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Don't Tell Them They Can't

Posted Dec 6, 2009

Defense, offensive line control win over Minnesota

Defensive end Calais Campbell sacks Brett Favre during the Cardinals' 30-17 win Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
 
 

The Cardinals cornerback was recounting his first career interception, which came “against the great Brett Favre,” when he considered getting Favre to autograph the ball.

“I’ll try to make some calls see if he’ll sign it,” Adams said, adding with a laugh, “I don’t know how he’ll feel about that.”

Adams and his teammates had earned the ability to revel a bit Sunday night, after a 30-17 dismantling of the Vikings.

All last season, the Cardinals thrived on pushing back against conventional wisdom, winning games and other battles when it was thought they wouldn’t. Those doubts have faded for much of this season, which is what happens after a team gets to a Super Bowl.

But then Minnesota came to visit. Then came the sparkling talk about Favre’s marvelous season and Adrian Peterson’s greatness. Or on the other side of the ball, there was the discussion of the Vikings’ killer pass rush and how it could destroy Kurt Warner’s comeback party.

Under the bright lights of “Sunday Night Football,” the Cardinals had some specific challenges.

Just how they like it.

“We’ve always liked the underdog cards,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “There is just a cockiness and a confidence. It’s a good cockiness.”

The Cardinals believed they could handle Favre. They believed they could still find a way to intercept a ball or two, even though Favre only had thrown three interceptions all season. They wanted a chance to slow Peterson, after he had run over them for 165 yards a season ago. They wanted to pressure a passing game that was tearing up the NFL.

By the end of the game, Peterson had just 19 yards rushing. Favre threw two interceptions. The Vikings’ offense did little besides their bookend touchdowns at the very beginning and the very end of the game.

After the way the game in Tennessee ended, ripping the collective heart out of a defense that had held up pretty good up until the final two minutes, the Vikings’ game was welcome retribution.

“It was something the team needed,” said veteran linebacker Bertrand Berry, who had two of the Cards’ three sacks.  “As a defense, we were able to set the tone.”

But it still came across as more business-like for the defense. For the offensive line, it evolved into something more personal, especially for Mike Gandy fill-in Jeremy Bridges.

During the week, Bridges clearly tired of the talk about holding up against Pro Bowler Jared Allen. In the game, Allen was a non-factor thanks in large part to Bridges, who was caught by NBC cameras trash-talking Allen in the immediate aftermath of Anquan Boldin’s 39-yard touchdown catch.

Some thought Warner shouldn’t even play, for fear that the ferocious Minnesota pass rush could jeopardize the quarterback’s season given his recent concussion.

“I told (Warner) toward the end of the game, ‘I really didn’t want you to get hit back there,’ ” Bridges said. Allen did get a couple of post-pass hits on Warner, but Bridges was sure to tell him during the game, “Almost doesn’t count. Pressure doesn’t get you anywhere.”

And to think, Bridges wasn’t even around last season, when the Cards turned the chip-on-the-shoulder theme to an art form.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear after the game that his team’s challenge is to now follow up such a performance. Motivation won’t be lacking – if the Cards beat the 49ers in San Francisco next week, they not only make up for the season-opening loss, but clinch the NFC West.

After Sunday, the Cards certainly believe they can make that happen.

“(This) was still a middle of the season game and it doesn’t have a lot of bearing on the big picture,” Warner said. “But it gives you confidence moving forward that we can play with anybody. We can play with the big dogs.”
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