Cardinals Hit the Road for Big-Time Game

Kurt Warner (Getty)

Giants Stadium has not been kind to the Cardinals over the years, but Sunday's game there against the Giants will be an opportunity for the Cardinals to show if they indeed have grown up. The Cardinals have lost three straight to the Giants there, and last had a victory in the stadium in 1999.

The Cardinals game in the Meadowlands last year against the Jets was a debacle. They trailed, 34-0, at halftime. While they made a comeback to lose by a respectable 21 points, receiver Anquan Boldin suffered facial fractures on a vicious hit in the end zone.

Boldin recovered, although he's suffering from a sprained ankle this week.

The Cardinals' biggest challenge entering this week will be mental. Last season, the club had a tendency to let down after a big victory, and they especially had a tendency to mail in their effort during some road games.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks this team grew up in the playoffs last season, citing a victory at Carolina that put the Cardinals in the NFC title game.

"If you look at that game, we got down early but we stayed together," he said. "We were able to pull that game out and come back and win it. That gives you the confidence to get rid of a lot of demons: Playing on the East Coast. Playing against a good team. Being able to win.

"I think that there is a comfort level that lets us prepare a little better. Hopefully, we will continue to play well on the road."

The Cardinals have won their first two road games this season, the first time that's happened since 1991. That should be a confidence boost heading into New York, quarterback Kurt Warner said.

"I think any bit of confidence that you gain, going on the road, winning a game, is going to help," he said. "It's going to be a tremendous challenge to go up there and get a win, but any momentum you can get, from a team standpoint, always helps."

SERIES HISTORY: 123rd meeting. Giants lead, 79-41-2. The Giants have won six of the last eight against the Cardinals and the last three regular-season games played in Giants Stadium. The teams met in 2008 in Glendale, and the Giants won, 37-29. The Cardinals tailed by 5 going into the fourth quarter but the Giants put the game away by scoring the next 10 points. Kurt Warner passed for 351 yards and was sacked just once.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Cardinals' defense is ranked first in the league against the rush and has moved up from No. 32 to 31 against the pass. The Cardinals were much better against the pass last week. Seattle's biggest game came on a 42-yard pass that the special teams gave up on a fake punt.

--RB Beanie Wells has had trouble holding on to the ball, and coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks it's because he's moving too fast.

"He's a young player and so geeked up," Whisenhunt said. "Normally, guys will take a drop step and then they'll go because it times up better with the quarterback. Beanie is getting there sometimes before the pull of the guard or he's getting there too tight for the quarterback."

--Much has been made about the Cardinals lack of a running game, but Whisenhunt doesn't act like he's concerned. He had a chance last week to stick with the run but chose to pass three consecutive plays with a 24-point lead and six minutes remaining.

"There were some schemes I wanted to look at," Whisenhunt said. "One of them is I wanted to run Larry (Fitzgerald) on a speed screen out there just to get a feel for that play."

Whisenhunt said he didn't want those comments to "come off the wrong way.

"I wasn't playing around," he said. "There were a couple of things I wanted to look at that I thought were going to be good plays. Those were more about trying to make teams work on things for us in the future than it was about trying stuff out."

--The three points scored by Seattle were the fewest allowed by the Cardinals since beating the Giants, 14-3, in 1999. Seattle's 14 rushing yards were the fewest in its history.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald tied a career high with 13 receptions last week, but he's having a hard time getting deep. Fitzgerald had 100 yards receiving in the game and his longest reception this year is 26 yards.

--New coordinator Bill Davis is having his defensive linemen line up more head to head on offensive linemen, rather than in the gaps. The tighter, or heavier, alignment has helped the club's run defense, but it makes it tougher to pass rush.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2.7 -- That's the average yards gained per rush by Cardinals opponents. That ranks No. 1 in the league.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know (Seahawks QB) Matt Hasselbeck is going to be soaking in an ice tub. I can say that about them." -- Outside linebacker Chike Okeafor, when asked to evaluate the Seahawks after the Cardinals' 27-3 victory last week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby isn't making the big plays coaches and fans have come to expect. Dansby isn't playing poorly but the club should be getting more for the $10 million franchise number it's paying him. If Dansby wants a huge payday after this season, he's going to have to make more of an impact.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Beanie Wells' head is swimming a little bit. He's being asked to pick up blitzers and run pass routes, two things he didn't do much of at Ohio State. When he does have a run called for him, he tends to be too anxious, not allowing his blocking to develop. Wells has also bobbled the ball several times and needs to work on securing it.

--QB Kurt Warner now has 30,032 passing yards. He reached it last week in his 114th game. Only Dan Marino reached that mark as fast. He also did it 114 games. Peyton Manning did it in 115.

--TE Ben Patrick returned last week from a four-game suspension and played a large role in the offense. The Cardinals ran their two tight-end formation about 40 percent of the time. While Patrick only caught one pass, he blocked well. He and Anthony Becht formed a nice tandem.

--DE Calais Campbell continues to make a big play in almost every game. He had a sack last week that resulted in a fumble. Campbell, who is 6-8, also has blocked two field goals this season.

--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has played better the past two games after a slow start to the season. Coaches think his performance is tied directly to his effort in practice. They think he's just a young play still learning what it takes to play at an elite level.

--FS Antrel Rolle and SS Adrian Wilson have been used more in the blitz packages in the past two games, sometimes together. The return of S Matt Ware from stingers has helped. He plays in dime situations, which allows coordinator Bill Davis to take some chances with Rolle and Wilson.

--DE Kenny Iwebema, a reserve, played for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in the season opener. Iwebema had a key sack and also played on special teams.

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