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GLENDALE, Ariz. – There is old saying in the National Football League, “it is better to win ugly than lose pretty.” That was certainly the case for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins jumped out to a 13-0 lead at halftime, regained a 21-14 lead late in the fourth quarter and outplayed the Cardinals all afternoon. But, when the dust settle, Arizona was celebrating a 24-21 overtime win to improve to 4-0.
“This is what the fans pay for,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “This is exactly why NFL fans keep tuning in, to see games like this. It’s really a lot of fun to be a part of it, especially when you come out on the winning side.”
Fitzgerald had eight catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Arizona had nothing going in the first half. The offense could not move the ball, while the defense had trouble slowing down the Dolphins. Miami outgained the Cardinals 199 to 48.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill carved up the Redbirds secondary, completing 15 of 21 passes for 219 yards. William Gay was no match for Davone Bess and Brian Hartline who combined for 196 yards on 11 catches. The offensive line had trouble slowing down Cameron Wake, who had a career-high 4.5 sacks, three in the first half alone.
“We obviously weren’t ready to play in the first half, it seemed,” Kevin Kolb said. “They were more physical than us and they were executing better than us.”
But momentum began to swing in the third quarter. Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter missed a 51-yard field goal, giving Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals offense great field position. Eight plays later, Kolb connected on a screen pass to Larry Fitzgerald for a three-yard touchdown to cut Miami’s lead to 13-7.
The Cardinals were able to take a 14-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, following a 46-yard touchdown pass from Kolb to Andre Roberts. Patrick Peterson recovered a fumble on the next series, returning in 61 yards to the Miami 3 and putting Arizona it position to put the game out of reach.
But, momentum can be a funny thing.
Kolb threw “the worst pass” of his career looking for Fitzgerald in the end zone and was picked off by cornerback Sean Smith. Tannehill complete an 80-yard touchdown pass to Hartline on the very next play, giving Miami a 21-14 lead with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter.
“That was tough swing,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “[Kolb] can’t make some of those throws that he made. He’s been better about that coming into this game.”
But just when it seemed the Cardinals were about the let win slip away, Daryl Washington forced a fumble and Vonnie Holliday fell on the loose ball at midfield and 2:51 left in the game.
“We had a little miscommunitcation up front,” Tannehill said about that play. “We were getting ready to throw, so I split my hands and he came over the top and knocked the ball out.”
Tannehill finished the afternoon 26-for-41 for 431 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Cardinals converted two fourth downs on the final drive, including the game-tying 15-yard touchdown from Kolb to Roberts.
“The funny thing is we ran that play twice,” Roberts said on his game-tying grab. “I they saw on the sideline that I was open the first time.”
Roberts caught six passes for 118 yards and two big touchdowns.
Arizona won the toss in overtime, but the offense stalled, going three and out. That’s when the Cardinals opportunistic defense struck again.
Paris Lenon bull rushed Tannehill, causing the rookie to throw a bad pass that was intercepted by Kerry Rhodes. Seven plays later, the Cardinals were in range for Jay Feely to make a 46-yard attempt and give Arizona its eighth straight home win.
“That was crazy,” Kolb said. “I think we’ve seen so many miracles happen in this stadium that we just don’t ever give up hope.”
Kolb finished the game 29 for 48 for 324 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
And while the Cardinals will certainly take the win, this team knows there are several areas to improve upon.
“There’s probably too many areas to talk about that we have to do better in,” Whisenhunt said. “We have a lot of things that we have to correct. But, there was a lot of fight in our team to be able to overcome, to stay in [the game] and play as a team and win. That goes a long way toward building confidence in what you can do.”
Arizona is now facing a short week. The Cardinals travel to face the division rival St. Louis Rams on Thursday night. But for now, the Redbirds will enjoy another win, no matter how bad it looked.