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Finding Success In .500

With start, beating Seahawks and reaching 8-8 "significant"


The Cardinals want to avenge their loss in Seattle earlier this year and finish with a .500 record by beating the Seahawks Sunday.

The last time the Cardinals needed to win their season finale to reach 8-8 on the season was Ken Whisenhunt's first season as head coach.

The Cards beat up on the St. Louis Rams that day – at home – to level their record. The following season, the Cardinals won their first NFC West crown and reached the Super Bowl. Don't think that hasn't been lost on the current Cards, who head into Sunday's finale at University of Phoenix Stadium against the Seahawks looking for that same .500 mark.

"No guarantees if we win this game we are going to the Super Bowl next year," Whisenhunt said, "but I do believe that it's something you want to do. You always want to end on a high note and it really propels you into the offseason."

These are the things a team searches for late in the season when the playoffs are no longer an option. Another is the question that has the most subjective of answers: Given where the Cardinals were at one point this season, can 8-8 be considered a success?

"Not by our standards, because we wanted to be in the playoffs," linebacker Paris Lenon said. "From that standpoint it isn't.

"But when you look at how we began the season, to be able to be in a position to finish 8-8, that's climbing out of a hole. We were 1-6 and everyone had written us off from everything. We were a 'W' on a lot of people's calendars. Even though no one said it, I am pretty sure they had us penciled in as a 'W.' We sure upset quite a few people in the process. This is about finishing right."

Coincidentally, the Seahawks have followed near the same path. They started poorly – 2-6 at one point – and then lost last week to fall to 7-8 and be eliminated from playoff consideration. Now they too want to finish .500. The Cardinals want to get back at a rival that has beaten them three straight times.

The irony is Seattle could actually better there 2010 record by a game, even though they won the division in 2010. Such is life in a much improved NFC West.

"(A .500 record) is not anywhere near where we wanted to be, but it's what we have available and we're going for it," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.

It is difficult for the Cardinals to be too happy with .500 – "I guess that could be considered a success, but 8-8, that's not what you aim for at the beginning of the season," tackle Levi Brown said -- but it's what they have right now.

The Cards will be without quarterback Kevin Kolb again because he hasn't recovered from his concussion. They will probably be without cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is unlikely to risk playing on a bad Achilles.

They will have running back Beanie Wells, however, who did not play in Seattle Week Three because of a hamstring injury. Given the Cardinals lost by just three, 13-10, Wells' inclusion could be a difference-maker.

Both teams are so different than the ones that met back in September, however. The Cardinals have a new quarterback and certainly a more effective defense than that day, when defensive coordinator Ray Horton got so simple the Cards had basically just two defensive calls.

The defense has grown through the season. With no playoffs, growth and building forward can be the only goals. That's why .500 means something, whether or not it can be deemed a "success" or not in the big picture.

"If you are looking at moral victories, it's something you can hang your hat on," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.

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