Winning has Cardinals thinking about playoffs


TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have found life in sudden death, twice in three weeks. Their record is 3-5, and they are thinking playoffs as they prepare for Sunday's visit to Philadelphia.

"We never stopped thinking about making the playoffs," safety Terry Hoage said Sunday night after the Cardinals edged Pittsburgh, 20-17, in overtime in front of 65,690 fans at frenzied Sun Devil Stadium.

"Buddy told us all along, 'It's not how you start the race; it's how you finish the race that counts,' " the former Eagle said. "We've put ourselves back in it. Now we have to make the plays to stay in it."

Buddy, of course, is Buddy Ryan, the former Eagles coach, now Cardinals head coach and general manager. Last month, the fans wanted to chase Ryan out of town when the team opened the regular season with three consecutive losses.

But with three wins in the past five games and Sunday night's thrilling finish -- a 51-yard field goal by Greg Davis 1:40 into overtime -- the Buddyball bandwagon is picking up steam in a hurry.

"As I told the team, we gotta win nine in a row, one at a time," Ryan said. "Now it's eight in a row, one at a time, starting in Philadelphia.

"The Eagles are a real tough football team. You saw what they did to Washington [Sunday]. It will be a knockdown, drag-out game."

Seth Joyner hopes to be able to play in Sunday's return to Veterans Stadium. The Pro Bowl linebacker twisted his left ankle on the final series of regulation and limped up the tunnel, scowling, with four minutes to go.

Joyner returned a short time later as the Steelers tied the game on a 23-yard Gary Anderson field goal. Joyner had the ankle retaped and was ready to go back in the game, but Pittsburgh's Charlie Johnson fumbled the overtime kickoff and the Cardinals' David Merritt recovered at the Steelers' 32-yard line.

Four plays later, Davis kicked the winning field goal, so Joyner did not have to test his gimpy ankle. He may miss some practice time this week, but he fully intends to play against his former Eagles teammates.

"I want to go into that game full tilt," Joyner said. "Going back to Philly is part of it, but it's just a big game for us, period. We have some momentum going, and they're one of the teams we have to catch."

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