Darnell Dockett (Getty)
Arizona knew it must play much better than they did Monday night to have a shot in the playoffs. But that didn't put a damper on their excitement after beating the 49ers, 29-24, in a game that came down to the last play. "That's what MNF is all about," said defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. "It's a great feeling to win that game."
The win improves Arizona's record to 6-3 and gives them a four-game lead in the NFC West.
It's the NFL's worst division, and it's likely that one more victory will effectively clinch the title for Arizona.
"On every team that I've been on that's had success, there's always been a game or two where you have to win where it's an opponent you're expected to beat," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That's what this league is all about, and you see it every weekend in the NFL.
"I think that if you look at the history of teams that win, that win championships, that win divisions, you can always go into their season and find a couple of games where it's close. Whether it's matched up against a good opponent or against a team that's perceived as not being as good, the important thing is that there were a lot of things that were very difficult for us in that game (Monday). And to me that's the sign of a team that's mentally tougher, that expects to win instead of expecting to lose."
If the Cardinals expect to win consistently, they need work in several areas. They had 10 more penalties on Monday Night and are on their way to leading the league in that category for the second straight season.
The defense was undisciplined, appearing to value big hits over just tackling someone to the ground. The offensive line had three false starts and two personal fouls on the defense greatly aided the 49ers.
The offense continues to be one-dimensional, although that dimension, the pass, is pretty darn good. Still, the Cardinals are going to need to run the ball at some point, and much work needs to be done.
They gained 46 yards on 19 carries. Take away Anquan Boldin's 19 yards, and the Cardinals running backs gained 27 yards on 16 carries.
"I think it's nice to be able to analyze that after a win, instead of a game that could have gone the other way," Whisenhunt said. "There's always things you want to clean up with. Obviously we didn't run the ball as well as we'd like to last night, our red zone wasn't as good ... the tackling in a couple of situations wasn't as good as it has been. As a counter point to that, we made some big plays, our protection was pretty good - we gave up no sacks. And we did move the ball."
And the best news on a short we is the Cardinals got out of the game with no significant injuries.
"We got out of it pretty clean, I don't know of anything that has come up. There was nothing that really has any concerns as we speak," Whisenhunt said.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald had eight catches for 49 yards Monday night, but just two of those came in the first half.
"They obviously were trying to take Larry away. They were rolling coverage to him, they were doubling him a lot in the game. When that happens it's going to open other guys ... so I think that's a sign of Kurt (Warner) having a lot more confidence in other guys."
--RB Edgerrin James played sparingly and only in the first half. That's better than last week when he didn't take a snap. James had two carries for four yards.
--WR Anquan Boldin has now scored receiving touchdowns in six consecutive games, a franchise record.
--WR Steve Breaston gained 121 yards receiving, the third time this year he has topped the 100-yard mark.
--RB Tim Hightower struggled to find room to run in his second career start. He gained 22 yards on 13 carries, a 1.7-yard average.
-- CB Antrel Rolle had an interception return for a touchdown nullified by an offsides penalty called on Adrian Wilson. It would have been Rolle's second return for a score in as many games.
--TE Leonard Pope played after missing two games with an ankle/foot injury but he wasn't much of a factor. The Cardinals used their four-receiver set for much of the game, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said "that really isn't as fair to him" to throw Pope into the game after just two days of practice.
--TE Stephen Spach, signed just two weeks ago, has moved past Jerame Tuman on the depth chart. However, his playing time could decrease with all four tight ends expected to play this week and coach Ken Whisenhunt looking for better play from the position.
"Hopefully we can find one that can play better than that's been playing for us," Whisenhunt said. "We have to make a decision on who we're going to go with and stick with that."