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The Proper Mentality

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 Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin flies through the air after one of his eight receptions Sunday in San Francisco.

Ken Whisenhunt smiled a bit when it was brought up Monday that the Cardinals' game-clinching 18-play drive seemed to be his perfect scenario.

After all, it was the smashmouth football everyone expected the Cardinals' coach to bring to Arizona, a brand that only flashed in 2007 while quarterback Kurt Warner was enjoying a passing renaissance.

"It's one game," Whisenhunt said the day after the Cards opened the season with a 23-13 victory in San Francisco. "I'm not sure we have gotten there.

"It was nice to see our team focus in on the importance of (power football), that mentality I see developing. It doesn't mean we'll do it every week, but now, we believe we can do it."

There were plenty of things Whisenhunt and the Cardinals want to improve. They need to score more touchdowns in the red zone. There were some missed blocks on offense; on defense, there is still a learning curve for new free safety Antrel Rolle.

Ultimately, though, when one of the biggest issues ends up being Warner underthrowing speedy cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie when the Cards used their first-round pick to go deep as a receiver, a team has to feel good about itself.

The Cardinals hadn't won a season-opener on the road since 1999 (six attempts) before Sunday. Now they will try and start 2-0 for the first time since 1991 when Miami visits Glendale this weekend.

"We have to keep it in perspective," receiver Anquan Boldin said. "It was the first game of the season. It was a division opponent and a road game, something we have had trouble with in the past. It's good to get it out of the way. But we have a long road ahead of us."

That road will be a lot smoother if the Cards have 15- and 18-play drives like they did Sunday. Both ended with field goals, but both chewed so much clock it almost made the result moot (the Cardinals held the ball for more than 22 minutes of the 30-minute second half).

Add in the eight-play touchdown drive the Cards tacked on following the 15-play drive when they recovered their pooch kick, and the offensive line was exhausted – but in a good way.

After a first half in which the defense created three turnovers and great field position and the Cards' offense couldn't capitalize, it was only fair.

"I would be tired just to keep our defense fresh and crisp," guard Deuce Lutui said. "That was evident when the defense is fresh. I would rather take all the exhaustion for that. They played for us. Like Edge said, we kind of paid them back."

Whisenhunt praised the playcalling of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who took over full-time duties from Whisenhunt this season. Not only was Haley calling for the run often – "I was actually impressed Todd ran the ball because Todd wants to throw the ball every down," Whisenhunt cracked – but the Cards didn't have problems with the playclock running down, which was an issue in 2007.

Not including field-goal attempts and Warner's four kneeldowns at the end of the game, the Cardinals ran 19 running plays in the second half and 20 passing plays.

Whisenhunt joked that it was difficult for him not to be calling the plays, but it definitely looked like a Whisenhunt offense.

"When you can run the ball and control the clock," Warner said, "you'll take that any day of the week."

EXTRA POINTS

Whisenhunt said injured nose tackle Gabe Watson's next step is to get involved with team drills and test out his rehabbed knee with bodies flying all around him. Watson's biggest hurdle may be mental going forward. He could return to practice Wednesday. …

Whisenhunt said there were no new significant injuries coming out of Sunday's game. …

After seeing the video, Whisenhunt said tackle Mike Gandy's personal foul penalty was "obviously late." He and Wells both had issues with Wells' 15-yard clipping penalty that slowed the Cards' 15-play drive. Wells thought he was "in the box" when he hit the 49er, which shouldn't have been a penalty. Whisenhunt said he wanted to check with the league for clarification. …

With Al Johnson going to injured reserve, Whisenhunt said the Cardinals will be looking for another center, either for the practice squad or the active roster.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/8/08.

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