Cardinals Defense Gets Pat on the Back

Gabe Watson (Getty)

The Cardinals played one of their best defensive games of the past few seasons Sunday in defeating the Seahawks 27-3. They'll need to repeat that type of performance to have a chance of upsetting the Giants in New Jersey. Before last Sunday, the Cardinals' defense had trouble playing well for an entire game.

The Cardinals defense had dominating first halves, only to let opponents back in the game late, often on long drives.

They have been consistent against the run all year and rank first in the NFL in rushing yards given up. But they entered the Seattle game last against the pass.

Part of that was due to the teams they had played, including the Colts and Texans, who are excellent passing teams. Part of it, however, is the Cardinals had trouble rushing the passer. And when they did blitz, the secondary blew too many coverages.

That will be a recipe for disaster against the Giants, who love to pound the ball with the run and use play-action passes for big plays.

"I know there was talk about us being a porous run defense but we always knew we could stop the run," nose tackle Bryan Robinson said. "We don't like reading in the paper how bad of a rush defense we are, and now we hate reading in the paper about how bad of a pass defense we are. And we'll fix that, too."

They did fix it against Seattle. They pressured Matt Hasselbeck all game, and he completed just 10 of 29 for 112 yards. The Cardinals sacked him five times and had one interception.

Before that game, coordinator Bill Davis told reporters he thought he might be calling too many blitzes. But he turned everything loose against Seattle, calling blitzes up the middle and from the edges.

That game should help bolster the team's confidence against the pass.

"The guys believe, 'You want to run on us? Oh, please, c'mon that's what we do well,'" Davis said, "but we need that same swagger (against the pass). 'You want to throw on us, well, c'mon throw. We're going to get our hands on some balls.'"

What should help the Cardinals this week is an improved defensive line rotation. For years, the club was thin on the defensive front and players like end Darnell Dockett were forced to play every snap.

This season, the club has developed some backups. Gabe Watson has a done a nice job at nose tackle behind Robinson. Alan Branch has proven he can play nose tackle and end. And Kenny Iwebema, who had missed three games with an ankle injury, had a key sack that stopped a touchdown threat against Seattle.

"We still have yet to play a complete game all year," strong safety Adrian Wilson said. "We just wanted to come out here and prove that we are not the 32nd ranked team against the pass. I think we did that."

LINEUP WATCH: The return of safety Matt Ware from a shoulder injury has helped the team's overall defense. Ware missed two games because of stingers. He plays in the dime packages, allowing strong safety Adrian Wilson to move closer to scrimmage, where he is most effective. When Ware was out, rookie Rashad Johnson was the main backup and coaches didn't think he was ready to play in dime packages, at least not in the same role as Ware.

TRENDING: Much is made of the receiving duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, and it's justified. But Steve Breaston doesn't get a lot of mention, and he should. Breaston has become an effective receiver over the past two years. He had more than 1,000 yards receiving last season, and he's made several big plays in recent games. Breaston has the speed to get deep, but he's also excellent at gaining yards after the catch.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

-- QB Kurt Warner has now passed for more than 30,000 yards. Warner moved past that milestone Sunday in his 114th game. He and Dan Marino are the fastest to reach the mark.

-- RB Beanie Wells has the skills to be a top-flight runner in the NFL, but he's fumbling too much. Wells fumbled twice against Jacksonville, and mishandled the ball twice at Seattle. The Cardinals didn't lose either one, but he's doing nothing to gain the trust of coaches.

-- WR Anquan Boldin suffered a sprained right ankle against Seattle and was limited in the second half. Boldin tried to play through it but sat out once the game was out of hand. The Cardinals will know more about his condition early in the week.

-- DE Calais Campbell had one sack against Seattle and probably should have been credited with another. Campbell is also solid against the run, and his high level of play has been a positive early this season.

-- TE Ben Patrick returned to action after missing the first four games because of a league suspension. Patrick caught the only pass thrown to him for a 10-yard gain.

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