Antonio Smith; Antrel Rolle; Roderick Hood
The Cardinals defense is often questioned for its lack of star power. But the Cardinals proved a household name doesn’t mean squat in the trenches. Arizona forced six turnovers and put an unprecedented amount of pressure on Carolina Panthers' QB Jake Delhomme, sparking Panthers fans to call for Delhomme’s head. The Cardinals take the 33-13 win and the budding notoriety that comes along with it.
The Arizona Cardinals played smack down, shutdown, get them off the field defense on Saturday in their 33-13 when over No. 2 seeded Carolina Panthers in Carolina.
The cards were stacked against Arizona, but the NFC West Champions never stopped believing. The Cardinals got in the quarterback’s head for the second consecutive week.
Arizona’s defense read Jake Delhomme like an open book. Defensive backs read the routes with ease and the defensive front-seven stuffed the Panthers’ ground game like a turkey.
The explosive running back tandem of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams was kept to 75 yards, the Panthers lowest rushing numbers since week six. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers squashed Carolina’s run game, allowing just 40 yards.
Defense was the name of the game for Arizona, as the Panthers didn’t stand a chance in the air either. Veteran WR Steve Smith didn’t see a reception until the third quarter. Smith would go on to post a touchdown with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. The Panthers went 56 minutes without a score, after Stewart’s opening drive touchdown.
Gerald Hayes, Ralph Brown and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had as many interceptions, if not more, than they did tackles, a stat that is a true testament to an absolute domination by Arizona in the divisional matchup. Antrel Rolle and Roderick Hood also contributed to the interception frenzy, while Antonio Smith (who also had a forced fumble) and Bertrand Berry each earned a sack.
--If Philadelphia defeats the New York Giants, the Cardinals will take the NFC Championship game home, where they are 7-2.
--Putting points on the board early is important for Arizona. The Cardinals are 9-0 in games when they are leading after the third quarter. The Cardinals defense played a big role in getting the Cardinals an early advantage.
--The Cardinals improved to 10-0 when they break even or win the turnover battle.
-In 14 games, the Cardinals have scored 30-plus points. Out of 33 points, 26 points were created from turnovers on Saturday.
--Rodgers-Cromartie moves to six interceptions in the last nine games.