Cards Pick Up the Pace

The Cardinals ring in 2008 with their best record since 1998. Matt Leinart gets a good start to 08' with a little job security and a five-year pro assumes a more productive pace. Ken Whisehunt's resolution is simple: if you build it, the wins will come.

What Worked

The Cardinals rounded out their season with two consecutive wins. Ken Whisenhunt thanks teamwork for the final push toward rebuilding.

"This is not an end, this is a start for us," Whisenhunt told his players after their 48-19 victory over the St. Louis Rams. "A lot more of these are coming for us if you continue to work this way. A lot of progress we've made -- we have to build off that. The biggest thing we learned about ourselves is we are a good football team when we play together."

Arizona made the most of St. Louis's discomfort. The Cardinals shut out the Rams in the fourth quarter while piling on 17 points to an already-cushy lead.

Antrel Rolle showed his game smarts with a 47-yard interception return. It was his fifth interception and third touchdown of the season.

Gerald Hayes continued the turnover theme. He picked off Gus Frerotte and rumbled 30 yards for the defense's second touchdown of the season.

Neil Rackers racked up 12 points for Arizona, hitting both field goal attempts and all six extra points. It was the kind of positive ending Rackers needed after suffering through his least accurate season since joining the Cardinals in 2003 (70 percent).

The Cardinals earned a .500 season and so did brothers Terrence and Torry Holt. The brothers have each won two games in the sibling rivalry.

Calvin Pace's six tackles against the Rams ran his season total to 98. He more than tripled his previous career-high of 32 (2003).

What Didn't

The Cardinals remained undisciplined. They accumulated eight penalties, gifting the Rams 63 free yards.

Edgerrin James broke loose for his fourth 100-yard game of the season, but the Cardinals were unable to get any productivity from his backup, J.J. Arrington, who finished with 2 yards on four carries. Whisenhunt is looking for fresh legs at the position and Arrington blew another opportunity to show he is a viable option.

What's Next

The Cardinals will be aggressive in free agency now that Whisenhunt has had a year to evaluate the talent on-hand. Arizona earned the No. 16 pick in the draft, after the Detroit Lions and before the Minnesota Vikings. Whisenhunt says that, before the Cardinals look at the draft, they need to focus on their own pending free agents.

Warner has one more year on his contract. He completed 281 passes this season, the third-highest total of his 10-year career. Whisenhunt says Matt Leinart will not lose his starting job due to injury.

"I also want to make it clear, not just to Matt, but to all of our players that it is a performance-based business and you have to show that you've earned the right to [start] or that you can prove by your play that you can maintain that position," Whisenhunt said.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.

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