TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) A shaky win over Minnesota clinched a playoff berth for the Arizona Cardinals. Now, they're looking to fly much higher.
''Somebody texted me, `Hey, you punched your ticket,''' coach Bruce Arians said Friday. ''I said, `Yeah, we're trying to upgrade to first class.'''
At 11-2 and winner of seven straight, Arizona has its eye on the No. 2 seed in the NFC and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it.
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The Cardinals are 3 1/2 games up on second-place Seattle in the NFC West and 2 1/2 ahead of their closest competitor for that No. 2 seed, the Green Bay Packers. The Carolina Panthers (12-0) are undefeated and hold the top spot.
A Seattle loss and an Arizona victory in its next game, at Philadelphia on Dec. 20, would clinch the NFC West for the Cardinals.
''I don't think we could get much better than winning seven in a row, but we can play better,'' Arians said.
The players have four days off after the 23-20 win over the visiting Vikings and won't regroup for practice until Tuesday. The extra time off is a benefit of playing Thursday.
''We've been having really good practices,'' Arians said. '' We will probably go back out in pads one more time (next) week, with the extra day, and work on some fundamentals, especially with some younger players.''
Arians said the Cardinals were ''very fortunate in winning the ballgame with the way we played, especially in the fourth quarter.''
Minnesota, led by Teddy Bridgewater's career-best passing performance, rallied from a 20-10 fourth-quarter deficit to tie it. After John Catanzaro `s 47-yard field goal gave Arizona the lead, Bridgewater directed a drive to the Arizona 31-yard line.
Trying to get closer to make the game-tying field goal, Bridgewater went back to pass and was stripped of the ball by Dwight Freeney. Calais Campbell recovered for Arizona and the Cardinals ran out the final five seconds.
Arians said his team focused too much on stopping Adrian Peterson, leaving Bridgewater to throw for big gains.
'' We wanted to make Teddy beat us and he almost did,'' the coach said.
There has been much discussion of how Arizona Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald came to be side by side on the pass play that wound up going 42 yards for a touchdown. Floyd caught the pass and Fitzgerald threw a crunching block that freed his teammate to race down the sideline.
''I didn't know who to throw it to,'' Carson Palmer said after the game. ''Both guys were open and they are both so close together. I kind of just threw it in between them and hoped that one of them would catch it.''
Arians said Floyd switched positions because John Brown was out with a minor injury and ran the wrong route.
Short-yardage failures continued to bedevil the Cardinals. They failed on a crucial third-and-1 and had first and goal at the 2 and couldn't get in the end zone.
''The goal line situation, we didn't block it correctly,'' Arians said.
In addition to his fumble recovery, Campbell had a sack, three tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries. The big lineman had been the target of criticism by Arians in recent weeks.
''Calais played the way he's supposed to play,'' Arians said. ''That's what I expect every week. He had some tackles for loss. He had a sack. That's what he's supposed to do. That's what he gets paid to do. So, do I think it's a good game? No. It's the way he's supposed to play - finally.''
Notes: Arians said he hopes to have tight end Jermaine Gresham (knee), cornerback Jerraud Powers (calf) and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle) back for the Eagles. He was less optimistic about running back Andre Ellington (turf toe), saying it comes down to pain tolerance. ... Arizona is 4-0 in prime time games this season. The Philadelphia game has been flexed to Sunday night. ... Arizona has won 11 games two years in a row. There has never been a 12-win season in the Cardinals' long history.
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