This was sweet. For long-suffering and recent bandwagoners, this was the kind of win the Cardinals needed to prove to the world that they are, in fact, a championship-caliber team that’s just as viable as anyone else in football.
It was a defensive gem for the ages. The list of individual stars is long in this one. But if I’m, going to give a game ball to anyone, its defensive coordinator Bill Davis. The Cardinals players had to make plays, but Davis’ scheme had Giants QB Eli Manning befuddled all night.
The Cards blitzed often with much success. They often had eight or even nine guys at the line, ready to stuff the run. The Cardinals dared Manning to try and put the ball in the air. On three different occasions when Eli did that, it ended up in the hands of a Cardinals defender.
The first, was about as beautiful an interception as you’ll ever see. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie timed his leap perfectly, and reached over Giants WR Domenick Hixon, snatching the would be touchdown and making a statement at the same time. Even perennial Cardinal-hater Chris Collinsworth seemed impressed!
The last pick fell into the hands of safety Antrel Rolle, who played his best overall game as a pro. Ok, there was that three pick game against Cincy a few years ago, but he was a beast, and along with SS Adrian Wilson.
Their No. 1 rated run defense played solid, keeping Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs mostly in check. Were in not for a short 29-yard field following a Kurt Warner pick, where Jacobs peeled off 25 yards on one play, and four more on a touchdown 2 plays later, it would have been a a total shutdown performance.
The Giants only other touchdown was on a tipped ball that ended up in rookie Hakeem Nicks hands for a 62-yarder that kept the clearly out-played Giants in the game.
Things were not pretty early in the game.The Giants got their first break when Cards running back Tim Hightower fumbled the ball away as Warner and company were moving with astonishing ease down the field. But as things go when you’re riding high, they managed to turn that lemon into lemonade when coach Whisenhunt benched him. That set the stage for something Cardinals fans haven’t seen since ...well, forever.
A running game! A real live NFL caliber running game!
Backup-turned-featured back Beanie Wells peeled off several decent runs after being inserted into the lineup. Including his first NFL touchdown that featured 2 sweet stiff-arms and 2 Giants defenders laying on the ground in his wake.
Kurt Warner, while not spectacular, was his usual steady, calm professional self. He was hit several times, but held on to the ball. He threw three or four passes a little short, and one was picked off. But in general, he moved the team down the field, and made quite a few great passes at crucial times.
I thought coach Ken Whisenhunt called a pretty good game, although I DO have to question the decision (be it his or Warners') to call a pass play on 3rd and 3 at the Giants 36 with just over 3 minutes left. Hello? They needed to run time off the clock. The WORST possiblle thing that can happen is a sack. If they run and make it, game over. If they run and only get a couple, they are still in range for a 50-51 yard field goal attempt, which would have iced it with a 10 point lead.
But No... Warner went back, and was sacked, forcing a punt and giving Eli and the Giants 3+ minutes of clock and a shot at tying the game.
But again the defense came through. By this time, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was sidelined with what appears to be a left ankle sprain, and Adrian Wilson was getting severe cramps on the sideline, but the depleted D held up.
Ahmad Bradshaw picked up his game-high 14 yard run, he continued to try for a few extra yards, instead nickelback Matt Ware forced him to fumble the ball, and the Cards recovered. Then with under two minutes to play and Manning moving the ball pretty well, Antrel Rolle stepped in front of a Manning pass near the sideline and picked it off.
It was a confidence builder, for sure. And it must have felt wonderful for Warner, who was benched by the Giants before joining the Cardinals. He knelt down on that Meadowlands turf to wrap up what many are already calling the biggest Cards regular season road game since arriving in the Valley.