The Arizona Cardinals are challenging the status quo. Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt came to Arizona in 2007 and immediately began work to change the losing mentality that has long made the Cardinals a speed bump to the rest of the NFL and a punchline for members of the sports media. The ride from 2007 has yielded an 8-8 season, two division championships, two runs in the playoffs, one NFC championship, and one unforgettable trip to the Super Bowl. Though during Whisenhunt's tenure as Head Coach there have been stumbles and mishaps, primarily focused around the Quarterback position and a defense that has never had an identity. There has been a feeling that the team wasn't molded to exactly what Whisenhunt had in mind for this team, so he has provided a steady message of "stay the course" which has often caused frustration to the Cardinals fan base. After an incredible 5-1 record in the last six weeks it seems Whisenhunt has been right all along.
The vision for the Cardinals has long been called a "Steelers West" look starring a feared defense and a powerful run game. While the run game has been a work in progress, with spikes and valleys but ultimately coming down to a need for a new offensive line, the defense has been a work in progress filled with big names but never recognized as a unit. The Cardinals have used three defensive coordinators in their search for the identity and play style that Whisenhunt has envisioned, Clancy Pendergast 07-08, Bill Davis, 09-10, and now Ray Horton in 2011. Ray Horton came directly from the Pittsburgh Steelers organization with no Defensive Coordinator experience and was put in a hard situation create an identity with no offseason to install a very complex system, and maybe more importantly trust and a defiant mindset that is the signature of his Steelers style defense. As the 2011 season has progressed the Cardinals have begun showing one game at a time that Horton's system is sound, the players are not only getting it but thriving in it, and that the Cardinals are developing something new in the desert, a dominant defense.
The Week 14 Power Play goes to Ray Horton, his staff, and the Arizona Cardinals Defense for putting together four quarters of Cardinal Defense and keeping the team in the game whenever called upon. It looks like Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals have found their Defensive Coordinator, his dominant defense, and the identity that has been lacking. The question is, can they now do the same on the other side of the ball and make a return to the 2008-09 production?