Depending on your slant in life, the Arizona Cardinals' clash with the New York Giants in the desert has either been a horrifying half of offense or a defensive struggle between two teams playing on all cylinders.
As someone who sees quite a bit of the Cardinals thanks to his San Francisco 49er allegiances, I have my suspicions that it's closer to the former than the latter. But Arizona's defense has been looking pretty nifty against a Giants' offense that is missing a few weapons, but still looks relatively dangerous on paper.
So maybe it's a healthy blend of both offensive underachievement and defensive wizardry.
Whatever the case, the NFC combatants are locked in a low-scoring, nip-and-tuck affair as the Giants try to improve to 3-1, while the Cards hope to get their heads back above water (or at least to the surface) at 2-2.
Here are five adjustments the Cardinals must make to successfully defend its home turf:
1. Defense Must Continue To Set the Tone
As I mentioned, the defenses for both teams led the way through the first 24 minutes. Whether the Arizona offense has been incompetent or has run into an immovable object in the New York D is irrelevant; what is relevant is the fact that QB Kevin Kolb and company aren't putting points on the board.
That's unlikely to change in the second half so the Cardinal defenders must continue to play inspired football and hope the offense can catch lightning in a bottle once or twice.
2. Offensive Line Needs to Win Battle of the Trenches
Kolb hasn't had a ton of time to throw the ball and the running game has been almost completely baffled by the Giants' defense. You blame the big uglies up front for both transgressions as the New York defensive line has gotten considerable push into the Cardinal backfield.
The Arizona QB has actually looked pretty spiffy when given a minimum of time to find a receiver so if he can just have a half-second or so more, the Cards could be in business.
3. Hold onto the Ball
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's an obvious adjustment to make, but Kevin Kolb fumbled away a possession and you just can't do that against an able-bodied opponent.
4. Keep Running the Pigskin
Arizona hasn't been able to squeeze much production out of its running game as Beanie Wells has been more-or-less invisible in the first half. But running lanes started to open up a bit in the second quarter and his numbers would look a lot better if not for a phantom holding call on a nice gainer.
Keep calling Wells' number and he might break one, but—at the very least—that threat should make life a little easier for Kolb.
5. Take Advantage of New York's Aggression on D
The Giants' defensive line has been the team's biggest asset so far in the game, pressuring Kolb just enough to keep the Cardinals out of the end zone and New York in the game. Why not give the Arizona offensive line a little help by calling a few screens or draw plays? Maybe they break big, but even if they don't, a few such plays should give the Giants' linemen pause before firing up the field.