GLENDALE — Here I sit in the press box at University of Phoenix Stadium following the Arizona Cardinals’ latest “let’s give ’em a show” victory. Despite trailing 13-0 at halftime, not being able to run the football or protect their quarterback, committing an unbelievably untimely turnover and generally getting outplayed in every phase of the game, the Cardinals are 4-0 following a 24-21 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins.
One question keeps rattling around in my head: how in the world is this team still one of three unbeatens in the NFL?
The Cardinals really had no business being in this football game. From the outset, the team in red looked a lot like a bunch who had read its press clippings. It’s hard not to attract the attention of the national media after wins over the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles on back-to-back Sundays, so the Cardinals were quite the popular subject of discussion this past week.
Whether it was Kevin Kolb getting kudos for doing just enough to help his team win or defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s impending status as a high-profile head coaching candidate in the coming offseason, a lot of people were talking.
And that talk was justified.
But as this game unfolded, and Miami built that 13-0 halftime lead, the social media naysayers reared their ugly heads in 140 characters or less. “The Cardinals are who we thought they were” one person posted on my timeline. Several others shared similar thoughts.
Arizona would fight back. Kevin Kolb (who had a roller coaster of a game if ever there was one) hit Larry Fitzgerald on a short touchdown pass to put Arizona on the board. Then with 9:45 to go in the ball game, Kolb threw a beautiful 46-yard scoring strike to Andre Roberts, and just like that, the Cards had the lead.
Miami came back. After a costly interception by Kolb in the end zone, Dolphins’ rookie signal caller Ryan Tannehill hit Brian Hartline on an 80-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion put Miami up 21-14.
Undaunted, the Cards continued to plug away. Inside linebacker Daryl Washington channeled his inner-Charles Jefferson (look it up if you haven’t seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High), flying over a blocker and sacking Tannehill and jarring the ball loose with just under three minutes to play. Vonnie Holliday recovered, and the Cardinals were in business.
Kolb would be sacked for the seventh and eighth times of the game on the first two plays of the next possession. Then Kolb hit Roberts on a 16-yard gain. Facing a fourth and two with the game on the line and only 1:50 to play, Kolb connected with Roberts on a 9-yard gain to keep the drive alive. That fourth down conversion was just foreshadowing.
Six plays later, facing a fourth down and ten from the Miami 15-yard line, Kolb threw a dart to Roberts, who got both feet down in the end zone. Jay Feely’s extra point tied the game and sent it to overtime.
Battered and beaten for most of the day, the defense came up huge again in the extra period when linebacker Paris Lenon hit Tannehill as he threw, and Kerry Rhodes was right there for the pick.
Seven plays later, Feely booted the game-winner, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-0 record and once again giving the fans more than their money’s worth.
And even about an hour after Feely’s kick sailed through the uprights, I still sit here and wonder how this team is where they are.
The only answer I can come up with: this is a good football team, and good football teams find ways to win games they don’t necessarily deserve to win.
God knows, Cardinals fans have sat through countless games where they were shaking their heads and muttering “how did we lose this?” See the Monday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears in 2006 if you don’t believe me.
Maybe the Cardinals themselves did read their press clippings going into this game. Maybe they did overlook their opponent just a tad, who knows?
But you know what? Those press clippings were right. The Arizona Cardinals are a good football team — and pulling out a win like they did Sunday against Miami just reinforces it.