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Challenging The Cards' Defense

Slowing Gore, facing Jones-Drew only part of the equation


The Cardinals' defense handled San Francisco's Frank Gore last week and now will try to do the same with Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew
The talk was about Frank Gore and slowing Frank Gore and what Frank Gore could do to hurt the Cardinals, so the Cards' defense used that as motivation in the season opener.

The 49ers running back ended up with just 30 yards on 22 carries.

"I think (the defense) likes challenges," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "They seem to respond to challenges."

There will be another one Sunday against Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who will likely be the key to Jacksonville's offensive success. But the Cardinals can see that these individual challenges may not be the best motivation, because it can lead to letdowns.

"We're starting to figure out we have to do it every week to get to where we want to go," linebacker Bertrand Berry said. "It can't be something you flip on like a switch. If you want to be a consistent winner in this league, you have to do it game in and game out. It starts in practice, how you approach your work.

"Sunday is just a culmination of what you do during the week. We are evolving and we are getting there."

What defensive coordinator Bill Davis wants is an overhaul of the mindset. Playing like the defense did against the 49ers works. But it's what the Cardinals need for 16 games.

"Our biggest challenge as a defense is to match the intensity we played with last week," Davis said. "In the past, it's been inconsistent. We play like that one week, we have letdowns, you have a big score game and then a good score game, a ton of effort and then an OK effort. The great defenses come every week with one personality."

Shutting down an opposing star back doesn't always help either. Gore couldn't run, but the 49ers still won (and Gore still had two touchdowns). Last season, the Cardinals slowed backs like Clinton Portis (68 yards on 21 carries), Thomas Jones (46 yards on 18 carries) and Willie Parker (53 yards on 19 carries).

But the Cards lost to the Redskins, Jets and then the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

"You get a little satisfaction (from slowing Gore) but not a lot," Berry said. "At the end of the day, you want to win the game. You can let Frank run for 200 yards and you win the game and you're still in a better position than we are right now."

Jones-Drew will be at the heart of the defense's gameplan this week, although after the way the Niners' game ended, the unit will be looking at the big picture.

"We have a lot of things to fight for this week," defensive end Darnell Dockett said.

Of course, starting with a 1.4-per-carry rush average against would be a good place to start.

"We have to come out against Jacksonville with the same mindset," Davis said. "To snuff an offense and a stud running back like we did against San Fran."

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