Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett celebrates his fumble recovery during the Cards' 41-17 win over Buffalo Sunday.
The Cardinals played a road game in New York they were hoping was simply an aberration.
They played a home game Sunday against Buffalo they are hoping is becoming the norm.
Hammering the previously undefeated Buffalo Bills, 41-17, the Cardinals broke a two-game losing streak in dominating fashion and showed University of Phoenix Stadium to be a scary place thus for this season.
Including the 31-10 rout of Miami, the Cardinals (3-2) have outscored opponents 72-27 in Arizona.
“I’ll tell you what, when you come in this Birds’ Nest, you better be ready to fly with them Birds,” fullback Terrelle Smith said. “If you don’t, they’re going fly around and put the peckin’ order on you.
“That’s what we did today.”
Even without injured wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was out after facial surgery late last week, the Cardinals’ passing game – and quarterback Kurt Warner – carried over from its big second half in New York. Warner completed 33-of-42 passes for 250 yards.
More importantly, Warner didn’t turn the ball over and wasn’t sacked as the Cards used a shorter passing game. Of Warner’s 33 completions, 31 were for 15 yards or less.
Steve Breaston (seven catches for 77 yards) and Early Doucet (six for 42) stepped in for Boldin, and the Cards also rushed for three touchdowns.
The Cards’ defense, meanwhile, sacked Bills quarterback J.P. Losman five times, picked him off once and recovered three fumbles.
The Bills (4-1) had rallied in the fourth quarter for wins in three straight games. The Cards were up 31-17 going into the fourth quarter Sunday, kicked a field goal on the first play of the final quarter, and then forced the third and final fumble that evolved into one last touchdown.
“It was huge to not let them come back in the fourth quarter, to (have us) finish,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “I’d say we did a good job of finishing today.”
Safety Adrian Wilson’s day proved a microcosm of the Cards’ outcome. Attempting to play on a bad hamstring after missing practice all last week, Wilson was limited to a third-down role. On the third play of the game, Wilson came untouched on a blitz, driving Bills quarterback Trent Edwards to the turf.
Edwards, dazed with a concussion, never returned. The Cards recovered a fumble two plays later, turning it into a touchdown and a lead they never relinquished.
“Anytime you have a big play like that, it kind of sets the tone for the whole game,” Wilson said. “It set the tone for the whole defense.”
The only glitch the Cardinals had was on a busted coverage with the Bills facing third-and-14 from their own 13-yard line. Rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tried to jump a Lee Evans route with the Cards playing zone, and Evans streaked downfield to haul in Losman’s 87-yard pass in stride to cut the lead to 14-7.
The Cards answered with a touchdown, though, and answered the Bills’ next touchdown with a field goal right before the half to build a 24-14 lead – a drive coach Ken Whisenhunt called “the biggest thing in the game.”
The defense took over in the second half, generating the turnovers that had been mostly missing since the season opener. And the Cardinals got important contributions from a couple of players who had yet to be active for a game this season – nose tackle Gabe Watson, who had a sack and forced fumble, and running back J.J. Arrington, who had 44 combined yards rushing and receiving.
“There is just a whole different energy with this team at home,” Warner said. “We have to find a way to take a little of this with us when we go on the road. It just shows how good we can be.”
With the Seahawks and 49ers both losing Sunday, the Cardinals are alone in first place in the NFC West, and they play Dallas (4-1) next week -- a matchup that will be another measure of where the Cards rank the NFC.
The game will be at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“Needless to say,” Whisenhunt said, “it’s good to be home.”
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 10/5/08.