Cardinals Better Prepared Down the Stretch

The Cardinals are 7-3 for the second consecutive year, but they believe they are much improved over last year's club, which went to the Super Bowl. The team didn't handle success well last season. At 7-3, the Cardinals had a comfortable lead in the NFC West and slacked off.

They lost four of their last six, including blowouts against the Eagles, Vikings and Patriots.

This year's club seems better prepared to handle prosperity. The Cardinals are 5-0 on the road, an indication of a team that's maturing and taking a more professional approach each week.

The effort is helped, too, by an offense that's improving. Already explosive, the Cardinals run game has been productive over the last three weeks, averaging about 163 yards a game.

The Cardinals are using more two-tight end sets, with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald at receiver.

Those two make defenses respect the pass, and the two tight ends, Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick, have done a nice job of sealing the edge on run plays. Fitzgerald and Boldin also have blocked well.

Rookie running back Beanie Wells has been productive in recent weeks while splitting time with starter Tim Hightower.

Wells has averaged 77 yards rushing in the last three games, and Hightower is averaging just under 75.

The running game could take on even more importance against the Titans Sunday. It's possible that Matt Leinart could start at quarterback for Kurt Warner, who suffered concussion symptoms after a hit last week against the Rams.

Warner's status will be determined later in the week.

SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular-season meeting. The Cardinals lead, 5-3. The franchises have met only once since the Oilers moved to Tennessee and became the Titans. The clubs do have some ties, however. Former Cardinals cornerback Rod Hood and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch play in Tennessee now. And the Titans reportedly were one of the teams interested in trading for receiver Anquan Boldin last spring.


--Coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks his team this year is better than last year's team, even though both were 7-3 after 10 games.

"Our ability to come back when we were down, not let things bother us, play better on the road, and run the football," he said, "those are all signs that we are a little better football team right now than we were (last year). Once again, it's tough in this league to win and we play some pretty good teams over the next six weeks. We are going to have to step up and meet the challenge."

--QB Kurt Warner is sensitive to the idea that's he is injury prone. He has started 41 consecutive games for the Cardinals, but is suffering from concussion symptoms. Warner said it's the first concussion he's had since the beginning of the 2003 season.

"They were a long time ago," he said. "I've had a couple minor concussions. Nothing that has been prolonged. Haven't had anything in a number of years."

Warner recently told the Associated Press he had four concussions in his life: one in college, two in the Arena League and the one in 2003 with the Rams.

--Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells are sharing carries and pushing each other. Hightower, only in his second season, has been unselfish in helping Wells adapt to the NFL, said Whisenhunt.

"Tim has done a great job in helping Beanie out, showing him what it takes to be successful in this league," Whisenhunt said. "Let's make no mistake about it, Tim wants the ball and wants to carry it. Having Beanie improving his game certainly makes them both work harder. That is paying dividends for us."

BY THE NUMBERS: 14.2 -- That's the average number of points the Cardinals have yielded in five road games. It's the second lowest in the league. Indianapolis is allowing the fewest points, an average of 12.6 points. The Cardinals are 5-0 on the road.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That is a product of where he was drafted and everything that he has gone through to this point. I think that until he gets an opportunity to get in there and play for a sustained period and show what he can do, then that's going to be the case." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on backup quarterback Matt Leinart.


Running backs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower are splitting carries almost evenly now. Wells is averaging 77 yards a game over the past three weeks, while Hightower is averaging just under 75.

The Cardinals are using more two tight end sets, and the running game has improved. Ben Patrick and Anthony Becht are doing a nice job of sealing the edge.


--The Cardinals added linebacker Monty Beisel, who can play both inside and outside. The Cardinals needed help because starting outside linebacker Chike Okeafor has missed two games with a back ailment, and rookie Will Davis has a knee injury. Beisel, cut by the Chiefs in September, played for the Cardinals from 2006 through 2008.

--CB Michael Adams could start this week in place of Bryant McFadden, who has a knee contusion. Adams is only 5-8, but he's competitive and an excellent tackler. McFadden, however, is much better in coverage.

--FS Antrel Rolle is enjoying an excellent season and is showing is versatility. The club is blitzing him more often than last season and he is also playing in coverage as a single-high safety. Rolle has tackled well and has played the run.

--SS Adrian Wilson likely will be used near the line of scrimmage a lot for the second consecutive week. Wilson moves into the box against running teams, and that's where he is most effective.

CardinalsSource Top Stories