Battle of the Birds: Cardinals Get the Worm

Call the Cardinals "the cheese," because they stand alone. With a 26-20 win over Seattle, Arizona takes another game in the division and all eyes are set on the playoffs. The Seahawks were able to close in on Arizona late in the second half. But as Ken Whisenhunt is all too familiar with, defense wins ball games, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has the sweet taste of interceptions in his mouth.

Here is what worked in the Arizona Cardinals 26-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks:

Offense

--Levi Brown saved the Cardinals first snap. When Seattle ran an overload blitz, Brown caught the ball and took 4 yards in the process. Brown's awareness made the Cardinals start on a decent path.

--What use to be a dynamic duo with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, is now a tremendous trio with the continued emergence of Steve Breaston. But it was Fitzgerald and Boldin who ran the show on Sunday.

Boldin shook off the Seahawks defense all day. On one play, he ran in slow motion down the sidelines, but the Seahawks weren't able to push him out of bounds. Yards after the catch were Seattle's worst enemy.

Boldin came up with a 45-yard reception and finished the game with a team and season-high 186 yards. Boldin also came to the rescue when the ball was knocked out of Fitzgerald's hands. Boldin picked it up and gained some extra yardage on the play.

Fitzgerald also followed suit stealing 151 yards like candy from a baby.


K Neil Rackers
(Getty)

--The Cardinals chipped their way downfield on their opening drive, which led Neil Rackers to field goal position. He put the first three points on the board. Rackers also took care of a 54-yard field goal to send the Cardinals into the locker room 16-7. His kick was just 1-yard shy of a career-high, 55 yards. He accounted for more than half of the points made in Seattle (14).

--Ken Whisenhunt is coaching under the produce or sit method. Edgerrin James hasn't racked up the yards, so he saw just one carry good for 1-yard on Sunday. It is difficult for James and many of those who highly respect the veteran to see him sit, but Whisenhunt has made the right decision.

--One of the reasons James didn't see carries is because Tim Hightower has been the starter for three weeks. Since James isn't a change of pace back, J.J. Arrington has seen more reps.

On Sunday, Arrington got involved early. In the end, he posted a multi-touchdown game with a pair of TD's (an impressive showing by anyone's standards).

The variety that Arrington gives the Cardinals will go a long way. Arrington's ability to return kicks makes him a viable Reggie Bush-type back for Arizona. An early run by Arrington and Rackers' extra point gave the Cardinals a 10-0 lead. And then he opened up the game to 26-7 in the third quarter.

He finished with a team-high 40 yards rushing.

--Matt Leinart is a positive influence and motivator on the sideline. He's fully aware of what's happening on the field. He is often seen encouraging his teammates. While the sideline isn't where he wants to be, he's not sulking in the corner. He's in the planning huddles on the sidelines and is still learning even though he is sitting.

Defense

--The Cardinals defense got QB Matt Hasselbeck off the field quick in his first drive in more than a month. Seattle was forced to put its punting team on the field prematurely.


DE Antonio Smith
(Getty)

--Adrian Wilson was on the prowl Sunday. He sacked Hasselbeck in the second quarter without breaking a sweat. He ran past the rookie fullback Owen Schmitt who was focused on the route rather than keeping Wilson off his quarterback.

In the fourth quarter, when Seattle had a solid chance of coming from behind, the Seahawks had no way to contain Wilson coming in for the sack.

--Ralph Brown had the opportunity to step in on Sunday, and he stepped up. Brown outlived any expectations. He not only saved a touchdown despite having the disadvantage of a big mismatch, but he also earned a tackle. Of his three pass deflections, two were in the end zone. The other came when Seattle attempted a two-point conversion.

--Antonio Smith sacked his first sack of the season.

--Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked up a pair of interceptions in his second-career start. The first interceptions of his young livelihood couldn't have come at a better time. When Seattle had an opportunity to come back with less than two minutes in the game, he brought home the win. With the taste in his mouth, the Cardinals hope he can continue his picking streak.

--Karlos Dansby picked up a pick, but the ball was recovered by Seattle when it was jarred loose by Seattle's John Carlson. Although he wasn't able to hang on to the ball, the Cardinals took away the Seahawks' prime scoring position.

Dansby dances home from Seattle with a team-high five tackles (all solo).


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