Dual Dueling FC's: Shoring Up Arizona Cardinals' Defense

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Dual Dueling FC's: Shoring Up Arizona Cardinals' Defense
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals Featured Columnists Chris Farmer and Scott Z. Brady square off in another round of Cardinals Chat.

Chris: Why do you think that, despite having a new D-coordinator in Bill Davis and playing in a new scheme by playing 3-4 more often, that the Cardinals still have the same old weaknesses on defense: They can't stop long drives when they need to most (sometimes) and they leave receivers wide open (sometimes)?

Scott Z: I think they've overcome most of their "same old Cardinals" ways, but that last drive against Tennessee was brutal.

Over the past two years, however, I think they have done a better job at stopping that final drive.

But there are times when the opposition is so good, so on fire, so "hot" that even decent defense can look pretty bad. That's, to a degree, what happened Sunday.

I say "to a degree" because there were guys open, even when they only rushed three.

They didn't blitz much, allowing the Titans to move up and down the field, then clamped down in the red zone.

I think the reason they didn't blitz was because they were so afraid of over-pursuit, allowing Young to run free.

They did a decent job in three- and four-man rushes, until that last crucial drive.

I would have done things a little different on that last drive though.

Example, 4th-and-4 on their own seven-yard line. The previous third-down play, they brought heat, Young was nearly sacked, and he threw erratically.

On fourth down, they only rushed three, and Young had all day to pinpoint a pass over McFadden's shoulder for a first down.

I understand not wanting to put eight in the box and blitz. What I don't understand is why they didn't send at least four rushers on that play.

Young was throwing from the end zone. He wasn't going to go deep. He was going to go high percentage. Stop that play, and the game is over. 

Chris: It is too funny that you point out that 4th-and-4, because I just got through writing a piece for NFLTouchdown.com talking about that particular play. I agree completely.

I think had they brought the house with an all-out blitz. They could have put Greg Toler out there with DRC and had two of the speedier players around on the ready in safety-valve mode as insurance.

Even then, I think the blitz would have killed the drive, game over, Cardinals win.

Chris: How would you grade the addition of Bryant McFadden and subtraction of Roderick Hood so far after 11 games?

Scott Z: I'm a little disappointed. I think he's an upgrade over Rod, but not as much as I had thought and hoped when they signed him.

He leads the team in broken-up passes, but it's never mentioned that the reason is because they throw his way more than they challenge DRC.

They "pick on him." He's not the classic cover corner I was hoping to see, but he makes tackles, and isn't a liability.

I think he's a slight upgrade from Hood.

Chris: I am conflicted on this one. I am not 100 percent convinced McFadden is an upgrade over Hood.

McFadden has made some really nice plays this year but has mixed that in with some bad ones, which is exactly how Hood played last year.

I think if it is an upgrade, it is only because McFadden is probably a better tackler.

I, too, am disappointed so far though—overall, because I thought he would make our secondary one of the strongest around and that hasn't happened.

Chris: To my eyes, blitzing less often because your secondary is vulnerable in coverage (other than DRC) is the opposite way to go. I think the Cardinals would be more successful if they brought more pressure more regularly. Agree or disagree?

Scott Z: This goes back to Question One, and I agree. 

Be it a seasoned veteran or a youngster, the best way to stop a passing offense is to get at the quarterback, rattle him, move him out of his comfort zone, be there to hit him, and knock him down a few times and make him pay when he does get rid of it.

Guys like Young, you have to be careful blitzing. But I still say pressure will win more often than it burns you. 

Chris: Likewise, this goes back to my response above. I just believe in being the aggressor, more often than not, is better for the Cardinals.

Sitting back in coverage makes no sense when that is the primary weakness of the defense.

I'd like to see the Cardinals blitz as much as the Eagles used to under Jim Johnson.

As it stands, we are tied for fifth in the league in sacks. I want more chances for our athletic guys to go after the QB.

Hopefully, I'll get that wish this weekend, facing a 40-year-old QB, who needs to be put on his back if we are to win the game.

Chris: There are at least three big reasons for the Cardinals to get particularly amped for this Vikings game: 1) To avenge Favre embarrassing them as a Jet last season by throwing 6 TDs without breaking a sweat; 2) to avenge the blowout loss to the Vikings at home last year around this same time; and 3) the Vikings are one of the top three teams this year, and many don't give the Arizona a chance to win, especially if Leinart gets the call again.

Are there other motivational things I am missing? And do you think these things will be enough to get the Cardinals 100 percent-focused and come out with their best game of the season?

Scott Z: Well, slight a chance as it may be after Sunday's loss, they STILL can beat the Vikings, and, with help, grab that No. 2 playoff seed.

They are playing a team they will likely play in the playoffs. Not only do they want to show them they can play them, but also show them they can beat them.

They want to avenge past poor performances before a national audience (Giants game aside).

Darnell Dockett will want to be the DL man who people remember from that game, as opposed to Jared Allen.

Beanie and Hightower will want to show they're every bit as good as Peterson and Taylor (even if they're not there yet). 

More of their fans will be coming to the game from the east Valley as opposed to St. Paul, because half the Minnesota population arrives Nov. 1 and spends their winters in Arizona, clogging our highways and creating long lines in McDonald's at lunch time.

And, they say "ya hay" where they come from.

There are more, but you get the idea.

Chris: If Warner doesn't play, will we win?

Scott Z: As much as it was nice and comforting to see Matt Leinart play as well as he did, I don't see the Cardinals outscoring Favre and that offense without Kurt Warner.

I do feel better about having Leinart under center now than a week ago. He played well.

But I've watched Kurt Warner. I know Kurt Warner's ability. Warner could be a friend of mine. And Matt Leinart is no Kurt Warner. Yet.

Chris: You know, after slamming Leinart and then seeing him prove me wrong, I am loads more comfortable with him now than I was.

Maybe I am drinking too much of the Kool-Aid, but I really believe we can win this game, even if Leinart plays.

I think it comes down to our defense and our O-line no matter who plays QB. I am hoping the fellas get as amped about this game as I am.

I am ready for Whisenhunt to put me in, I've got my helmet strapped on, and I've been stretching all week.

But seriously, this is a big-time game, and I believe that our team has it within them to ride their fiery emotions and play their best game of the year.

Favre and the Vikings are due for a disappointment, and we are ready to hand it to them, especially after coming off of disappointment of our own.

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