Linebacker Daryl Washington (58) sacks Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill late in the fourth quarter Sunday to create the turnover that led to the Cardinals' game-tying drive.
Ken Whisenhunt swears his heart rate isn't slowed any more in tight games, even though his team has been through countless ones over the past season-plus.
His team, however, seems utterly unaffected by them.
The Cardinals had a slow offensive start Sunday, they fell behind on the fourth quarter on what could have been a back-breaking 80-yard touchdown pass from the Miami Dolphins, and they had two fourth-and-long plays to convert just to get to overtime at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Nobody thought it would end any differently than it did, though, than a 24-21 Arizona win to push the Cards to 4-0 on the season and notch the franchise's 500th victory in its history.
"This," safety Adrian Wilson said, after kicker Jay Feely booted a 46-yard field goal for the win, "is not uncommon for us."
Understatements were the lesson of the day. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wore a huge grin as he exclaimed "This is what the fans pay for!" Fellow receiver Andre Roberts, who caught a 15-yard fourth-down touchdown pass with 22 seconds left to force the overtime, deadpanned "We had it planned the whole time."
Hyperbole to be sure, but the way the Cardinals have played at home, it might just be true. Last week's blowout win at home against the Eagles was an aberration. All eight wins in 2011 were decided by seven points or fewer. And there were four overtime wins in 2011, all of them at home.
Why should Sunday have been any different?
"I hate to say it, but my grandparents are getting old and they come to every game," center Lyle Sendlein said. "They're always telling me they wished we'd just put it out of reach in the first or second quarter.
"But it's however you get the 'W.' "
The Cardinals did not play well in many facets, Whisenhunt acknowledged. Quarterback Kevin Kolb threw his first two interceptions of the season and was sacked eight times. The Cards rushed for only 28 yards. The defense allowed 431 yards passing to rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Still, the Cardinals were on the precipice of a win in the fourth quarter, having just taken a 14-13 lead and then with cornerback Patrick Peterson returning a Miami fumble 61 yards to the Dolphins 3-yard line with a little more than eight minutes to go in the game.
Two plays later, Kolb threw an end-zone interception on a great toe-tapping grab by cornerback Sean Smith. On the next play, Tannehill hit Brian Hartline – uncovered deep downfield because of a defensive miscommunication of some kind – for an uncontested 80-yard touchdown.
Stunning didn't begin to describe the flip, especially when the Cards went three-and-out on the next possession.
"I felt we were going to win the game (after that)," said Hartline, who finished with a Dolphins record of 253 yards receiving on 12 catches. "Momentum was with us."
The Dolphins (1-3) got the ball back and began to burn clock. But time grew short, linebacker Daryl Washington -- quiet most of the game – got in on Tannehill and forced a fumble on a sack. Vonnie Holliday fell on the ball with 2:51 left at the Arizona 49.
But the Cards went backwards. Even after an important 16-yard pass to Andre Roberts, the Cards were faced with a fourth-and-2 to keep their chances alive. Kolb hit Roberts (six catches for 118 yards) again, for nine yards. As the clock ticked down and the Cards were faced with an even more difficult task – fourth-and-10 at the Miami 15 with 29 seconds left – Kolb calmly rifled a pass to Roberts in the front corner of the end zone for the overtime-forcing score.
"It's probably the most special (pass) in my career," said Kolb, who was 29-for-48 for 324 yards, three touchdowns and the two picks. "Now, the one (end-zone interception) before that was probably the worst in my career."
Said Fitzgerald, "There's not a guy on the sideline who didn't believe we could go out and win this ball game."
The Cardinals went nowhere with the first overtime possession, but the defense stepped forward yet again. Linebacker Paris Lenon drilled Tannehill on a pass, and the ball fluttered out of his hand and into the waiting arms of safety Kerry Rhodes, who returned it to the Miami 47.
Seven plays later, Feely trotted on the field for what was at once an unbelievable finish and fait accompli.
"Some days it's not going to go exactly how you want it," Rhodes said. "But to be able to fight and make enough plays to win, that's big. This team never quits. It looked like we were down and out."
They weren't, though. A short week – the Cardinals have to play Thursday night in St. Louis – will be much easier to work toward with another win, no matter how difficult it might have been to come by.
"It's not luck, I'll tell you that," Whisenhunt said. "It can't be luck with as many times as we have been successful with it.
"Do I want a lot more of those? Heck no. It's about to kill me. But I'll take a win any way we can get it."