With their 27-6 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Arizona Cardinals improved to 3-0. It is the first time since 1974 that they started the season with three wins. However, don't think that head coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks it is that great yet.
After the game, he said to the media that he was very happy with the team, but that "3-0 doesn't mean anything to me other than we've got another game this week."
No one in the league could say that they had imagined any scenario in which the Cardinals start the season 3-0. They are just now beginning to give the defense some credit. But has the team become a good team?
"We're not a good team yet," said Whsienhunt after the game. "We're only a good team is we continue doing what we're doing."
That, of course, is the message that every football team gets from their coach. The difference is that this team really buys into it.
After allowing the previously number one ranked offense (averaging 471 yards per game in the first two weeks) to just a pair of field goals and 308 yards of total offense, the defense will get a little more attention. The pass rush has been consistent and from a lot of players. After sacking Tom Brady five times a week ago, they got Michael Vick another five times. Daryl Washington picked up a pair of sacks, and Quentin Groves, Kerry Rhodes and O'Brien Schofield picked up the other three.
But don't tell the players that they might start getting some respect. They don't believe it.
"No one respects our defense," said Schofield. "No one respects our team, and that's okay. You have to earn respect."
After three games, the Cardinals are allowing only just over 13 points a game. They have allowed only two touchdowns. On Sunday, the highly touted San Francisco 49ers defense gave up three alone to the Minnesota Vikings. When teams get in scoring range, the defense is stout. They simply make plays when it counts.
A perfect example of that is the play at the end of the half, when James Sanders scored on the 93-yard fumble return.
Said Kerry Rhodes, who made the hit on Michael Vick to force the fumble:
"It's all about playing to the whistle. They got a good pass across the middle, and I was able to hit him and stop him from getting into the end zone. Once we stopped them from getting in, we just played good ball. Coach (Ray Horton) called a great play, and I just came free and was able to get the ball out. It was a good call by coach, and everybody else played well and gave us a chance to get off the field."
That play reminded Ken Whisenhunt of a similar play that came as time expired at the end of a half. He did not name it, but everyone knew he was referring to the James Harrison 99-yard interception return to end the first half of the Super bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The team has now won 10 of its last 12 games in the regular season. It is the best record of any team in the NFL. most of those have come down to the wire. but that was not the case on Sunday. Some would say that it was nice to get an "easy" win.
Ken Whisenhunt said he doesn't care how tough the games are. "If we have to win it close, if we have to win it ugly, i don't care," he told the media. "A win is a win."
Larry Fitzgerald joked that his teammates didn't have their heart racing like at the end of other games. "we like to get down to the overtime," he joked. "We like those gut-wrenching games." However, he said after that what we all expect. "You take a win any way that you can get it.
75 percent of teams that start off 3-0 make the playoffs. It is way too early to talk about that, but with two of the team's expected toughest games already out of the way and with wins in both, you have to like the chances this team has.
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