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Cardinals vs. 49ers, Recap: Whisenhunt Not Focused On Playoff Scenarios

Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt had no information Monday morning on the biggest injury question facing the team after Sunday's win over the San Francisco 49ers. He had not yet spoken to Kevin Kolb or the training staff and therefore had nothing to say about Kolb's status following a blow he took to the back of his head that knocked him out of the game.

Kolb "didn't feel right" after taking the knee to the back of his head and was evaluated by the team doctors who made the call to hold him out for the rest of the game. He will undergo the concussion protocols this week which includes a number of different steps. We should expect to know more on his status for the next game on Wednesday.

The challenge for this week will be not to "get caught up in the win" and remain focused heading into a game against a Cleveland Browns (4-9). The Cardinals should be favored in this game, at home, by at least four points.

Whisenhunt says the team isn't paying attention to playoff scenarios and "scoreboard watching".

 "None of it matters if we don't win this week and that's the approach we've taken the last six weeks and it's worked pretty good for five of them," he said.

John Skelton and the game plan 

The Cardinals were forced to adjust on the fly when Kolb was knocked out of the game on the first series. It helped that Skelton had started four other games which allowed the team to stick to the game plan and even create a few plays on the sideline based on what the Niners were doing.

Skelton handled it well, showed poise in the pocket, used his feet to make plays and completed some nice throws. The two interceptions need to be eliminated according to Whisenhunt. Bother were decision-making mistakes.

Whisenhunt provided an insight into the game plan:

"We had a number of different approaches we were going to try and we finally hit on one in the second half. We spread them out a little bit and went into some of our "sub" stuff which we thought was going to be good coming in. They tried to match us up with their base, with their regular personnel and that's when we hurt them with the shot to Early (Doucet) for the touchdown. That got them into matching with us and that gave us what we wanted as far as the plan goes and we were able to move it a little better in the second half."

Defense and a turning point

The Cardinals defense has played extremely well over the last six games. Here's a few notes assembled by the team PR staff:

Over the last six games, opposing offenses have 77 total drives. In those 77 drives, the Cardinals defense has allowed just six TDs. Below is a breakdown of the defensive performance over that time:

 Opponent's 77 offensive drives over the past six games

  • 47 drives totaled five plays or fewer
  • 45 drives covered 25 yards or fewer
  • 37 drives resulted in a punt-only Denver (42) forced more punts than the Cards in that span
  • 8 drives resulted in missed FGAs, including three FGAs that were blocked by Arizona
  • Of the six TDs allowed, three came on drives that began inside Arizona territory, including two drives that followed turnovers

One other thing that's stood out is getting five sacks from five different players in each of the last two games.

"Listen, I would rather have five guys have five sacks than have one guy have five sacks because it makes you much more difficult to defend when you do that," Whisenhunt said.

Asked about a turning point on defense during the season, Whisenhunt said the one moment that stood out was in the first St. Louis game (Nov 6) when the Cardinals got stops on third and fourth and 1 late in the game:

"I believe at that point, in a critical situation where really it was tough, that we had to do something, that our guys stood up. And I really believe that at that point, because you had a couple of different guys in that series make plays and they did it the right way, they used the proper technique, they communicated, they got lined up right, and I think guys really started to buy in at that point. I don't necessarily think you can say there is one point, but it sure appeared that way to me. We were getting better the whole time but that was a point where our guys really needed to step up and they did and I think that certainly helped."

Other notes and quotes:

  • "There's a great team chemistry right now with our guys. There's no offense vs. defense or anything like that...Guys are just playing football and they are expecting to be successful." - Whisenhunt
  • Whisenhunt given a game ball by Lyle Sendlein on behalf of the team in recognition of winning his 42nd game as Cardinals coach which tied for the lead for the Cardinals franchise.
  • Whisenhunt on making big plays on offense this year: "It means that we're close. We're close to being a better, efficient team on both sides of the ball. Make plays and win a lot of games."
  • Whisenhunt said he was running out of things to say about Larry Fitzgerald. The catches, the block during Doucet's TD catch and a touchdown-saving tackle on an interception all were huge.
  • Whiz stressed how unselfish Fitzgerald is, rooting for teammates when they do great things, and how hard he works in practice each week to keep trying to get better. Despite his unselfishness, Fitz also wants the ball and often will lobby for certain plays and point out times he is open and what's working during a game.
For more on the Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds blog.