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12-6-11: Arizona Cardinals Bird Droppings - Defense Shines

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Just like this guy in his pitching prime.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Just like this guy in his pitching prime. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Time for some links, including stuff on the improved Defense, and a look into the locker room with Whiz after the win.

Arizona Cardinals News:

Arizona Cardinals defense finally clicking
Cardinals fans still are talking about LaRod Stephens-Howling's 52-yard catch and run that beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. They still are talking about the positive return of quarterback Kevin Kolb, too, and the continued hard-running style of Beanie Wells despite his troublesome right knee. But they really ought to be talking about Arizona's dominant defense, which in the past five weeks has been just about as good as it gets. In winning four of the past five games to improve to 5-7, the Cardinals have allowed just one rushing touchdown and five offensive touchdowns - tied for the third-fewest total overall in the NFL during that span.

Arizona Cardinals' Kevin Kolb delivered when needed most
As good as the Cardinals' defense has been this season, it was imperative that the team got a positive performance from quarterback Kevin Kolb on Sunday in his return to the starting lineup. After missing four weeks because of a right-foot injury, Kolb delivered in a big way during Arizona's 19-13 overtime victory over the visiting Dallas Cowboys.

"A Hard Push" To The Finish
Standings aside, final four games are about progress for Cards

QBR: When average QB play is enough - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (54.0 QBR, 109.9 NFL rating): Kolb completed 16 of 25 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions, five sacks and no fumbles. He ran three times for 20 yards, including once for a 17-yard gain to the Dallas 5-yard line on the Cardinals' first possession of the second half. Kolb passed for only 44 yards in the first half and took four of his sacks then. He played much better from that point forward. The QBR score was only slightly above average because Kolb took so many sacks. And because LaRod Stephens-Howling did most of the work on the winning 52-yard touchdown reception in overtime, Kolb did not get as much credit for that throw as NFL passer rating gave him.

Word From the Birds Blog - Negotiating the icy road of field-goal attempts
By now, the timeout called by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett moments before Dan Bailey’s field-goal attempt is (in)famous, because he essentially iced his own kicker. (Although it’s worth noting, it’s not like Bailey was in the process of kicking when the whistle blew. The timeout was called, everyone stood up, and then the center snapped and Bailey got a practice kick. It wasn’t like he was interrupted.) Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was thinking about calling timeout himself. Maybe. Sort of.

2011 Cardinals Week 13: Five observations - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Five things I noticed while watching the Arizona Cardinals during their 19-13 overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13: blogs - Kent Somers - Cue the haunting music
I wrote last night about some of the eerie similarities between the 19-13 overtime victory over the Cowboys and the 19-13 overtime victory over the Rams in the home game before that. Like, you know, both games were 19-13, went into overtime when the opponents messed up last-second field goals and were played at University of Phoenix Stadium. Turns out, those were only a few of the coincidences. Thanks to the Cardinals media relations staff for pointing out others:

2011 NFC West game changers: Week 13 - NFC West Blog - ESPN
NFL teams facing first-and-15 from their own 48-yard line with 11:56 remaining in overtime can expect to win about three-fourths of the time. ESPN's win probability model put the rate at 76.2 percent, explaining why LaRod Stephens-Howling's 52-yard reception for the Arizona Cardinals ranked only third on our weekly list of most pivotal plays. The difference between 76.2 percent and 100 percent meant everything for Arizona even if two other plays in the game swung win probability by wider margins.

Word From the Birds Blog - Lincoln/Kennedy has nothing on Cards’ OT games
Remember the eerie coincidences between the assassinations of President Lincoln and President Kennedy? Yeah, pretty much not true or not so eerie. You want eerie coincidences, you go to the Cardinals, which, by coincidence, have two people nicknamed Whiz: Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and media relations coordinator Mike Helm (You know why Whiz is Whiz; Helm became Whiz during the Denny Green administration because he was the guy holding up, in poor weather, the backdrop outside behind Green during press conference. The man behind the curtain. Wizard of Oz. Get it?) Anyway, Little Whiz, as we now refer to Helm, is in charge of the postgame factoids, and he came up with some doozies comparing the doppelganger overtime 19-13 wins over the past two home games, beyond just the final score or the extra time needed, or that the winning TDs and subsequent celebrations ended up in the same corner of the south end zone after a play going right in front of the Cards’ bench. In both the Nov. 6 win over the Rams and the Dec. 4 win over the Cowboys:

NFC West leads way in rookie sacks - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Arizona’s Sam Acho has outproduced his draft status as a fourth-round choice. Acho has five sacks in the Cardinals’ past seven games, though three of Arizona’s past four opponents have held him without one.

Cardinals win over Cowboys is extra sweet -
Winning football games is always enjoyable, but beating the Dallas Cowboys is…umm…extra nice. Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb said he didn't think it would be before the game, but once he walked off the field a winner? "Absolutely," he said. "All my friends probably had Dallas jerseys on. They're die-hard, so I'll be happy to slap them in the face whenever I see them."

Cardinals coach Whisenhunt fakes out Cowboys kicker -
If you're an opposing kicker with a chance to win the game in the final seconds you probably expect a timeout to be called, to supposedly "ice you." That's what took place Sunday, except it wasn't the opposing team calling the timeout.

Cardinals look to build off big win over Cowboys -
Entering Sunday, the biggest knock against the Cardinals this season was that none came against playoff teams. That's no longer the case. The Cardinals beat the Cowboys 19-13 in overtime, improving their record to 5-7 this season.

Cardinals looking for different outcome against 49ers -
The Cardinals and 49ers square off for the second time Sunday, and this time around things will be different. The 49ers entered the November 20th meeting with a 9-1 record, and beat the Cards 23-7 while forcing quarterback John Skelton to have a QB rating of 10.5. However, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt believes his team now has the confidence to beat the Niners.

Whisenunt backs up talk with more time -
All season long Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt has said with a new defensive scheme installed, the unit needs more time before passing judgment. Since Week 9 the Cardinals have won four out of their last five games, mainly due to the improved defensive play. "I think everybody is so quick to forget that we didn't have an offseason, that we had a whole bunch of new guys, that we're in a new scheme," Whisenhunt told Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf. "When the bullets are flying and you're trying to play your scheme and you're making mistakes, teams make you pay for those mistakes." The Cardinals defense has given up an average of 17.2 points a game the past five weeks.

The Hyphen's big play brings more attention -
It can be easy to overlook Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling. He is the kickoff return specialist on a team that has a rookie returning punts for touchdowns at record pace, he is a running back behind Beanie Wells, who is having a career season, and he is a coverage blocker on the punt return team. Stephens-Howling does not mind not receiving a lot of attention despite his many contributions, in fact he tries to avoid it.

Kolb marks return with big 2nd half vs Dallas -
Kevin Kolb is back, and he led the resurgent Arizona Cardinals to their biggest win of the season. After a rusty start, Kolb hit his stride after halftime in Arizona's 19-13 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys

In the Red Zone with Ken Whisenhunt - DAL Review
Ken Whisenhunt joins The Doug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 620 to talk about the Cardinals win in an overtime thriller against the Dallas Cowboys.

Inside the Locker Room After Win vs DAL
The Arizona Cardinals Broadcast Network takes you through the final play and inside the victorious locker room following the big win against the Dallas Cowboys.

Stephens-Howling 52yd TD vs DAL in Spanish
Gabriel Trujillo and Rolando Cantu of the Cardinals Spanish Radio Network call LaRod Stephens-Howling's game-winning touchdown in OT to defeat the Dallas Cowboys.

Arizona Sports News:

Radim Vrbata helps Phoenix Coyotes beat Chicago Blackhawks in SO
One strong, convincing performance plus one tight shootout victory added up to four valuable points for the Phoenix Coyotes. Radim Vrbata and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in the shootout and Mike Smith stopped Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in the tiebreaker to lead the Coyotes to a wild 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night. Phoenix had lost two games since a 4-1 victory over the Blackhawks last Tuesday.

NFL News:

NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: After Packers, Who's In The Top Five? -
SB Nation's NFL power rankings for Week 14 are out and, as usual, No. 1 (Packers) and No. 32 (Colts) are the same. Check out the list for the rest of the rankings.

Tim Tebow, Brett Favre, And The Gunslinger Prophecy: An Evangelical Tract -
What does this mean? Why should we care about Brett Favre or Tim Tebow? And what's all this 'Gunslinger' business, anyway? Find the answers here.

Chargers Vs. Jaguars: Ryan Mathews Takes Advantage of Jags Field Goal Snafu -
The Jaguars embarrassment is Ryan Mathews gain. The Chargers running back scored on a 31-yard touchdown scamper on the first play from scrimmage after Jacksonville botched the snap on a field goal attempt for a loss of about 40 yards. Mathews run gave the Chargers a 38-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

FOX defends decision to turn off Texans in Austin, San Antonio | ProFootballTalk
The FOX affiliates in Austin and San Antonio have been hearing it from Houston Texans fans over the last 24 hours, after viewers in those two markets were taken away from the final seconds of the Texans’ victory over the Falcons in favor of the start of the Cowboys’ game against the Cardinals.

Patrick Willis Injury: MRI Coming But 49ers Optimistic -
49ers LB Patrick Willis suffered a hamstring injury in Week 13 but the 49ers are optimistic it's not serious.

Owner: Leslie Frazier Will Return In 2012 As Vikings Head Coach -
Leslie Frazier's Vikings are just 2-10 on the season but team owner Zygi Wilf said that the head coach would return in 2012.

Andre Johnson Injury: Texans Hint Could Be 'A Couple Weeks' -
Bad news for the Texans. Andre Johnson, who has struggled with injury this season, could be out a couple weeks with an injury to his other hamstring.

Brett Favre Would Listen If Bears Called, According To Report -
A report out of Chicago says Brett Favre would listen if the Bears called him to gauge his interest in playing but such a move still seems like a long shot.

The 49ers' Aldon Smith Is Not Part Of The NFL's Silly Celebration Culture - From Our Editors -
We all remember Bob Costas' fantastically pedantic rant about TD celebrations from a few weeks ago. The one where pilloried guys like Stevie Johnson and DeSean Jackson for breaking the NFL's celebration rule, and pined for the good old days, when a guys acted like they'd been there before. A week later, at least we know SOMEONE was listening.

Woman Injured In Ndamukong Suh's Car Accident Fears Retaliation -
On Saturday, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was involved in a one-car accident in which his car crashed into a tree. There were two passengers in the car, at least one of whom was a female who was injured. This woman was quoted in a police report regarding the accident providing statements that directly contradict those of Suh. Because she fears possible retaliation from those who know Suh, she has asked that her name remain undisclosed.

NFC West's non-division record tops East's - NFC West Blog - ESPN
The NFC West emerged from Week 13 better for the experience. Going 2-0 against the NFC East upped the NFC West's non-division record to 15-19, better than non-division records for two divisions. NFC West teams own victories over current division leaders Baltimore, Dallas and New Orleans. I've shared the sobering news with NFC East blogger Dan Graziano. He took it as well as could be expected. The NFC East did go 9-7 against the NFC West, including 4-0 against St. Louis. news: Manning greeted with well wishes from 'classy' Patriots fans
Considering Peyton Manning has been Lex Luthor to Tom Brady's Superman for a decade, you can't blame the Colts quarterback for being surprised by the reception he received from Patriots fans on Sunday. Manning -- who has missed the entire season as he recovers from neck surgery -- was met with compliments and well wishes during a pregame autograph session at Gillette Stadium. Manning was on the sideline for Indianapolis' 31-24 loss to the AFC East leaders.