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Cardinals offensive tackle Eric Winston: Playing meaningful games ‘is what it’s all about’

The Arizona Cardinals still have an uphill battle to make the 2013 NFL Playoffs with three games left to play, but the team isn’t exactly worrying about the standings or tiebreakers or who has to lose in front of them.

No, they’ll leave those equations to the inquiring media members and fans.

For an organization that failed to reach the postseason in each of the last three seasons, it’s just nice to be playing games that matter again this time of year.

“This is what it’s all about,” Cardinals offensive tackle Eric Winston told Arizona Sports 620’s Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley on the Big Red Rage. “You just want this opportunity. People say, ‘Well you might or might not…’ but these are meaningful games in December. They mean a lot.

“They’re important to the fan base. They’re important for the organization and the team. I think it’s on us to perform. And I think we will. I think this team is hitting its stride, and I think we’ll go out there and show it Sunday.

While Sunday’s contest pits the Cardinals against an below .500 team in the Tennessee Titans, it still features a combination of tests. Arizona is 3-0 against AFC South teams, but it has yet to win a game in the type of weather it’ll face in Nashville — game-time temperature of 37 degrees with overcast skies.

But when asked what’s most focused on when it comes to Sunday’s non-conference showdown, Winston, being the offensive lineman that he is, pointed to Tennessee’s defense.

In 2013, the Titans are tied for seventh with 15 forced fumbles and also do a decent job of getting to the quarterback (31 sacks).

“It’s another good front in Kamerion Wimbley, [Derrick] Morgan and guys up front,” said Winston. “Their defensive tackles do a good job of bringing pressure. They bring a lot of five-man pressure, so everyone is going to have a one-on-one a lot of times. And we’ve got to win. We’ve got to win up front. Nothing changes.”

Of late, the Cardinals’ offensive line has won plenty, allowing just 12 sacks in their last five contests. The result has been a more effective Carson Palmer (10 touchdowns and three interceptions) and in the process a 4-1 record.

“I had an old college coach that always said, ‘Protection equals completions.’ If we can protect him, he’s going to have time to go from his first read to his second read and maybe even his third read a couple of times and get those completions,’ said Winston.

“I think it’s on us. I challenged our guys before the [St. Louis game that they have a great front four. They like to get after quarterbacks. They’ve done a great job all year of getting after quarterbacks. And I told them, ‘Look it’s our time to step and shine and make sure that no one touches Carson.’ I think we did a great job of that last week.”