Eagles vs. Cardinals: No Big Surprise as Arizona's Defense Brings the Heat Again
I'm beginning to think that I need to start trusting in Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals. I've always been a firm believer in their talent on defense. Two months before the season started, I knew they would finish with a top-10 defense because they have talent everywhere, yet I can never seem to trust them when I'm making my picks for our Bleacher Report weekly expert picks.
Just like they did in Weeks 1 and 2, they proved me and the rest of the so-called experts wrong again. With today's win over Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cardinals moved to 3-0—something they have not done since Jim Hart was the quarterback in 1974.
Unlike the team in '74, this team is led by the play of Ray Horton's defense.
Horton's unit is arguably the best in football right now, and the only people willing to debate it don't pay attention to the NFC West. After today, Arizona's defense is only allowing 316 yards of total offense—not to mention the fact it has one of the best turnover differential's in the NFC.
Through the first two weeks of the season, Arizona controlled two very good football teams by continuously attacking the quarterback with pressure. Today was no different, as Vick was pummeled by Daryl Washington and the rest of the linebacking corps.
In total, the Cards defense managed to record 13 quarterback hits and five sacks. It's pretty rare for a team to get that much pressure on the quarterback, but when you have trouble picking up blitzes from every gap, what do you expect to happen?
Washington made his living on A- and B-gap blitzes right up the gut, while O'Brien Schofield, Quentin Groves and Sam Acho all turned up the heat off the edge. A new wrinkle to this week's game plan was Horton's use of blitzers from the secondary.
We saw him do it a little bit during the first two games of the season, yet today was the most extensive utilization I've seen all season, and it proved to be effective. Right before halftime, Kerry Rhodes came off the edge from the safety position on a blitz and blasted Vick, jarring the ball loose. James Sanders recovered the fumble and returned it 93 yards for the touchdown.
Offensively, the Cardinals defense didn't need much help, considering they only gave up six points. However, it proved to be one of those days where anything and everything was going right. The offensive line did a great job of protecting quarterback Kevin Kolb and allowing him adequate time to throw.
In addition to the strong play of the offensive line, Larry Fitzgerald had his 2012 coming-out party. His nine-catch, 114-yard performance led all receivers from both teams. Coming into today's game, Fitz had only caught five balls for 67 yards. We all knew that it was only a matter of time before he broke out.
After strong performances on both sides of the ball, the Arizona Cardinals will be looking to take the momentum from today's win into next week when they square off against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins will be hungry for a victory after today's overtime letdown against the Jets.
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