Running back Beanie Wells breaks off a run during Sunday night's 24-17 win in New York.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The ball settled into the hands of Antrel Rolle for an interception and the Cardinals' bench erupted.
The Cardinals had sealed a 24-17 win over the Giants at Giants Stadium, overcoming a host of injuries, maladies and bad luck on the national stage of "Sunday Night Football." The NFC West race had suddenly shifted, and perhaps too, the national perception of the Cards.
"The last time we played on prime time it was embarrassing," said safety Adrian Wilson, who had a key fumble recovery and an interception while battling bad leg cramps in the second half. "I think we played our best game today."
The Cardinals (4-2) are 3-0 on the road to start a season for the first time since 1982, a large accomplishment in itself. But to beat the Giants (5-2) – and for the most part, control the game – was a statement in itself.
It was the Cards' defense that provided the tone, picking off quarterback Eli Manning three times, sacking him three times and forcing a late fourth-quarter fumble. Rookie running back Beanie Wells may have graduated into the Cards' feature back, rushing for a personal best 67 yards on 14 carries and getting his first touchdown.
Quarterback Kurt Warner didn't have his finest game – 20 for 36 for 231 yards, a touchdown and interception – but it was good enough, especially with wide receiver Anquan Boldin gutting his way through a three-catch (for 75 yards) night despite an ankle injury.
"This was an enormous win for our organization," Warner said. "It's still early, but we're playing our best football now."
There were plenty of nervous moments. When Brandon Jacobs pile-drived his way in for a four-yard touchdown run with 13:28 left in the second quarter for the first score of the game, the Giants already had 60 yards rushing – topping the 59.6 yard average the Cards' No. 1-ranked rushing defense had allowed in the first five games of the year.
But the Giants finished with only 107 yards by the end, including Ahmad Bradshaw's killer fumble late on the Giants' next-to-last possession.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, in his best game of the season, made a spectacular interception in the end zone for one turnover and made another excellent defensive play to knock away a third-down pass – except that it turned into a Giants touchdown.
DRC perfectly played a pass to Mario Manningham and batted it high and far away. But the ball floated into the arms of Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks, who grabbed it perfectly in stride and raced 62 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
"You're like, 'What the freak, man?' " Rodgers-Cromartie said. "But we held it together."
Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the walking wounded in the secondary, his bad left ankle wrapped heavy and sending him out of the game. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said x-rays showed nothing was broken, but his immediate status will be an issue.
The Cardinals, for tonight at least, aren't thinking about the bad that happened Sunday night. They stand alone in first place in the division, have a home game coming up next week against struggling Carolina, and have corrected the issues that plagued them early in the season.
And they showed everyone -- nationally -- what they didn't against the Colts a month previous.
"This is not something we have done," Whisenhunt said. "It feels very good to redeem ourselves."
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