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Closing With Some Confidence


Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hauls in a pass one-handed during the Cardinals' 34-21 regular-season finale win over the Seahawks Sunday.

Before their game Sunday, the Cardinals already knew they would be hosting the Atlanta Falcons next week in the first round of the NFC playoffs.

After the game, the Cards could also feel better about that game's home team as well.

Arizona finished up the regular season in needed fashion, downing Seattle, 34-21, at University of Phoenix Stadium behind an offense that mirrored the unit's successes from earlier in the season.

"It was important that we played well," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

More bluntly, defensive lineman Bryan Robinson said, "We needed to win this game."

The Cardinals will play the Falcons Saturday (Jan. 3) at 2:30 p.m. Arizona time, in a game televised by NBC.

Washing away the rancid taste of a pair of losses to Minnesota and New England, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner threw for four touchdowns while running back Edgerrin James gained 100 yards rushing after being moved back into the role as main ballcarrier.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald also had three spectacular catches among his five receptions, sparking a passing game that did not have the injured Anquan Boldin, who sat again with his bad shoulder.

Fittingly, the Cardinals (9-7) scored enough to bring their season total to 427 points, breaking by four the franchise record for points in a season.

"From a team standpoint, I am just really happy the way we could close out the regular season," Fitzgerald said.

The game meant nothing in terms of the postseason. After the Falcons and Carolina each won early games, the Cards even knew who they would play. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett admitted he had to stay focused in the second half to not let his mind wander toward thinking about Atlanta.

But the Cards were able to snap a 14-14 halftime tie and a sluggish start on offense behind Fitzgerald and James.

Technically James did not start because J.J. Arrington was on the field for the first snap. But even James said he was told by running backs Maurice Carthon he was starting over rookie Tim Hightower for the first time since the Cards played in Carolina back in October.

James had just 14 carries, but he ended up with 100 yards rushing along with a 35-yard run that was his longest as a Cardinal. The attempts eclipsed the 11 carries James had had the previous eight weeks (five games and three games in which James didn't take a snap).

"I just thought it was time, in this part of the season, (to go with) Edge, with his experience," Whisenhunt said.

Said James, "It was no different for me than practice. Regardless of everything else that was going on, I continued to practice because those were the habits that I have."

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, hauled in a 50-yard bomb from Warner midway through the second quarter after the Cards' offense was dormant and shut out through three possessions.

"That seemed to wake us up in all facets," Whisenhunt said.

From there, Warner sliced up the Seahawks (4-12), throwing two touchdowns to Fitzgerald and one each to Jerheme Urban and Steve Breaston in only three quarters of play. Backup Matt Leinart played down the stretch, handing the ball to James and getting the ball to Steve Breaston just enough to make Breaston the third Cardinals wide receiver with 1,000 yards this season.

"We stayed with it and started making plays and I think we did get into a rhythm throwing the ball," Warner said.

The Cardinals sent Seattle coach Mike Holmgren to a loss in his final game with the Seahawks. The Cardinals finished 6-0 against NFC West division foes.

Those games don't mean much now, however. The Cardinals hope they have regained a little momentum, but as Warner noted last week, it is how the Cards perform in the playoffs that will ultimately prove the team's worth.

"The regular season is over," safety Adrian Wilson said. "It's time to buckle down."

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 12/28/08.

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