TEMPE, Ariz. — Back when the Arizona Cardinals won back-to-back NFC West crowns and reached Super Bowl XLII, they did so largely because of their record at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Including playoff games, the Cards won 13 of 19 games at University of Phoenix Stadium, and turned the venue into a pretty intimidating place for an opponent to play football.
Even during the down seasons the team has gone through of late, the Cardinals have remained pretty steady in Glendale. First-year coach Bruce Arians has often talked about the need to win games at home, and Sunday, in front of the team’s 80th-consecutive sellout crowd, will look to improve to 4-1 in the desert this season.
“Just attack and try to protect home field advantage,” defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said of the goal against the Houston Texans. “Hopefully our fans come out and really understand what we’ve got at stake here these next eight games, and hopefully they bring their A-game too.”
The Texans come into the game with a 2-6 record, including a 1-3 mark away from Reliant Stadium in Houston. They will be starting a rookie quarterback and will be without leading rusher Arian Foster, which would seem to give the home team a bit of an edge.
However, to a man the Cardinals all seemed to wonder aloud why the Texans are struggling so badly, as when they look at the roster and watch the film a much better team shows up.
“We’re focused on trying to get another win at home against a damn good football team in Houston,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “It’s a very talented group we’re playing against this week.
“I don’t know how they’re 2-6, but you look at them on tape, you look at their personnel, they’re just unbelievably talented all across the board.”
That premise — and the Cardinals themselves — will be tested Sunday afternoon. Win, and the Cardinals improve to 5-4 on the season, with two of their next three games coming against sub-.500 teams. Lose, though, and at 4-5 they would be behind the proverbial 8-ball when it comes to the NFC playoff picture.
“We don’t like to lose at home,” running back Rashard Mendenhall said. “If we want to be where we want to be, it starts with winning at home and winning tough games like this.”