AZ Keeps Dallas Off-Balance with Versatility

The Cardinals offense didn't always function smoothly against the Cowboys, and there were long stretches where nothing worked. But the Cardinals' offensive strength is in its variety of skill players, and the coaching staff's willingness to use them.

If the two-back, power game isn't working, the club can spread the field with receivers. If Edgerrin James isn't gaining many yards, the team can turn to backup Tim Hightower. Backup J.J. Arrington can come off the bench and make big plays.

At receiver, the team has the big two: Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. But it now has a proven No. 3 receiver, Steve Breaston, who has played well the past two weeks in place of the injured Boldin.

"We have versatility with individuals and we have versatility scheme-wise," coordinator Todd Haley said. "We can go one-back, spread it out and hurt you. We can go two-back and even three tight ends.

"I don't think we're just a soft, spread-you-out team. We can keep people off-balance and they have to prepare a bunch of different ways. I don't think we're 'there' but I think we're doing a decent job."

The Cardinals enter their bye week with a 4-2 record and a two-game lead in the NFC West. The path to this point has not been smooth, mainly because of a disastrous two-game trip to the East Coast, where they lost to Washington and the Jets.

After the bye, the Cardinals travel to Carolina, which should provide a test of just how much the Cardinals have improved.

Last week's game against Dallas provided indications the club is close to turning the corner. The Cardinals blew a 10-point lead in the final minutes but won in overtime by returning a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Cardinals teams of the past would have folded under the weight of increased expectations and sought excuses.

"It didn't seem like the bounces or the calls were going our way," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "and sometimes you have to overcome those things. I think our team did that.

"I don't know if it's a statement game, but it certainly was a very good win."

The off week comes at a very good time, because the Cardinals are beat up. The two weeks of rest could be enough for Boldin to return from facial fracture. Key defensive players such as strong safety Adrian Wilson, defensive end Bertrand Berry and cornerbacks Rod Hood and Eric Green have been playing through an assortment of pulls and strains.

The week off should be even sweeter with a two-game winning streak and a 4-2 record providing comfort.

"It's another step in our process," Warner said of beating the Cowboys. "Hopefully, it just gives us a bunch of confidence going forward that we can play with anybody."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You know the magnitude of this game. You can try to downplay it but everybody knew it was a big game. More importantly, it was a turning point for this team and this organization." --OLB Clark Haggans, on the significance of beating Dallas.

LINEUP WATCH: It's too early to say the Cardinals are phasing out starting running back Edgerrin James, but with the development of Tim Hightower and the resurgence of J.J. Arrington, it might be hard to give James the carries to which he's accustomed.

Hightower is a dynamic downhill runner, and Arrington has played so well that it makes you wonder why he was inactive the first four games.


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