The Associated Press
TEMPE Ä It took four games, but BuddyBall is alive and well in Phoenix.
Sunday's 17-7 victory over Minnesota, Buddy Ryan's first as coach of the Arizona Cardinals, was a complete performance in the basics Ä sure tackling, dominant play from the line, glitch-free passing and running.
For the first time, the Cardinals got a strong performance from every unit.
"We dominated them physically on both sides of the ball and special teams, except for one return," Ryan said Monday. "If we'd played that way the first game, we'd have beaten the Rams. We might be undefeated."
Until Sunday, the offense was dismal, with a merry-go-round at quarterback, dropped passes by receivers and fumbling by running backs. Not even the defense, Ryan's specialty, worked the way Ryan expected.
But for one afternoon, all the parts came together.
The Vikings had scored 80 points in two previous games. The Cardinals held them to seven.
Warren Moon had 355 yards passing, but 82 came against a prevent defense in the final 11/2 minutes, and the running game gained 18 yards.
The offensive line allowed two sacks, giving new starter Jay Schroeder time to complete 20 of 36 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown, and cleared the way for Ronald Moore to run for 82 yards against the NFL's top run defense.
Ryan, whose teams have started 1-3 in five of his six years as a coach, said it was only the beginning.
"These guys are just finding out what it takes to win," Ryan said. "I probably overestimated the offense's ability, talking about how they were going to carry us at first. They're young guys."
The Cardinals play the Cowboys in Dallas next Sunday. Ryan, who has won his last seven games against the Cowboys, said he enjoys playing in Dallas.
"I was the only guy who could fill that stadium down there for a while," he said. "I guess it's special to those people in Dallas; it's not very special to me."
Right guard Ben Coleman was one of three lineman called up in front of the room during a meeting last week and told they were the key to offensive improvement. Coleman, center Ed Cunningham and left guard Ernest Dye responded with performances that earned them game balls.
"Now we know we can play like that week in and week out, and we're going to make sure that we give that type of performance every game," Coleman said.
Schroeder, the team's third starter this season, gave the offense consistency Ä six of fullback Larry Centers' nine catches went for first downs Ä and the Cardinals drove 73 yards for their first touchdown and 75 for their second.
The latter drive included Arizona's longest run (24 yards by Moore) and the longest pass play (45 yards to Randal Hill) this season. They fired up the crowd of 67,950, fifth-largest in franchise history and the largest to see the Cardinals win.
Enthusiasm for BuddyBall had waned since the frenzy of ticket-buying that followed Ryan's hiring, and tight end Derek Ware said the criticism of Ryan had been unfair.
"We're the ones who have to execute the plays," he said.
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