In the battle for the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals took and won a game outright to bring themselves atop the conference at 7-1. After weeks of backhanded compliments reminiscent of "the worst playoff team ever", after beating the Eagles at home in a nail-biter and have the effort credited to some bounces going their way, the Cardinals took the field against the media-worshiped Cowboys in Dallas.
And they won.
It wasn't pretty. The first and third quarters showcased ineffective offenses. And it certainly was the last in a string of ugly wins, San Diego, New York, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia. None had the statistical fireworks expected of Denver, New Orleans or even Dallas.
But they're wins.
Bask in the celebration and prepare for the excuses, because they most assuredly will come. In fact, in the post-game show on FOX they already started.
The announcement of the game was along the lines of, "the Cardinals beat a Romo-less Cowboys." Tony Romo was injured. It played a factor in the game. Dallas wasn't aggressive in the passing game. Had Jason Garrett been wiser he would have attacked one of the worst pass defenses in the country, or least that's what was claimed by Jimmy Johnson. That's exactly what Philadelphia did and look at that games outcome.
Oh wait, Philly lost. The Eagles gained 500+ yards and lost.
The difference were key turnover's the Cardinals had in the red zone that are usually "lucky bounces." Antonio Cromartie would beg to differ.
Well, look at Brandon Weeden's throws, had Romo played he would have made those throws and that would have also opened up the running game for DeMarco Murray to get another 100+ yard running game.
However, since Romo didn't play we'll never know. Just like we'll never know what the result in Denver would had been if Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett and Daryl Washington were playing.
I still doubt Dan Williams was going to let Murray get 100 yards even with Romo playing.
Regardless of what could be, the poor passing game by Weeden allowed the Cardinals to stack the box and focus on the run.
Brandon Weeden isn't as good as Tony Romo, but injuries happen. Want to complain about how your team would have played with their starting QB? Ask what Drew Stanton thinks of that idea.
Why are the Cardinals the best team in football (by record) and one of the best (by ability)? There isn't a large talent drop-off on the roster.
There is depth, and not just at quarterback. Drew Stanton stepped in and won games. Other contributors off the bench include Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, Robert Hughes and Jaron Brown. Injuries and off-field issues riddled this team and most franchises might have folded.
The Cardinals didn't fold. They have taken the hits and kept marching.
The front office has provided the talented players for that to be true and the coaches have created plays and schemes to use their players' strengths, all while setting a standard that the players are reaching no matter who is on the field.
Is this team perfect? No, but neither are the Broncos if you watched them attempt to play against the Patriots. But neither will that stop the criticism that the Cardinals aren't worthy.
So, celebrate Cardinals fans. Celebrate the fact that the team is winning. Few other fans can understand the pain and suffering watching the team you hold dear continue to lose year in and year out.
The Cardinals are winning.. imperfectly winning.