Hard-hitting Cardinals shedding finesse label
The Arizona Cardinals are pummeling that “finesse team” label
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
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
“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
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
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.”