Cardinals Defense Basking in Win
Alan Branch (Getty)
Alan Branch (Getty)

Posted Oct 27, 2009
scout.com


The Cardinals defense is coming off its best consecutive performances in years, and coach Ken Whisenhunt traces it back to a goal-line stand against Houston on Oct. 11. Whisenhunt believes stopping the Texans inside the 5-yard line bolstered the unit's confidence.

Since then, the Cardinals have been dominant against the Seahawks and the Giants.

"That was tough, when they had the ball at the 1 three snaps, with the game on the line," Whisenhunt said. "I think that was the pivotal point where we took the step, or made that move to become a good defense."

Whisenhunt thought the Cardinals played too tight as a team in the first three weeks, which included two losses at home.

The club had a bye in Week 4, and Whisenhunt talked to his players about loosening up and having fun.

"A number of people commented to me that the players were happier, they were laughing when they were coming off the field," Whisenhunt said of practice. "That was a significant shift in our mentality and our attitude, and it's really showed up in the last three weeks."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Rookie running back Beanie Wells had the best game of his career Sunday, gaining 67 yards on 14 carries, including a 13-yard touchdown run. It was the first touchdown of his NFL career. Wells, however, is not yet a threat to replace Tim Hightower as the starter, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. Wells isn't as effective a blocker or receiver yet, but he's more explosive than Hightower.

--Receiver Anquan Boldin played a limited amount of snaps Sunday because of sprained right ankle. Boldin played only in three- and four-receiver formations and barely played in the second half, when the ankle became stiff and sore. Boldin made a contribution in the first half, catching three passes for 75 yards.

--As an offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, Whisenhunt gained a reputation for calling gadget plays, and he's continued that as a head coach. He hadn't called one this season, however, until Sunday, when he had safety Antrel Rolle take a direct snap in the Wildcat formation.

Rolle faked a handoff, rolled right and threw to receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was wide open at the 5. Fitzgerald dropped the pass, and tight end Ben Patrick was called for holding, negating the play.

"Very seldom do you get somebody as open as Larry was on those plays," Whisenhunt said. "It's fun. It's a fun thing to do at practice. Our guys get really excited about it."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Anquan Boldin likely will be questionable again this week with a sprained right ankle. Boldin has said it's a high ankle sprain that he's playing through, but no team official has said that. Boldin's time was limited in the second half because the ankle became sore and stiff.

--DL Alan Branch had the first two sacks of his three-year NFL career. Branch has blossomed since the team started to play him at defensive end as well as nose tackle. He looks more comfortable at end.

--S Antrel Rolle has an injury to the arch of a foot, the extent of which is unknown. Rolle played through the ailment against the Giants, so coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks his starting free safety will play Sunday against the Panthers.

--CB Michael Adams played well in place of starter Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who suffered a sprained right ankle in the second half. The Giants, however, didn't test Adams much, which was a surprise.



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