Cardinals Not Worried About "Last Time"

The Cardinals are attaching little significance to their game against the Eagles on Thanksgiving night. That's no surprise, since the Cardinals lost, 48-20, in a game in which they trailed, 21-0, midway through the second quarter. The Cardinals had plenty of excuses not to play well, and they took themselves up on each one.

They were coming off a difficult loss to the Giants the Sunday before, then had to fly across country on Wednesday, with little preparation, for an opponent they didn't know a lot about.

In addition, they had the NFC West nearly clinched, needing just one victory in their last five games. So when things turned ugly early in that game, they stayed that way.

"I've kind of tried to keep that game out of my mind, to be honest with you," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We didn't handle that very well at all. And give Philadelphia credit, because they put it to us on all levels, in every phase of the game."

The Cardinals committed four turnovers, gained just 260 yards and had only 12 first downs. The Eagles had their way on offense, too, gaining 32 first downs, 437 yards and scoring touchdowns on six of seven trips inside the Cardinals 20.

Donovan McNabb had four touchdown passes. Two of them went to running back Brian Westbrook, who also rushed for two touchdowns and 110 yards.

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner wasn't sacked, but he did have three interceptions that night. The only comfort that night, joked defensive end Bryan Robinson, is that few people get the NFL Network.

"You've got to have a short memory in this game," Warner said. "I felt that game was just a tough situation for us. The Eagles came out and played a great football game. But this is a different game, a different time."

The Cardinals believe they are a different team now, and they sure look like one. They limped into the playoffs but have been impressive in victories over Atlanta and Carolina. They are underdogs against Philadelphia, just as they were in their previous playoff games, and it's a role they relish.

"We've been through a lot," said defensive end Darnell Dockett, "and there ain't nobody on the face of the Earth who thought we'd be in this situation. But here we are. One more game and we'll be where every player in the NFL wants to be."

SERIES HISTORY: 114th meeting. The series is tied 54-54-5, including a split of two playoff games. The Eagles won this year 48-20 on Thanksgiving night. The Eagles beat the Cardinals in every way that evening. Donovan McNabb passed for four touchdowns. Running back Brian Westbrook caught two of those and ran for two more scores. The Cardinals committed four turnovers, including three interceptions by Kurt Warner. The Cardinals don't put much stock in that game. They had played a tough game against the Giants the Sunday before then had to travel across country three days later, with just two full practices behind them. Although five games were left in the year, the Cardinals needed just one victory to clinch the NFC West. Their motivation was at a season-low.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Cardinals have been a more complete team in the playoffs, with the defense and offense playing equally well.

"I can't say enough about the way our team has played in these two playoff games," said quarterback Kurt Warner. "Defense giving us short fields, defense coming up with huge plays, offense being able to capitalize on that, running the football, offensive line doing a tremendous job. You can look at it across the board. Everybody is playing their best football right now."

--Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has done a nice job of controlling Warner's offenses over the years. The Eagles are 4-2 in games when Warner starts. And Warner's statistics are below his career averages. He has completed about 57 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.

--The Cardinals added about 7,000 seats to University of Phoenix Stadium, so Sunday's crowd should be the largest for an NFL game in that stadium. Team president Michael Bidwill probably will elect to keep the retractable roof closed to make the place as loud as possible.

"I'm looking forward to seeing a whole new level of loud this weekend," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

--Whisenhunt has concentrated this week on keeping his team grounded, despite all the attention it's receiving. "You also have to handle not getting too big for your britches," he said. "Most of the time when the 32-team field gets down to four teams and all that attention comes to you, a lot of times guys starting feeling a little better than they are, maybe losing that work ethic that got you to that point.

"Everybody in this organization has gotten calls from friends and family, wanting to come to the game. The teams that can keep their focus are the ones who can be successful and have a chance to move on."

--Defensive end/outside linebacker Bertrand Berry, like many of his teammates, has never been this far in the playoffs. And when he looks back, it will be especially satisfying.

"I'll have plenty of time when the season is over, when my career is over, to reflect back on what's happened," Berry said. "We're in the moment right now, and right now I just want to work as hard as I possibly can. There will be a time to celebrate when it's appropriate. Now is not the time. We haven't done anything yet."

BY THE NUMBERS: 10-0 -- That's the Cardinals record this season when they've had fewer turnovers than their opponent.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'd rather have these distractions than me calling somebody to see if I can grab some tickets. It's all right, man. It's my 12th year and this is the first time I've been in an NFC championship game. So I don't mind these distractions right now." -- DL Bryan Robinson.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL PLAYER NOTES

--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie continues to impress. The rookie has interceptions in the past three games while defending the opposition's best receivers.

--CB Ralph Brown moved into the nickel corner's job at mid-season, and that move solidified the secondary. He has allowed Antrel Rolle to stay at free safety instead of moving down into the slot. Brown has interceptions in the past three games.

--DL Bryan Robinson starts at nose tackle, but he is sliding out to defensive end in some short-yardage situations. Gabe Watson replaces him at tackle and the two of them give the team some heft against the run.

--RB J.J. Arrington is getting less playing time now that the team has cut back on its four-receiver package. Arrington is usually the sole running back in that formation.

--RB Tim Hightower lost his starting job to Edgerrin James, but Hightower remains the team's short-yardage and goal-line back. He's solid in that role and has displayed receiving as well as running ability.

--TE Jerame Tuman, cut in late December, was re-signed because of injuries at tight end. Stephen Spach suffered a torn ACL last week and was placed on IR. Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick have been playing through knee injuries in the latter part of the year.


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