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Attention To Detail

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The Cardinals' defense needs to improve on its latest showing against the Eagles.

The plays came steadily for the Eagles on their first drive – six yards, six yards, three, nine, five, four, two, two, nine, 13, six and then five.

Touchdown, Philadelphia. Shock to the system, Cardinals' defense.

"I got a little vibe during the game everyone wasn't in sync," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "It was a bad feeling. It almost got to the point where it felt like that Jets game."

The Cards' defenders remain a mostly confident bunch. But by the time they take the field against the Rams Sunday, they will have had 10 days to stew about a woeful showing on Thanksgiving in which a struggling Eagles' offense ripped them apart.

The Eagles had 437 yards and scored 48 points, just a few days after the Giants put up 37 points on the Cards.  Those are totals that make it tough for a team to last in the playoffs.

Staying smart and cleaning up the fundamentals has been the message from coach Ken Whisenhunt to his entire team this week, but the defense may have been the first to take heed. The unit's failure to be disciplined and fill gaps is what led the previously-impotent Eagles to explode.

"We didn't play very good technique at any position and we had some missed assignments," defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "And they found them when they happened.

"I am confident we will get back on track."

In truth, the Cards don't group the Giants and Eagles games as defensive letdowns. While New York piled up points, the fact the special teams allowed two long kickoff returns and the offense gave up two turnovers – giving the Giants short fields for 20 of their points – gave the Cards' defense room for optimism.

The same wasn't true with the Eagles' game. Philadelphia converted 10-of-15 third-downs, at 67 percent well above the 44 percent the Cards have allowed this season.

"It wasn't what they did it was what we didn't do," safety Antrel Rolle said. "We didn't play together as a team. The thing that got us out of whack was a lot of times, we weren't on the same page -- and it showed."

The Cards still rank 10th overall on defense. Whisenhunt noted that, until two games ago, the Cards were tops in the NFL in takeaways. They are tied for 11th overall in sacks.

"This last game," Whisenhunt said, "we just didn't play well."

The same thing happened against the Jets earlier this season, when players didn't look like they understood their assignments and Brett Favre torched them for six touchdown passes.

"We have to be on the same page," Rolle said. "If you are, nine times out of 10, even if you are wrong, you'll be right."

Injuries have played a factor. Linebacker Travis LaBoy is just now getting over the ankle injury that plagued him most of the season. Against the Eagles, the Cards were without their best cornerback, Rod Hood, and their underrated piece at linebacker Clark Haggans.

Both Hood and Haggans are hoping to be back this weekend. The unit will see the 28th-ranked offense as well, although running back Steven Jackson – who was hurt and played little in the teams' first meeting – is healthy again.

Nothing matters as much as fixing the details, along with putting their recent performance far in the rear view.

"We can't have any more games like that if we want to compete," Rolle said. "In the playoffs or for a Super Bowl."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 12/4/08.

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