No Place Like Home For Arizona Cardinals

For years, the Cardinals have been like the guy who drives around with his car's blinker on: They were always threatening to turn a corner. This year, however, they just might be serious about it. At 4-2, they have a two-game lead in the downtrodden NFC West.

They will be hard to knock out of that position as long as they continue to play well at home, where they are 9-2 in two seasons under Ken Whisenhunt.

The Cardinals have won their last six games at home, their longest streak since 1975-76.

Protecting home field is usually one of the first steps a team takes on the road to respectability.

Winning on the road, at least occasionally, is the next one. The Cardinals are 3-8 away from Arizona under Whisenhunt, and they know they have to improve in that regard.

"That's the next step for us," Whisenhunt said. "We've got to take this home show on the road."

For now, however, the Cardinals are content to rest and savor a 30-24 overtime victory over the Cowboys. This is the Cardinals' bye week and they could use the rest. Several key players are dealing with injuries, and the week off should help them immensely.

"I think we do get to enjoy it," Whisenhunt said of Sunday's victory. "That was a big win. There was a lot of hype, a lot of attention that went with that. We found a way to win the game, even though a lot of times it seemed like things were stacked against us. That gives us confidence going into the bye week and even into our next game."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Coach Ken Whisenhunt didn't regret calling for an onside kick with the score 14-14 in the third quarter.

"There's a lot of thought that went into that," he said. "There was a lot of preparation that went into that. We had a lot of momentum on our side, and I felt if we had gotten that ball at that point in time, we could have put the game away."

One local columnist called it a needless gamble.

"First of all, I don't consider it a gamble," Whisenhunt said. "Second of all, I didn't consider it needless. I thought it was something that could help us win that game."

--Dallas QB Tony Romo had been sacked only four times in the first five games. The Cardinals added three to that total Sunday. "They were very disruptive up front," Romo said, "and give them credit. That was as good a D-line as I've felt I've gone against in a long time."

--RB J.J. Arrington, inactive the first four games, has made big plays in the past two games. He had a 93-yard touchdown return to open Sunday's game. "We thought the ball was going to go right, but it went left," Arrington said. "I didn't know what I should do, so I just ran it to the outside and everybody was blocked."

--The Cardinals blocked a punt and returned it for a score to end the game in overtime. It's the first time in NFL history that a game has ended that way. It's the first time since the merger in 1970 that a team has scored a touchdown on the first and last plays of the game.

--The Cardinals (4-2) have a winning record after six games for just the third time since moving to Arizona in 1988.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Anquan Boldin is wearing a wiring or bracing device in his lower jaw. The team is hoping he can play in Carolina after the bye.

--OLB Travis LaBoy suffered a groin injury and underwent an MRI on Monday. There probably won't be an update on his condition until next week.

--WR Steve Breaston has played well in place of the injured Anquan Boldin. Breaston has gained more than 100 yards receiving in two of his past three games and has 15 receptions in his last two.

--CB Rod Hood covered Dallas WR Terrell Owens most of the day. Hood and Owens were teammates for two years with the Eagles and faced each other nearly every day that Owens practiced. Hood had an excellent scouting report, and Owens finished with just four catches for 36 yards.

--DE/OLB Bertrand Berry has had one sack in each of the four games in which he's played this season.

REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Kurt Warner didn't have eye-popping stats (22 of 30, 236 yards, two TDs, one interception) but he was accurate and courageous. He was hit on almost every throw yet delivered the ball accurately time and again. Steve Breaston has emerged as a go-to receiver.

RUSHING OFFENSE D -- The Cardinals never mustered much of a ground game. Edgerrin James carried only nine times, with backup Tim Hightower getting seven carries. It's too early to say if that's just a one-game thing or if it will become a trend.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Tony Romo passed for three touchdowns, but he was under pressure all day, and he fumbled twice. Terrell Owens didn't hurt the Cardinals, but RB Marion Barber did some damage.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Barber didn't find much room to run, as the Cardinals defensive front dominated. The Cowboys' vaunted offensive line never opened many holes.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Cardinals scored two special teams touchdowns, on a kick return and a blocked punt return that won the game. An excellent effort that proved to be the difference in the game.

COACHING: B -- The offense struggled early, but the team began to click in the second half as the coaches opened up the game plan. Defensively, the Cardinals were excellent. Ken Whisenhunt got a little daring with an onside kick with the score tied at 14 in the third quarter.


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