Rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie races with his 99-yard interception return for a touchdown during the Cards' 34-10 win Sunday.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had already developed a reputation as a dancer among his teammates, and the Cardinals' rookie cornerback thought about that as he raced toward his 99-yard interception return Sunday to seal the Cards' 34-10 victory.
"As I was running, I was thinking about doing the dances in my head," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "When I got there, it all went away. I couldn't think that fast."
It didn't matter, because there were plenty of other celebrations to be had at the end of the Cards' division-clinching victory. The defense, coming off a horrific performance in Philadelphia, made sure it did its part to help.
Linebacker Gerald Hayes forced two fumbles, Rodgers-Cromartie had his score, and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett ran back a fumble 11 yards to get his first touchdown since he was in high school.
"The feeling that was going through my head was 'Grab the ball, Dockett,' " Dockett said. " 'Because if you miss it, someone (else) is going to get it.' When I got it, I looked at it and I tried to squeeze the air out of it."
The Cards forced three turnovers after forcing just one the previous two games.
"That's why we've got games, that's why we're playing every week," Hayes said. "This is making up for last week. It's a sweet feeling right now."
Rodgers-Cromartie had earned his teammates' respect for being a hard worker and a player who listens to advice. That, along with the raw talent on display during his return, makes it easy to picture Rodgers-Cromartie's upside.
"You know, he'll be alright," safety Antrel Rolle said with a grin. "He is willing to listen and make the sacrifices for the team for himself. He came up with a big play and that is exactly what we need."
MORE STATISTICAL ACHIVEMENTS
Quarterback Kurt Warner threw a touchdown pass in his 21st straight game, extending his franchise record, and now has 347 completions this season to set another franchise mark.
Rookie running back Tim Hightower rushed for a touchdown on the Cards' first possession, his 10th rushing score of the season. That broke the tie he had with Ronald Moore for most rushing scores by a rookie.
EDGE AS WINNER
Running back Edgerrin James was benched the last time the Cards played the Rams, and he had seen little playing time since then. He was given three carries Sunday, and his 11 yards finally put him over the 12,000-yard rushing mark for his career at 12,002.
In the locker room afterward, James collected autographs from his teammates on his NFC West champion hat and expressed his own happiness at a division title.
"This verifies the reason I came (to Arizona)," James said. "I knew we had potential. It's unfortunate the situation with myself, but at the end of the day, you're happy for the city of Phoenix, you're happy for the fans, you're happy for the Bidwills and (GM) Rod Graves."
The Cardinals lost wide receiver Steve Breaston briefly after hurting his ribs. Breaston returned to play after that, but said in the locker room afterward he would have to see the doctor before knowing his status. Linebacker Clark Haggans tried to play with his bad foot, but he left early and didn't return.
Cornerback Eric Green was among the Cards' inactives Sunday. Green had been a starter earlier in the year, but was surpassed by both Rodgers-Cromartie and Ralph Brown on the depth chart. When Rod Hood returned from a rib injury Sunday, Green was a healthy scratch. * * * Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 12/7/08.