Cardinals Continue to Play on Proving Ground

Kurt Warner (Chris McGrath/Getty)

When a team has enjoyed only one winning season in 20 years and it hasn't won a division title in 33 years, every game becomes a proving ground. That's what the Cardinals have faced this year. Whether it was trying to win on the East Coast, or beating a good team at home, or winning in Seattle, or winning three straight for the first time in 2002, every game has presented challenges.

So far, they have passed most of the tests. The Cardinals are 7-3 and could clinch the NFC West title by beating the Giants this Sunday, which will be their biggest challenge of the season.

Most of the Cardinals weren't quite ready to turn their attention to the Giants in the moments after the victory over Seattle on Sunday.

After all, it was their first victory in Seattle since 2002, and it dashed any remaining hopes the Seahawks had of winning a fifth consecutive NFC West title.

"You know, with this team (Seattle) being as good as they have been over the years and us having as many problems as we have had, it is nice to come in here and get a victory," Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner said. "I think the big thing for us is that we are starting to win some big games on the road, and we are playing better on the road."

Now comes the Cardinals' biggest challenge of the year: beating the Giants. The Giants are comfortable in Arizona, having won Super Bowl XLII there, and their defensive front presents some problems for the Cardinals passing attack.

"We know we are going to meet the best," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "This is the best team in football."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Cardinals could clinch their first division title since 1975 this week. If they beat the Giants and the rest of the division loses, the Cardinals are NFC West champs.

"I am excited about this win," DE Darnell Dockett said Sunday night. "But by the time I land in Phoenix, my mind will be focused on the Giants. I saw what the Giants did to Seattle up there. That should tell you something." Dockett was just a little off on his facts. The Giants beat Seattle, 44-6, in New Jersey.

--SS Adrian Wilson's availability for the Giants game is in question because of his sack on Matt Hasselbeck. If the NFL determines that the hit was helmet-to-helmet, Wilson could be suspended. He already has been fined $25,000 for a hit on Buffalo's Trent Edwards this year, and the league informed him that a $50,000 and a suspension could be imposed on his next infraction. "I don't think it was a helmet-to-helmet hit," Wilson said. "Once again, they didn't throw the flag."

--CB Ralph Brown played most of the game after starter Rod Hood left with a rib injury. Brown held up well. "I've been in the league nine years," Brown said. "I have a lot of experience, so when they needed me, I wanted to do my job."

--The Seahawks conceded the NFC West title to the Cardinals after the game and were gracious in acknowledging they won't win a fifth consecutive division championship.

"Really, all you can do is tip your hat to the other guy," said coach Mike Holmgren, who talked to Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and a few players after the game. "I talked to those guys who have battled like crazy, just like we did five or six years ago, when we were coming up. And when you get there, it's a wonderful feeling."

--Rookie CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had the first two interceptions of his career, and he had the two balls in his locker after the game. He's going to keep one, and he's not sure what he'll do with the other.

"I am going to get on this plane ride and just think about it and celebrate," Rodgers-Cromartie said.

<>b>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--CB Rod Hood aggravated a rib injury and is due to undergo more testing this week. He's the team's best cover cornerback, and his absence would be felt.

--CB Eric Green was active against Seattle but didn't play a down on defense due to a sore knee. He covered a kickoff but looked very slow.

--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had the first two interceptions of his career. The team's first-round pick, Rodgers-Cromartie is still susceptible to double moves, but he's getting more comfortable.

--QB Kurt Warner has passed for at least 300 yards in four straight games, a franchise record. The NFL record is six, which Warner shares with Steve Young and Rich Gannon. Warner has thrown a TD pass in 18 straight games, one short of Neil Lomax's franchise record.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald (10 catches for 151) and Anquan Boldin (13 for 186) became the first receiving tandem in team history to finish with more than 150 yards receiving in the same game.

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