Take Heart: The Cardinals Lost to the Best Team Football, but They Weren't Dominated

Look out, dork: We may see you again in the playoffs.

The difference in the Arizona Cardinals 37-29 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday was special teams. The Giants' played better.

Take kick returner Dominik Hixon, who had run-backs of 83 and 68 yards to set up two Giants' scores. These more than offset kickoff returns by the Cardinals J.J. Arrington of 55 and 27 yards.

For the Cardinals, it was a game of crazy kicks: two onside attempts. One nearly worked, and other didn't come close. Coach Ken Whisenhunt even attempted something that hadn't been tried in years: a free kick. This didn't come close to working either, but we've got to give The Whis style points for trying it.

Despite the disappointing loss, we aren't despairing. The 7-4 Cards still lead their weak NFC West division and should be in the playoffs for the first time since 1998. They need just one more win to clinch the division. Plus, the now 10-1 Giants are the best team in football, especially with the previously unbeaten Tennessee Titans' drubbing by Brett Frave and his New York Jetts on Sunday.

t was a homecoming to University of Phoenix Stadium for the champions of last year's Super Bowl, and the Giants proved why they've only gotten better this season. Eli Manning went 26 of 33 for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

The Cardinals offense was no slouch either. Kurt Warner went 32 of 52 for 351 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. But it simply wasn't good enough to top the Giants. The lead changed five times in the first half, but the Giants maintained a comfortable advantage of eight to 12 points in the second. The beginning of the end came for the Cards when Warner threw that early fourth-quarter pick, putting the Giants on the Arizona 37.

Even then, Whisenhunt didn't give up. The former offensive coordinator for the Steelers needed a miracle, maybe two, and he played for them with the on-side kicks. That his moxie didn't pay off is no sign that he doesn't know what he's doing. He's famous for his trick plays, and sooner or later one's bound to work.

We predicted at the beginning of the season that the Cards would go 9-7, after last year's 8-8 season (with two injured quarterbacks). Now, we're upping that to 10-6 -- which a couple of years ago would have seemed a miracle.

Who knows? With Whisenhunt's team improving every week (win or lose), maybe it'll be this season's New York Giants (remember, they came from a wild-card berth in the playoffs to beat the unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl). Maybe the Cardinals will beat the best team in football (at this point in the season) for the NFC title. Look out Eli Manning: you won Sunday, but your team failed to dominate. -- Rick Barrs

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Rick Barrs
Contact: Rick Barrs