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Defense Continues Hot Streak

Posted Dec 4, 2011

Notebook: Kolb rallies in Dallas win; Roberts torches Cowboys again

Cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (90) finish off a Cowboys' play Sunday in the Cards' 19-13 overtime win.

Darnell Dockett has a simple reason the Cardinals’ defense is playing so well.

“We don’t have (expletive) to lose,” the defensive tackle said.

“We’re just focusing on games, because, man, we ain’t got nothing to lose right now,” Dockett added. “This week was our playoff game right here. And next week (against the 49ers) is going to be our Super Bowl. We’re learning it, and we’re trying to get better.”

The defensive renaissance continued in Sunday’s 19-13 overtime win over Dallas. The Cowboys weren’t completely stumped – they did have 20 first downs and 336 yards – but they converted just 4-of-12 third downs. Most importantly, Dallas reached the end zone just once, and that came on a 33-yard drive on a short field, thanks to bad field position for the Cardinals and a Dez Bryant punt return.

Perhaps that’s what was so impressive with the effort, because with the Cardinals’ offensive floundering in the first half, the Cowboys kept getting chances yet were turned away.

“Everyone knows what is going on now,” said linebacker O’Brien Schofield, who had one of the Cards’ five sacks. “We have a lot more players making plays.”

The Cowboys – thanks to the final 49-yard field-goal attempt left short by kicker Dan Bailey, didn’t score again after Bailey’s 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.

“I think they were running this little cross zone, as we call it, inside and it gave us some trouble,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “They’re a good front, with Dockett and Adrian Wilson coming down from the safety and creating the eight-man box. We didn’t do a good enough job blocking them up.”

Over the past five games, the Cardinals’ defense has allowed just five touchdowns, including only one Sunday.

“On the second or third play, their guard was talking to me and said, ‘It’s gonna be me and you all day,’ ” Dockett said. “I was like, ‘For real?’ That personally got me turned way up. It was fun.”

KOLB MAKES HIS RETURN

Kolb’s first start after missing four games with toe and foot injuries ended up a success, although it had  a rough beginning. Kolb was only 7-for-11 for 44 yards and sacked four times in the first half and struggling mightily. The Cards had net yardage of minus-9 in the second quarter.

Eventually, though, Kolb threw the game-winning 52-yard screen pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling, completed 16-of-25 for 247 yards and had a passing rating of 109.9 – his second-best showing of the season, after his season-opening win against Carolina.

“On the first play of the second have, (the coaches) called a bootleg,” Kolb said. “It got me sweating and moving around. In my own mind, it just flipped everything and really I felt a lot more comfortable.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Kolb was rusty at first, and Kolb acknowledged the speed of the game was a jolt after missing so much time.

“(The win) certainly takes a lot off his shoulders,” Whisenhunt said. “There has been a bunch of stuff piled on his plate and to see him handle everything the way he did today and have success in the second half, that’s what you have to do.”

ROBERTS FINDS HIS ROLE

Wide receiver Andre Roberts had just one other 100-yard game in his career. It happened to be on Christmas last season – against Dallas, the same opponent that endured Roberts’ second 100-yard game Sunday, when he had six catches for 111 yards.

“It was pretty good today,” Roberts said. “There’s something about the Cowboys, because last year was a pretty good game too. We’re getting everything down. Chemistry comes with time.”

Kolb and Roberts hadn’t connected much right before Kolb got hurt – he had just four catches in Kolb’s last four starts before Sunday – but that changed sharply. Roberts had a 40-yard catch to set up the Cards’ first touchdown, and a 16-yard reception on a low throw to set up Stephens-Howling’s game-winner on the next play.

“Andre is blossoming in front of your eyes,” Whisenhunt said. “You can see his confidence growing every week.”

ZASTUDIL’S BIG PUNTS

In a game where field position was crucial, the Cardinals got kicks from punter Dave Zastudil that were the reason they wanted to bring him on as a replacement for Ben Graham.

Zastudil averaged 50.1 yards on seven punts Sunday, with a net of 45.0, as the Cards found themselves constantly backed up deep in their own end and needed to change field position. Five times Zastudil punted from his own 21-yard line or deeper, and three of those times came from within the Cards’ own 9.

“We do a lot of situations in practices where we are backed up, especially punting out of the end zone,” Zastudil said. “It’s one of those deals where you practice it over and over and try to do it. We had great coverage.

“It’s just nice the coaches believed in me and gave me a chance to come here and play.”

Zastudil is averaging 45.4 per punt  with a net of 37.9 this season.

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