Long Time Coming
It's been 17 years since the Arizona Cardinals opened a season with two victories. All that's standing in their way of doing that in 2008 is a team that's won once in its last 20 games.
The Cardinals will try to get off their first 2-0 start since 1991 on Sunday when they host the Miami Dolphins, losers of 10 straight on the road.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Arizona -6 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Arizona -6 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Arizona has a long history of losing, having failed to finish with a winning record in 19 of the 20 seasons since the franchise relocated from St. Louis. The Cardinals have begun 10 seasons 0-2. Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, 234 teams have started a season with two losses, and only 27 have gone on to the playoffs.
Those will be the long odds the Dolphins face if they can't win in their first trip to the desert since 1996, but Arizona can do something even rarer to the franchise since its move to Phoenix. The Cardinals have started 2-0 only twice since relocating, most recently when quarterback Tom Tupa - a punter later in his career - led the team to a pair of wins to open the 1991 season. Arizona went on to finish 4-12.
The Cardinals put themselves in position to match that start since then with a 23-13 win at San Francisco in Week 1, the first time they'd won their road opener since 2001.
"This is what happens when you play together over and over," running back Edgerrin James told the team's official Web site.
James is now in his third season with Arizona, and while the team has had success throwing the football - with Kurt Warner finding star wideouts Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin - running hasn't been as easy. James averaged 4.2 yards per carry in seven years with Indianapolis, but had seen that average slip to 3.6 in two seasons with the Cardinals. He's rushed for 100 yards just six times in 32 games after surpassing that mark nine times with the Colts in 2005 alone.
James hit 100 exactly on Sunday, though, helping the Cardinals grind out the clock instead of continually relying on Warner to make plays.
They held the ball for 23 minutes in the second half.
"We were in this situation numerous times (last year), and this time we came out on top,'' James said. "It's a point of emphasis that if you've got a chance to end the game, let's end the game. Us being on the field as long as we were on the field, I know it affects the opposing offense.''
Miami, meanwhile, couldn't get its ground game going at home last week against the New York Jets. Neither Ricky Williams nor Ronnie Brown could find a rhythm as the Dolphins managed 49 rushing yards in a 20-14 defeat.
Miami's offensive line also allowed new quarterback Chad Pennington to get sacked four times, and rookie left tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, drew two penalties in his debut.
"We need to be better there,'' said new head coach Tony Sparano. "We didn't run it as well as we'd like to run it. Everybody shared in the problem from a protection standpoint.''
The Dolphins, who went 1-15 last season, can relate to the Cardinals' early-season struggles. They opened 0-6 in 2004, 3-7 in 2005, 1-6 in 2006 and 0-13 last year.
"It'll be interesting to see how we respond,'' Williams said. "A young team and young in the season like this, it's where character is built. We'll have a good opportunity to show what we're made of.''
Aside from improving the running game, Miami needs to get better play from its receivers. Pennington completed 26 of 43 passes for 251 yards in his Dolphins debut, but 20 of his completions went to running backs or tight ends.
Free agent pickup Ernest Wilford, who signed a four-year, $13 million deal in the offseason, was healthy but inactive for the opener, and the playing time at receiver went to Greg Camarillo, Ted Ginn Jr. and Davone Bess - a trio that had 42 career receptions entering this season.
Wilford led Jacksonville with 45 receptions a year ago.
Miami and Arizona last met in 2004, a 24-23 Cardinals win at Dolphins Stadium.
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