Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big plays, big playmakers define Cards’ ‘D’

Note: This column appears in the 11/15 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/16 issue of the Peoria Times

Before the start of the season, I wrote, regarding the Arizona Cardinals, that “not one player stands out on defense. Not one.” Now more than halfway through the NFL season, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I was correct.

After all, there are at least five players that stand out on defense. Not one.

See? I just italicized the wrong word! Of course, I’m lying, and once again, an idiot. Granted, at that point in time it seemed, to me at least, that maybe only Adrian Wilson had the potential to affect the outcome of a game on his own. So maybe it’s not that my idiocy has been exposed, but rather that several players on this defense have stepped up to, well, stand out. (In my dreams, I like to imagine that my critical statements provide bulletin board material for the Cards. One scenario has Ken Whisenhunt walking into the locker room, and slamming down a copy of The Glendale Star on the table, screaming, “So...Mike Kenny thinks this defense has no playmakers. What do you guys think about that, huh?” Then I snap back to reality, and remember that nobody cares what I say.)

The latest player to stand out? Karlos Danby, who returned from a knee injury this past Sunday to intercept two passes and force a fumble against Detroit, making one of the league’s feel-good stories revert back to the bumbling Lions that everybody has come to know and love. Oh, and two of Dansby’s forced turnovers led to Arizona touchdowns. Weird, because that sounds like the type of defensive player that just affected the outcome of a game on his own. (So that’s one.)

Then again, Dansby did have some help. He and the suffocating Cards’ “D” held Detroit to an unheard of minus-18 yards rushing. This was actually the second-lowest rushing yards allowed total in franchise history, since the Chicago Cardinals allowed minus-24 rushing yards to those same Lions back in 1946. Coincidentally, that was the same year that my grandfather insinuated that the Cardinals had no defensive playmakers in the weekly Chicago Star. (Just kidding. Hi Pop!)

Not be outdone, Calvin Pace recorded seven total tackles, had one and a half sacks, and forced a fumble. (That’s two.) Darnell Dockett (three) was his usual disruptive self, and Rod Hood (four) and Eric Green (ehhh, not yet) managed to contain one of the league’s most feared wideout tandems. Amazingly, this was all accomplished despite the absence of Wilson (five) himself, who recorded just one tackle before having to leave the game with a leg cramp.


Yo, Darnell! Let's text Mike Kenny on my new iPhone and make fun of his inaccurate predictions!

Standout defensive plays have defined each of the Cards’ four wins. There was Dockett’s fumble recovery of the botched handoff in the Seattle game, the four sacks -- three of them by Dockett -- and two picks -- one by Wilson -- of Ben Roethlisberger during the defeat of Pittsburgh, Hood’s clinching interception return for a TD versus the Rams, and everything that happened this past Sunday. Apparently, this team is built on defense, which is something I failed to notice back in August. Can you blame me?

Probably.

Regardless, the Cardinals are going to need that defense to step up once again this Sunday against an explosive and desperate Cincinnati team. Hopefully, they can still find the motivation, now that at least one of their preseason skeptics has officially become a believer. If the Cardinals are looking for bulletin board material these days, they’re going to have to turn to my grandfather, who still claims that nobody’s tougher than Merlin Olsen.

Hear that, Darnell?


Dear Mr. Dansby, You suck! Now prove me wrong. Love, Mike.

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