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Cardinals opportunistic in 20-10 win

TEMPE, Ariz. (Oct. 23, 2005) -- Don't call it an ugly victory. Any Arizona triumph is a thing of beauty to coach Dennis Green in the second year of his attempt to turn around the forlorn franchise.

He prefers "defensive struggle" to describe the Cardinals ' 20-10 winover the Tennessee Titans, a team torn apart by injuries and buried by mistakes.

"If you appreciate defensive plays, that was your kind of ball game," Green said.

The Titans led 10-0 in the first quarter, then David Macklin returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown, and Josh McCown snapped out of a bad afternoon to throw a 34-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Neil Rackers kicked field goals of 33 and 24 yards to improve to 20 for 20 for the season. Arizona converted the Titans' three turnovers into 17 points.

Tennessee (2-5) was without quarterback Steve McNair because of back and ankle injuries. The Titans then lost running back Chris Brown with a shoulder stinger, and long snapper Ken Amato with a high leg fracture in the first half.

The loss of Brown was devastating.

"Our No. 1 goal this game was to establish the run," said Billy Volek, who started in place of McNair. "Losing him, he's a great player. Jarrett (Payton) came in and did a good job, but you know Chris, he's something special."

The Cardinals (2-4) clinched the victory after Karlos Dansby 's spectacular fourth-quarter sack. Volek, who never saw the diving Dansby coming, fumbled and Dansby recovered at the Tennessee 34.

"It was a three-step drop," Volek said. "I didn't think a guy could get there that quick, and obviously he did. The next thing I know I'm sitting on the bench."

On third-and-10, McCown threw a dart over the middle to Larry Fitzgerald, who scored on a 34-yard play to make it 20-10 with 5:20 remaining.

Volek, who threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Jones after the opening kickoff, left the game with a mild concussion. Jones went down with a right knee sprain, also on Dansby's play.

Third-string quarterback Matt Mauck drove Tennessee downfield late in the game, but on fourth-and-1 from the Arizona 12, the Titans chose to go for it rather than kick a field goal and cut the lead to seven. Mauck overthrew the receiver, and the Cardinals held on.

Green, 10-2 in his career after a bye week, wouldn't say publicly all week whether McCown or Kurt Warner would start, but he went with McCown, who had thrown for 783 yards in the previous two games.

McCown, 12 for 28 for 140 yards, said it was frustrating to have an off day after his two big outings. But at least he saved his best pass for last.

"I had a shirt when I was little, because I played so much basketball, that said 'When you're off, shoot until you're on.' That's kind of the mentality. You just keep fighting through it until you get into a rhythm," he said.

The Cardinals' defense took advantage of opportunities, then turned tough in the second half, holding Tennessee without a first down in the third quarter.

Still, Pacman Jones' 32-yard punt return had the Titans in field goal range.

But with Amato out, backup snapper Robert Reynolds rolled the ball past the holder on a botched 33-yard try that would have tied the game. Kicker Rob Bironas was stuffed for a 4-yard loss to preserve Arizona's precarious three-point lead.

"There were some unusual things," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. "They were barking out a bunch of stuff and Rob was a little unsettled and bounced it back."

The Titans had a 194-60 yardage advantage in the first half, but it was a 10-10 tie thanks to two turnovers and six Tennessee penalties for 55 yards.

Macklin made his interception after teammate James Darling knocked Volek's pass into the air. Teammate Robert Griffith held Macklin up, then the cornerback took off down the sidelines for the score.

Notes: Arizona rookie J.J. Arrington had the team's longest run from scrimmage of the season at 32 yards, then lost 2 yards in his other four attempts. Starter Marcel Shipp gained 8 yards in 14 carries. ... Former Cardinals defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch had a sack for Tennessee, giving him 7.5 for the season. ... Brown was hurt when he fumbled the ball to set up Rackers' first field goal. ... Arizona's Anquan Boldin was held without a catch after consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

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