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On Turnovers, Keep-Away Is Best

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Safety Adrian Wilson jumps in front of 49ers receiver Arnaz Battle to make an interception during the season opener in San Francisco.

The Cardinals have, by far, the best turnover ratio in the NFL after one week. A plus-five will do that for a team.

Given the two extremes the Cards provided in San Francisco – the defense/special teams forced five turnovers, the offense didn't turn the ball over at all – which is more important for a team?

"I would take the offense not turning the ball over every week," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I think our defense is going to create turnovers with the way they play. So if you told me I had to pick one or the other, I would definitely take the offense not turning the ball over. I think we will win more games if we just don't turn the ball over on offense."

Based on 2007, statistics call it even.

Last season, the Cardinals had just two games in which they did not turn the ball over. The Cardinals won at Cincinnati (again a plus-five game for Arizona) and won in overtime at home against Atlanta.

The Cards had five games in which they forced at least three turnovers. The Cards' record in those games was 5-0.

Cornerback Rod Hood said it was "crazy" to generate five turnovers. If a defense gets two a game, a team should be OK, he figured.

"(Five turnovers) is not going to happen every game, but (getting them) is a conscious effort," said safety Adrian Wilson, who had an interception in the opener. "We worked on it all offseason. It is showing dividends early in the season. Usually it doesn't happen this early."

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he understood why Whisenhunt would stress protecting the ball on offense. To be even in turnovers in a game, the result is a toss-up, Fitzgerald said. Going minus-two in turnover ratio, "that's like a death shot."

"You just can't turn the ball over in this game," Fitzgerald said.

Passing less often would seem to lessen the turnover risk – and the Cardinals were more balanced on offense Sunday than they have been in a long time – but Fitzgerald didn't expect the passes to dwindle, saying throwing the ball "is who we are."

The Dolphins, who visit Glendale Sunday, had just one turnover in their opener when Chad Pennington threw an interception. Miami's defense forced one turnover, a fumble.

Repeating a plus-five would seem difficult, although that's not how Fitzgerald looked at it.

"We have to get to plus-10 this week," Fitzgerald said with a smile.

HANGING (ON) CHAD

Judging by the talk that has followed Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington his whole career – that he doesn't have a strong throwing arm – it would seem that a defense might have an easier time preparing for him.

It's a notion that makes Cardinals cornerback Rod Hood shake his head.

"Everybody talks about how he has no huge arm and it's funny to me," Hood said. "He's been in the league five, 10 years, and he's been making the throws. He releases the ball so early, you don't need as strong an arm. Guys who have a strong arm, they wait until the receiver is open. He throws it before the receiver is out of his break and it gets there quick. He is just smart with this throws."

Whisenhunt, who coached on the Jets' staff for a time when Pennington was there, said Pennington's arm strength was never a concern.

"If he doesn't have the strongest arm, and he doesn't have as strong an arm as some of the other quarterbacks I have been around, he can certainly compensate for that by anticipating throws and being smart with the football," Whisenhunt said.

Pennington got a chance to show that arm in the opener. The Dolphins – surprisingly, with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams at running back – threw 43 times and ran just 17 in what turned out to be a 20-14 loss.

"In an ideal situation, you definitely want to be balanced," said Pennington, who completed 26 passes for 251 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. "In a realistic situation, you want whatever facet of the game is going to help you win at that moment in time."

BRANCH SHOULD PLAY

Defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle) participated fully in practice Friday – Whisenhunt called it a "good day" – and is listed as probable for Sunday's game. Branch would rotate with veteran Bryan Robinson at the nose tackle spot, probably bumping rookie Kenny Iwebema from playing time.

"(Alan's) weight was good and when you have less activity like he's had in a week and a half … I'm pleased with that," Whisenhunt said. "He has worked hard."

Fellow defensive tackle Gabe Watson was once again limited. Officially, Watson is listed as questionable but he still has not participated in a full practice since injuring his knee in April. Tight end Jerame Tuman (hamstring), who sat out again Friday, is listed as doubtful.

WITH A SELLOUT, NO BLACKOUT

The Cardinals officially sold out Sunday's game on Friday, so the game will be on local broadcast TV – Ch. 5 (CBS) in the Phoenix-area. There are a limited amount of tickets that are still available, including some from the group allotted to the Dolphins.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/12/08.

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