Cardinals Ready to Clinch Division in SF
Kurt Warner (Getty)
Kurt Warner (Getty)

Posted Dec 8, 2009


The Arizona Cardinals franchise has come a long way since Ken Whisenhunt took over three years ago. The change is never so apparent as in the fact that the Cardinals can clinch their second consecutive NFC West title Monday night with a victory at San Francisco....

It's a game the Cardinals have been looking forward to since losing at home to the 49ers in the season opener.

The season pivoted Sunday for the Cardinals. The 49ers lost to the Seahawks to fall to 5-7, while the Cardinals upset the Vikings to improve to 8-4.

By beating the 49ers, the Cardinals would increase their lead to four games with three to play. The Seahawks are also 5-7, but the Cardinals hold the tiebreaker over them, having beaten them twice this season.

"There are a couple of things I'm really proud of," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "No. 1 is that our team could play that way after a tough loss last week (to the Titans). The other thing ... is that we turned the ball over early in this game and they went down and scored. I think it's a great sign of maturity that we were able to respond the way we did."

With eight victories, the Cardinals have assured themselves of a third consecutive non-losing season. Whisenhunt is the first coach in Arizona to accomplish that feat. The last Cardinals coach to do it was Jim Hanifan, from 1982 to 1984.

Whisenhunt is the first Cardinals coach to do it in his first three seasons.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Offensive tackle Jeremy Bridges was hoarse after Sunday's game because he spent much of the evening talking to Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. "He asked me, 'What is your name, anyway?'" Bridges said. "I said, 'You'll know by the end of the game because they're going to say it on ESPN a whole lot tonight.' It wasn't disrespectful. He's a great player."

--Quarterback Kurt Warner moved ahead of Charley Johnson into fourth place on the franchise's passing list. A 39-yard touchdown pass gave Warner 14,936 yards. Jim Hart is No. 1, followed by Neil Lomax and Jake Plummer.

--Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald became the first Cardinals player to score at least 10 touchdowns in three consecutive seasons. Fitzgerald has 10 this year, two short of the career high he set last season.

--The Cardinals offensive line had started 31 games together, but that streak ended Sunday night. Jeremy Bridges replaced left tackle Mike Gandy, who has a pelvic injury. It's the first game Gandy has missed since being cut by Chicago in 2004.

--For the last two years, coach Ken Whisenhunt has preached that his team always handles a situation better the second time it experiences it. This is the second year in which the Cardinals have played the Vikings at home. The first one was a 35-14 loss. Sunday's game was different, with the Cardinals winning, 30-17.

"The one thing about our football team is the way they respond to situations," he said. "They don't always get it right, but a lot of times when something happens to us, we respond in the correct way."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--LT Mike Gandy missed his first game since 2004. Gandy is out with a pelvic injury and could miss again this week. Until last week, the Cardinals' starting offensive line had been intact for 31 consecutive games.

--OL Jeremy Bridges played well in his first career start at left tackle. Bridges matched up against Jared Allen most of the game and held Allen to no tackles.

--QB Kurt Warner suffered a bruised hip near the end of the game, but it's not expected to keep him out against the 49ers on Monday night.

--Sitting WR Anquan Boldin out against Chicago didn't make the receiver happy, but it appears it was the wise decision. Boldin, who had been struggling with an ankle injury, has caught 28 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns in the four games since skipping the Bears game. Before that, he had scored one touchdown and averaged five receptions a game.

--WR Steve Breaston isn't getting much action, as the Cardinals rely more on the run. He has just five catches over the past three games and hasn't scored.



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