Linebacker Daryl Washington sacks Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder before Ponder can react last week in Minnesota.
Daryl Washington didn't even give Christian Ponder a chance to blink.
The Cardinals' linebacker shot through the line with perfect timing to take down Minnesota's quarterback, one of two sacks in that game for Washington and a perfect example of what he has been able to do this season.
Washington, even though he is an inside linebacker, already has six sacks this season – best on the team – and threatens to break the team record for linebackers, currently 10 set by Ken Harvey in 1990.
"The defense is really built around the weakside linebacker," Washington said of the position he plays. "So when I get the opportunity with either an inside or outside blitz, I have to get there. I feel (defensive coordinator Ray Horton) called the blitz just for me."
The defense may run through Washington, but to get that kind of pressure from a player who doesn't normally play on the edge is still impressive. It may not be surprising to Washington, since 10 sacks was his preseason goal. Even he admits he wanted to set the bar high, however.
Washington actually should have seven sacks. He "lost" one from the Philadelphia game when the Elias Sports Bureau determined a play-action pass from Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was instead a designed run. That meant a 12-yard Washington sack instead became a huge tackle for loss instead.
"I'm not mad," Washington said. "We got that win. That was the biggest thing."
The wins – or lack of them, of late -- are what are eating at Washington right now. His goals, which included at least 100 tackles and three interceptions, are only part of the equation.
If he can keep getting sacks so quickly, though, the Cards' defense can only benefit. FootballOutsiders.com said Washington's sack of Ponder took just 1.2 seconds, the fastest sack in the NFL this season. The second fastest? A 1.3-second sack Washington had on Miami's Ryan Tannehill, forcing a Tannehill fumble that allowed the Cards to tie the game and get to overtime.
"(The Ponder sack) was very similar to the play with Tannehill," Washington said. "Same exact play. The running back had no chance."
A BATTLE OF DEFENSES
Monday night's game features the top-ranked defense in the NFL with San Francisco, and the seventh-ranked defense in Arizona. Those rankings are based on yards. In terms of scoring, the 49ers are second in the league, and the Cardinals fourth.
"Stats are for losers," safety Adrian Wilson said. "We are what we are at this point, they are what they are at this point. We do have to be better than their defense. That's just what defensive football is. It's hard for us to score points."
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh praised his group, which has spearheaded the 49ers' resurgence, although he too wasn't about to lean on statistics.
"Our defense does a great job of playing within the framework of the defense and playing together," Harbaugh said. "They do a tremendous job of that, and sometimes that doesn't show up in the low-hanging statistical fruit. There is so much more to it, whether it's an outside linebacker position or an inside linebacker position, than sacks, or interceptions for a defensive back.
"I think you tell a good defense by how they tackle. I think our guys do that well. They have contact courage."
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt didn't talk about "contact courage." He didn't even get ruffled when someone brought up the 153 yards Adrian Peterson ran for against the Cards last week. Since the Vikings could barely pass the ball, the Cards' defense had done its job.
"I'll take 200 yards total offense this week," Whisenhunt said. "I don't care how they get it. If they want to run for 199 and pass for one yard, if we can hold them to 200 total yards, I'll be happy."
RASHAD JOHNSON FINED
Safety Rashad Johnson was fined $21,000 for an unnecessary roughness penalty, after he was called for an illegal blindside block against Minnesota. Johnson drilled Vikings tight end John Carlson on a Cardinals' punt return play. Carlson suffered a concussion on the play.
NINERS GAME A SELLOUT
The Cardinals officially announced that Monday's game is a sellout, no surprise since the opponent and the prime-time nature makes it one of the standout games on the Cards' schedule. This is the 70th straight sellout for the Cardinals.
The game will be televised locally on ESPN, and for those who do not have cable, it will also be aired on KTVK (Ch. 3).