Better or Worse Under Davis?

The Cardinals' defense ranks 20th in the NFL in total yards allowed, one spot below last season. If that were the only significant statistic, the conclusion could be made that Ken Whisenhunt's decision to change defensive coordinators had no impact.

But the Cardinals have shown significant improvement in several other defensive categories, a big reason the club has been more consistent this season.

The Cardinals are fourth in third-down efficiency (35 percent), a 9.4 percent improvement over last season. They are eighth in red zone efficiency (45.2 percent), an 18.4 percent decline. And on average, they are yielding about a touchdown less per game than last season.

The poor showing in those categories last season led Whisenhunt to fire coordinator Clancy Pendergast and promote linebackers coach Bill Davis. It's hard to argue with the results.

The Cardinals have still had some poor games, faltering badly in losses to the Colts and Panthers. But they've been much better than last season.

In 2008, the Cardinals gave up at least 30 points five times. It's happened just twice this year.

Davis is partly responsible because he's taken fewer chances than Pendergast. The Cardinals still blitz, but they've been better at playing situational defense. In third-and-long situations, they've done an excellent job of playing conservative and making the tackle short of the first downs.

It's helped, too, that they've shored up the secondary.

Replacing cornerback Rod Hood with Bryant McFadden has been an upgrade. Free safety Antrel Rolle has grown into the position after moving from cornerback two years ago. The defensive line is deeper, so the starters get a couple of breathers in every game.

The question now, however, is if this defense can play as well as last year's defense did in the postseason.

Pendergast had great schemes designed in the playoffs, and the players executed them.

SERIES HISTORY: 69th regular-season. Packers lead, 42-22-4. They've won five of the last six, including the last meeting, in 2006. This will be an interesting game because the clubs are likely to face each other the following week in the first round of the playoffs. Green Bay can do no better than the No. 5 seed, so there is less reason for them to take this game seriously than the Cardinals. A victory keeps alive Arizona's hopes of a second or third seed. The Cardinals will know by kickoff if a second seed is still in play, so it's questionable how long Whisenhunt will stick with his starters.

NOTES, QUOTES

--There were no surprises among the Cardinals four Pro Bowl selections: Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, receiver Larry Fitzgerald, safety Adrian Wilson and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

It was a surprise that right tackle Levi Brown was an alternate. It was interesting, too, how Ken Whisenhunt took the opportunity to challenge Brown to improve.

"I hope it provides the impetus for him to become even better," Whisenhunt said. "Maybe this will be recognition to the progress he has made and a lot of time it spurs the player to work even harder to make that next step."

--SS Adrian Wilson now has 20.5 sacks and 23 interceptions, becoming the 10th player in history to record at least 20 in each category. After recording a sack against the Rams on Sunday, Wilson was congratulated in the locker room by Larry Wilson, the Cardinals Hall of Fame safety.

"It meant a lot to me," said Adrian Wilson. "To know that he was the guy who invented the safety blitz and revolutionized the game. You have to be appreciative of the people who came before and laid those bricks down."

--QB Kurt Warner has now thrown 100 touchdown passes for two teams, the Rams and Cardinals. Fran Tarkenton is the only other quarterback to pass for 100 touchdowns for two teams (Giants and Vikings). Warner feels for his old team, the Rams, who are 1-14.

"Sure. It's never easy to go through that," he said. "I've been on some teams that have struggled to get in the win column. ... It's easy to kind of fall by the wayside and give up. That's the one good thing you don't see with that football team.

"Coach (Steve Spagnuolo) has them doing a great job of battling, fighting, running around, flying around and making plays. I think it's just a matter of time."

--WR Larry Fitzgerald caught his 12th touchdown pass, tying a career high set last year.

--Warner passed for 196 yards in the second quarter against the Rams, the second most of any quarter in his career.

--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's interception was his third in the last two games and gives him six for the season, a career high. It's the most by a Cardinal since Dexter Jackson had six in 2003.

BY THE NUMBERS: 33 -- That's the number of years that passed between 10-win seasons for the Cardinals. The Cardinals won that many games this year for the first time since 1976.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm very proud of my team. We got off to a 1-2 start and Jimmy Johnson (of FOX) actually said to stick a fork in us, we're done. Well, we're not done quite yet." -- DT Darnell Dockett on the Cardinals winning 10 games.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Coach Ken Whisenhunt probably won't play Kurt Warner the entire game Sunday, unless he has a chance to secure a No. 2 seed. Warner will play enough to stay sharp, but Whisenhunt won't expose him to a pass rush if nothing is on the line.

The Cardinals need to start getting some big plays out of inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby has been productive, but he hasn't made any game-changing plays lately. He's forced only one fumble this year, has one interception and one sack. He's never had fewer than 3.5 sacks in his previous five seasons. He hasn't had fewer than two interceptions since 2006 and he's forced at least two fumbles every season since his rookie year.

Just as he did last year, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is peaking as the playoffs near. He has three interceptions in his last two games, despite playing with a painful turf toe. He had two interceptions in the post-season last year.

PLAYER NOTES

--S Rashad Johnson is improving in his role as a nickel and dime defensive back. A rookie, Johnson was slow to develop and spent about a month on the inactive list during the middle of the year. That seemed to motivate him.

--DE Calais Campbell is tied for the team lead with seven sacks. He should become even more of a force as he refines his rushing techniques. Campbell is a solid run defender.

--K Mike Nugent has made both field goal attempts since being signed two weeks ago because of an injury to Neil Rackers. Nugent's kickoffs have been short, however.

--LT Jeremy Bridges needs to play much better than he has the last two weeks as Mike Gandy's replacement. Bridges has been beaten with speed rushes outside. He doesn't have great foot speed, and the Cardinals are going to have to give him help against elite rushers.

Up Next


Forums


3 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets