Up next: First look at Arizona

Over the past few weeks, the Arizona Cardinals have tried to diversify their offense by spreading the ball around at all skills positions. Receiver Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are still the focal points, but coaches felt the club would be better served by getting more players involved. They're using running backs Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington more often now.

Rookie tight end Ben Patrick, who spent the first half of the season on the practice squad, has been eased into the No. 2 spot behind Leonard Pope.

The club went through a month-long stretch of playing Tampa Two style defenses, and the resulting double coverage made it difficult at times to get the ball to Boldin and Fitzgerald.

So coaches are encouraging quarterback Kurt Warner to use his checkdowns. Find Edgerrin James and Arrington on short passes. Don't be afraid to hit the tight end on shorter passes. And coaches are using more screen passes in an effort to get Arrington out in space with the ball.

"I think it's a function of what the defense is giving you, but we have to make a concerted effort to do that," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "The romantic thing to do in practice, in training camps and minicamps is to throw the ball down the field.

"You almost seem disappointed when you throw the 5-yard check down in practice, but those are the kinds of things in games that keep the chains moving."

In the victory two weeks ago over Detroit, Warner threw to eight different receivers. Against Cincinnati last week, six receivers caught passes.

Just as important, Warner didn't have a turnover despite facing heavy pressure. He was sacked three times but was able to dump the ball at other times to both Arrington and Pope.

The key to making checkdowns work, Warner said, is success on first and second downs.

"If you're in third-and-3, third-and-4, you don't need an 18-yard play to get a first down," he said. "You can get a check down and get a first down and keep the drive going. Everybody can't take away everything, but if you're in a long-yardage situation, they can take away long-yardage ones and it makes it harder on you to keep drives going."

The emphasis on checkdowns doesn't mean the Cardinals have gone conservative. Teams won't be able to double Fitzgerald and Boldin on every down, and the club would be foolish not to throw deep to Fitzgerald at least three times a game. He's so big and strong, he comes up with catches even when he's covered tightly.

Boldin, too, can get deep, although his strength is running after the catch.

But using players such as Arrington, Patrick and tight end Leonard Pope on shorter and intermediate passes should open things up deep for Fitzgerald and Boldin. They are less likely to see double coverage. It should also help open some run lanes for James.

That will be critical as the Cardinals enter their final six games. Their 5-5 record is the best the team has been after 10 games since 1998, their only winning season and only playoff appearance since moving to Arizona.

The Cardinals have now won two straight and have a chance to make a run with home games against the 49ers, Browns, Falcons and Rams remaining.

"Anytime we can get a win on the road, it's a little different feeling than we've had around here for years," Warner said after the 35-27 victory over the Bengals last Sunday. "Probably not or best game, but finding a way to win on the road is not easy to do, no matter where you're at."

--- WR Anquan Boldin caught a 44-yard touchdown pass against Cincinnati. He also passed the 5,000-yard receiving mark. He reached that milestone in 63 games, tying Torry Holt as the fifth fastest player in NFL history to reach that mark.
--- CB Antrel Rolle returned two interceptions for touchdowns against the Bengals, and only a penalty flag prevented him from having a third. No NFL player has ever had three in a game. Rolle had his third called back when defensive end Antonio Smith was penalized for a personal foul when he leveled quarterback Carson Palmer. Rolle, the eighth overall pick in 2005, had just two career interceptions entering the game.
--- ILB Karlos Dansby intercepted a pass on the first play of the second half Sunday. He has three interceptions in the past two games.
--- In their last two games, the Cardinals have forced 10 turnovers and committed three. They are 2-0 in those games.
--- QB Kurt Warner completed one pass on a sidearm flip and another left-handed on a second half drive. Warner completed 16 of 28 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
--- RB Edgerrin James was bottled up by the Bengals. He gained just 52 yards on 22 carries and his longest run was seven yards.

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