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Finishing On Defense

Posted Oct 6, 2011

Cards don't want to waste another defensive effort

Safety Kerry Rhodes breaks up a pass against the Giants last weekend.

There have been late success stories, believe it or not.

There were goal-line stands against San Francisco in 2008 and against Houston in 2009. Drew Brees and the Saints were stoned at the end of the game last season, and there was the Eagles’ fourth-down incompletion in the NFC Championship game. Even the season-opener this season against Carolina ended well, thanks to the tackle of linebacker Paris Lenon.

The defense made the crucial stop late, and the Cards were able to celebrate.

The flip side tends to burn longer, however, whether it was the 99-yard drive of the Titans in 2009, the Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh, or just a week ago when the Giants managed to score two touchdowns in the final 3:37 to snatch away a win.

“I definitely think you have to have a finishing mentality,” said 14-year defensive end Vonnie Holliday. “The intensity changes. In those two-minute situations, it’s almost like blood in the water.

“You have to have guys – it doesn’t always have to be the same guys – but guys step in and make a play. That’s what we have been missing. Against the Giants, even after the first drive, we still had the lead. Someone needs to step up.”

The Giants had the ball for a total of nine plays for their two late TD drives, begun when the Cardinals were ahead by 10 with 5:16 remaining in the game. They covered 128 yards, all through the air. New York quarterback Eli Manning completed 8-of-9 passes and only once was significant pressure created, when Manning somehow slipped away from Darnell Dockett and hit Victor Cruz on the infamous 19-yard “he gave himself up” play.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he would have hoped more pressure would have been created at the end given that the “situation was known.” The Giants were going to pass. The Cards knew it. Whisenhunt also said end-of-game defense needs to continue to switch up so the offense can’t lock into just one thing – whether it be blitzes or a soft zone.

Players need to execute too, he added.

 “The only thing you can do is try and find the good,” linebacker Joey Porter said. “We know the bad, 14 points in two minutes. That’s obvious.

“We have to find a way to do our job the same way we had been doing the whole game. Don’t let the pressure get to us.”

Said safety Kerry Rhodes, “I don’t know if people think the situation is different, I mean, it is, but you have to play it the same. It worked for the first three-and-a-half quarters.  Why would you switch it?”

There is a bit of irony that the Cards are thinking about this going into Sunday’s game in Minnesota, since last season, the Cardinals held a 14-point lead with just six minutes left and let that get away as well, when the Vikings eventually won in overtime.

A win then would have given the Cards a 4-4 record, but instead the season skidded from there.

The Cardinals have a different defensive scheme now, of course. They’d like to avoid being bitten by the same problems. Holliday bemoaned his own missed chances of coming up with a decent pass rush against the Giants, and said having someone step in as a playmaker has been a point of emphasis.

“No matter what the offense does, we have to stay accountable and make a stop,” linebacker Daryl Washington said. “Regardless of the situation – fourth-and-1, third-and-long, they need a touchdown – we have to make a stop.”


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