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Defense On Third-Down Lockdown

Posted Oct 29, 2009

Notebook: Rolle misses practice; Spach, Iwebema return

 The Cardinals' defense stones Giants running back Brandon Jacobs on third-and-goal Sunday night, forcing a field goal in the fourth quarter.
 
 
Linebacker Karlos Dansby may have popularized it, but he isn’t taking credit for the “See you in three!” chants on the Cardinals’ sideline these days.

Seems the catchphrase – meaning the Cards’ defense will force a three-and-out – came from the other side of the ball, with assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

“That was all Russ,” Dansby said. “I just took it and ran with it.”

Whoever came up with the words, it fits. The Cardinals have put together nine three-and-outs for the opposition the past two games, and their third-down defense has been outstanding. The Cards have allowed just 24-of-84 third downs to be converted this season, with a 28.6 percent mark that is third in the NFL.

Only Denver (26.9 percent) and the Giants (28.2) rank higher.

“We’re playing better technique and playing better up front, that’s helped in some of the shorter situations where they have tried to run on us,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “And communication on the back end (helps) – the coverages have been a lot better. Our guys have been studying and they have been able to be more aggressive in their coverages and it has paid off.”

Cornerback Bryant McFadden said the preparation has been a big deal, with the Cardinals in better spots to make plays in third downs. Dansby said communication means everything, because the defenders trust the player next to him and everybody has been sticking to script and leaving few holes.

There is also a survival mentality to it, defensive end Calais Campbell said.

“It’s ‘If you don’t win this play, you have to play at least another three plays, and you’ll get tired and you’ll start breaking down,’ ” Campbell said.

So for now, the Cards will continue with the “See you in three!”

“I don’t want to be taking a copyright infringement on that,” McFadden said. “I don’t know who started it. But it spread like wildfire. It kind of gives you motivation. It’s a great phrase.”

INJURY UPDATE

Safety Antrel Rolle, who Whisenhunt said is hurting from both a sprained arch and Plantar fasciitis, sat out practice for a second straight day. Whisenhunt said he was hoping Rolle will get to practice at least limited Friday. Either way, Rolle will likely be a game-day decision whether he plays.

Tight end Stephen Spach (ankle) finally returned to practice on a limited basis for the first time since getting hurt against Houston. Defensive end Kenny Iwebema (knee) also returned on a limited basis.

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle) practiced fully for a second straight day and Whisenhunt said he “looked good.” Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (ankle) continues to be limited, but he is expected to play Sunday.

SEEING CAROLINA – AGAIN

The Cardinals have played the Panthers every season except one – 2006 – since 2001. Since the Cards and Panthers met twice last season thanks to a playoff matchup, Sunday’s game will be the fourth time Whisenhunt has coached against Carolina, including the postseason, in 43 games.

But Whisenhunt said it wasn’t quite like going against NFC West foes, with which the Cards face twice every season.

“You don’t have the same kind of feel like you do with Seattle or San Francisco or St. Louis,” Whisenhunt said. “But there is familiarity. Where it did help was playing a Sunday night game on the road (last weekend) and not getting back here until 5 o’clock. You’re tired and short on time so it does help there is familiarity with them.”

BLACKOUT DEADLINE EXTENDED

The Cardinals received a 24-hour extension Thursday to sell their game out and avoid the local television blackout, pushing the new deadline to 2:15 p.m. Friday. There are about 1,000 tickets remaining.
 
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