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Trusting The Process

Posted Jan 10, 2010

Whisenhunt's plan heading into playoffs pays off in 51-45 win

Coach Ken Whisenhunt (left) and quarterback Kurt Warner share some thoughts immediately after Sunday's 51-45 playoff win over the Packers.
 
 
In Whiz we trust.

That’s the catch phrase for many fans who have embraced the recent Cardinals’ renaissance, which not coincidentally came about when coach Ken Whisenhunt was hired a couple years ago. You hear it on talk radio, see it on the message boards. And it was the phrase uttered often after the Cards endured that 33-7 loss to the Packers in the regular-season finale.

It was an ugly defeat, and the Cards suffered some tough injuries, including the ankle and knee injuries that kept Anquan Boldin out of Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game.

But … in Whiz we trust.

There was a confidence that permeated the locker room in the bowels of University of Phoenix Stadium a week ago, as if the players already knew Whisenhunt had made the right decision to play possum. The confidence manifested itself into a fast start a week later, when eventually the Cards had earned a 51-45 playoff win over the same Packers and a trip to New Orleans.

“That confidence is something that goes further than last week,” veteran guard Reggie Wells said. “It is easy to say no one was feeling it because that’s all you heard from this place or that place, these guys and those guys. It almost is like people forget the run we went on last year and the things we did this year and the weapons we have.

“That’s something we have built starting last year. We have been able to eliminate outside influences and stick to what we know to be true.”

The Cardinals promised new tricks for the Packers this time, that the fact the Green Bay defense held the Cards’ starting offense to 10 points in two preseason quarters and seven points period last week was immaterial.

Five touchdown passes by Kurt Warner and 531 total yards later, it’s safe to say promise fulfilled.
 
The right pieces must be available, of course. The dominating injury news of last week was Boldin’s status or how Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Calais Campbell were feeling. Maybe it should have been Warner’s seemingly benign comment last Wednesday that he was totally healthy, especially compared to how he felt going into the playoffs last season.

Retirement talk swirling around, the veteran quarterback was magnificent Sunday, making no errors. Who ever heard of a guy throwing more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four)? No wonder Larry Fitzgerald didn’t want to bother with the topic of when Warner will hang it up.

But putting the offense in Warner’s hands is an obvious call.

How about the decision to keep Michael Adams in the game despite – and even Money Mike wouldn’t argue – Adams’ brutal first four quarters? Adams stays in and ends up forcing the game-deciding fumble.

Then there was the move by Whisenhunt and the coaches to play up Aaron Rodgers’ post-touchdown celebration from the week before, when Rodgers thrust out his hips and used his hands like he was brandishing some kind of championship wrestling belt.

That mental picture certainly had the Cards’ defense revved up early, when they forced two turnovers in the Packers’ first three offensive plays in a sequence that assured the Cards they would never trail (even if that defensive production didn’t last).

“We take small things teams do and say to us and use it as motivation,” defensive tackle Gabe Watson said. “We had playbacks of Rodgers doing the championship belt thing and we watched that (Saturday) and we used that.”

Added defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, “Everybody picked us to lose, and now Aaron Rodgers can go home and practice putting his little belt on and go and shovel some snow out of his driveway.”

Sure, the Cardinals can’t be happy with how the defense couldn’t make a stop in the second half. Until, of course, it did, on the final play to win the game. The Cards get just six days before their next game, against a team that plays offense even better than the Packers. The Cards have to get healthier, they have to find a way to shore up their pass defense, and they don’t have much time to do it.

But history says no one should think the Cards won’t find a way.

“It was a pretty rough week last week,” Whisenhunt said, and while he was mostly talking about the finale loss itself, he also had to be thinking about the questions that accompanied the blowout.

Then came Sunday. Next comes New Orleans.

And the fans repeat: In Whiz we trust.
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