Not a lot better. Arizona wasn't outclassed, or even outmanned. But the Redskins played better football, smarter football, more opportunistic football. Not by a lot, but by enough.
The numbers reflect this. Jason Campbell wasn't a lot better than Kurt Warner but he did complete six more passes than the two-time NFL MVP in the same number of attempts. Warner threw an interception, Campbell didn't.
Arizona did have a couple of opportunities to pick off a Campbell pass, but the passes bounced harmlessly to the ground. The Redskins made the play when they had the chance, and it didn't seem to be much of a chance. When the pass left Warner's hand it looked like it might be another long touchdown pass as Steve Breaston had a step on Leigh Torrence. But Warner's pass hung in the air a bit and Torrence dove and it bounced off of his helmet.
Carlos Rogers then stopped, reversed his direction, dove, and picked the ball off just before it hit the ground. That was great. What happened next was, in the words of Jim Zorn, "most excellent".
"He had to dive for that interception and he didn't lay there and bask in his glory," Zorn said. "He got up and made a huge play."
Rogers' 42-yard run, aided by some crunching blocks by his teammates, set up the winning score. Santana Moss took a slip screen and slipped through the defense for 17 yards.
Most of what the Redskins did right couldn't be described as "huge", but a lot of little things that added up.
Edgerrin James was the game's top rushing, piling up 93 yards on 18 carries. But the Redskins had the better rushing team, outgaining the Cards on the ground 136-116. Campbell scrambled for 26 yards, resulting in a couple of key first downs. Warner is immobile, for the most part.
Just another small advantage for the Redskins.
The Redskins tipped four passes at the line of scrimmage. Jason Taylor got two of them on back to back plays to end the Cardinals' initial drive of the second half. He didn't swat the passes back. He just got his fingers on them enough to alter the flight the ball. Second and goal at the nine became third and goal and then fourth and goal. Arizona settled for three to tie the game rather than getting seven to take the lead.
And, at the end of the game, Zorn proved that has slightly more in the way of, er, courage that does Whisenhunt.
With 2:46 to go, Arizona faced fourth and four at its own 48. Whisenhunt sent in the punt team. Warner was among those not very excited by the move. "I was a bit surprised, yeah, in that situation," said Warner.
Not as surprised as was the Arizona defense at the two-minute warning. After the Redskins got one first down on two Portis runs they needed one more to kill the clock. Portis carried again first down to make it second and seven. Arizona was out of timeouts as the clock rolled to 2:00.
Zorn wanted no part of a third and six. Everyone in the stadium, including the 11 dressed in red, followed Portis as Campbell tucked the ball into his gut moving to the right. The quarterback pulled it out, however, and found Chris Cooley standing there all alone near the line of scrimmage. The tight end dashed for 26 yards and Campbell and the Redskins went into victory formation.
Then they celebrated a big win built on a lot of little advantages.
Rich Tandler blogs about the Skins at RealRedskins.com and he is the author of the upcoming book The Redskins Chronicle. You can reach Rich by email at firstname.lastname@example.org