Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt holds up 10 fingers to the crowd Sunday, signifying his team's 10 wins this season after a 31-10 defeat of the Rams.
The clock winding down to zeros Sunday, linebacker Bertrand Berry faced the crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium and held up 10 fingers.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt did the same.
It wasn't kindergarten math. It was the symbol of accomplishment – 10 fingers meant 10 wins, a figure never reached around these parts.
"We haven't done it since 1976," Berry said, after a 31-10 win over the Rams sealed double figures. "I was a year old. That puts it in perspective."
Berry was just a year old, and he's one of the veterans of the roster. Of the 53 men on the Cards' active roster Sunday, only eight had been born the last time the Cards won 10 games. It was 12 seasons before the franchise even moved to Arizona.
This is a team that just made a Super Bowl a season ago, proving after a 9-7 season, that double-digit regular-season victories weren't necessary for success.
But it was spoken of often during the week by Whisenhunt. Ten wins meant a lot to the coach, signifying another step in building the program that has improved every season he's been in charge – and he started with what was an out-of-the-ordinary .500 record in 2007.
"It shows improvement every year, which is not very easy to do in this league," Whisenhunt said.
It meant a lot to the veterans too, the ones who had tasted double-digit loss seasons more often than they care to remember.
"We can't control the past," safety Adrian Wilson said. "I have been on a couple of those teams with 10 losses, so I know how it feels. I have never been on a team with 10 wins but I think this team is just a little bit different."
Some Cardinals don't really understand. The roster has been overhauled with many younger players, guys who don't know anything different than division championships or playoffs runs. It's been overhauled with veterans who built their careers in places like Pittsburgh, where winning was a habit.
Linebacker Clark Haggans, a long-time Steeler, was a bit incredulous with the idea of celebrating 10 victories. But defensive lineman Darnell Dockett had his reasons.
"For guys who have been around here playing at Sun Devil Stadium with those old, terrible uniforms, locked up in a little box locker room, it means a lot to us," Dockett said.
Whisenhunt acknowledged his team always plays better with some tangible goals, and this was just another of them. The victory also meant the Cards won't lose back-to-back games this season, the first time since 1975.
Berry was just four months old when that happened.
The Cardinals are about the present, however. After Sunday, the NFC playoff teams are set: Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Dallas, Arizona and Green Bay. Only the seeding remains unclear.
As the Cowboys were beating the Redskins Sunday night, NBC announcer Al Michaels was trying to explain how the Cowboys, with a win next week against Philadelphia and losses by the Vikings in each of their final two games (Chicago and the Giants), would claim the NFC's No. 2 seed – only to have to correct himself moments later, noting the Cards would have to lose as well.
The Cardinals still could be No. 2, or No. 3 or No. 4. They could still see Green Bay to open the playoffs, or Dallas.
Whatever the circumstances, those results will ultimately mean more than 10 – or, if the Cards can beat the Packers next week, 11 – regular-season wins.
"After last year, we've got a standard a lot higher than just 10 wins or what we accomplish in the regular season," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "It becomes about the playoffs and what we do there. As great as 10 wins are, I think we'll remember this season by what we do come playoff time."
That truth is impossible to avoid.
But for this team, at this time, 10 was something to celebrate. At least for a night.
"We were aware of it, and we knew it was special," Berry said. "This is a special group of guys, and we are making history by the game."
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