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Seeking a Secondary Chance

Posted Jan 12, 2010

Cardinals' defensive backs get another shot at potent passing attack

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tries to bring down Packers tight end Jermichael Finley during Sunday's game.
 
 
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie just shook his head. There wasn’t much to say.

The Cardinals’ defensive backs knew they hadn’t had their finest hour against the Packers in the Wild Card playoff game. Now, they are about to face an offense even more prolific in the Saints.

“We played as bad as we can play,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “To go play another throwing team, the only thing you can do is go up.

“Knowing our offense put up as many points as it put up and to have it still go into overtime, it hurt. Knowing it is your group, your secondary group, that was letting down, that hurt.”

Everything looked great after the first Green Bay pass of the game, a tip of an Aaron Rodgers throw that Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted. And the Packers did little on offense in the first half.

The second half evolved into a video game, however, with both teams tearing up huge chunks of yardage at a time. That wasn’t the best scenario for free safety Antrel Rolle, who admittedly tired as the game wore on after missing most of the practice time the previous two weeks due to a thigh injury.

Nickel cornerback Michael Adams struggled while the Packers picked on him, and everyone – including cornerbacks Rodgers-Cromartie, Bryant McFadden and safety Adrian Wilson – took turns missing chances to bring down receivers. That, more than the coverage itself, is what bothered coach Ken Whisenhunt.

“It’s hard to say anything positive when you give up as many yards as we did on defense, not just the cornerbacks, but everybody,” Whisenhunt said. “It goes back to doing a better job of tackling. A number of times we had players around the ball, and we just didn’t get them down.”

The statistics back up Whisenhunt’s concern. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the Packers’ 422 passing yards, 206 were gained after the catch. 

That’s part of the reason Rodgers-Cromartie was so frustrated.

“It wasn’t anything to do with bad calls or bad placement,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “It was us just not making the plays.”

The Saints, featuring the fourth-ranked passing attack in the NFL with MVP candidate Drew Brees at quarterback, would seem to invite such a matchup. The Saints – who scored 510 points this season – feature three good receivers in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem, tight end Jeremy Shockey and running backs who can catch the ball, like Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.

It gives the Saints a lot of options through the air.

But Brees was cautious with the idea the Saints would repeat what the Packers did, complimenting the strength of Green Bay’s offense and indicating the Cards had an off day.

“That was one of those games where it seemed every play that could have been made offensively was made,” Brees said. “Whether it was a great throw, a great catch, a broken tackle, just big play after big play on both sides … it was one of those aberrations of a game.”

Adams said the secondary as a group was angry when they first watched the video of the game, but he did note the group had a hand in helping sack Rodgers five times while the Cards’ defense also forced three key turnovers.

And in an interesting twist, the secondary was not only part of the turnover on the first play of the game – DRC’s pick – but also a turnover on the last play of the game, when Adams recovered from a four-penalty day to force a fumble that led to the game-winning points.

“(The secondary) would like to come back and show everybody that is not who we are, what they saw last week,” Adams said. “We also think about the fact we won. We did win.”
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