensive line when left tackle Mike Gandy sat out

the game with a pelvis injury. Jeremy Bridges played left tackle

for the first time in his career.

“Just play physical football, that’s what we do,” Bridges

said. “Everybody wants to say the Arizona Cardinals are a finesse

team but we’ll hit you in the mouth. We just want to show the world

that we will do that and what greater stage than Sunday Night

Football?”

Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen, who has 14 1/2 sacks,

didn’t even get a tackle on Sunday.

The performance against the Vikings followed a toe-to-toe with

the Titans at Tennessee, a game the Cardinals lost 20-17 when Vince

Young led a 99-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a

game-winning touchdown as time expired.

It was the team’s lone defeat over the last five games as

Arizona (8-4) opened a three-game lead in the NFC West. The

Cardinals, with their best record through 12 games since 1976, can

clinch their second straight division title with a victory at San

Francisco next Monday night.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the important thing for Arizona is to

stay consistent with that hard-hitting, intense approach.

“It can’t just be for a Sunday night game or a game where our

backs are against the wall,” he said. “It needs to be the way we

go. We have done a good job with that. I’m not saying we haven’t

played as a physical football team, but the intensity level, the

attention to detail, the way we finished things last night, that

was certainly like a playoff game. We played like it was a playoff

game.”

Guard Reggie Wells said the Cardinals did nothing they didn’t

expect to do.

“We don’t really need to buy into all the hype that the media

portrays for other teams,” he said. “We’ve been through some

battles and some journeys of our own. Nobody talks about us going

to the Super Bowl last year. You just hear how good these other

teams are. So we don’t pay any attention to that one way or

another. We just go out there and do our thing.”

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said the team’s personality

transformation can be traced to the work of strength and

conditioning coach John Lott, who came to Arizona when Whisenhunt

was hired as head coach in 2007.

“He doesn’t get a lot of credit and a lot of people don’t

understand,” Dockett said, “but you look at what he’s done since

he’s been here. We’re built to beat teams down.”