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Defending With Discipline

Cards coming off smart showing against Vikings


The Cardinals' defense played to their scheme against the Vikings, a big reason they rolled over Minnesota on "Sunday Night Football."
At its core, the concept of discipline within a defense is very simple.

"The premise is, defensively, 11 guys play as one," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.

When it comes to playing as one, the Cardinals did arguably their best job of the season against Minnesota last weekend. "Discipline" was the trendy word afterward, the reason for intercepting Brett Favre twice and shutting down Adrian Peterson.

If the Cards stay disciplined, good things almost always follow.

"That's the biggest fight I've have all season – do your job, be where you are supposed to be. It all fits," Davis said. "The games we have fit together, we dominate. Other times, it is, 'I saw this formation, Coach, and I knew this route was coming and I came over here …' "

There is a mental strength that comes along with staying home. Davis and the defensive coaches stressed Favre's pump-faking ability before the game, insisting players not get sucked out of position. When linebacker Karlos Dansby and cornerback Michael Adams picked Favre off, Davis said both players – and their teammates – were where they were supposed to be on those plays.

It doesn't hurt to get positive feedback – in this case, turnovers – when the players do what is correct. It helps Davis sell his theme.

"You have a good chance to win the play, if you just execute what the coaches are putting together," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "They are putting together the game plan for countless hours for a reason."

The Cards don't always do what's needed. Interestingly, Davis said there are about the same amount of mistakes made in wins rather than losses. Sometimes the opposition can take advantage, sometimes not.

At one point, Davis watched a tape with a game announcer talking about the Cards getting aggressive with a zero blitz, when in fact there was just a player out of position.

"It only takes one mistake to allow a big play to happen," defensive tackle Alan Branch said. "If everyone is doing their job, it should be a short gain or nothing at all. A lot of coaches would rather have discipline than talent, that's how important it is."

Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett is still frustrated that Rams running back Steven Jackson and Titans running back Chris Johnson each broke off huge runs to send those players soaring past the 100-yard mark. Those were mistakes in gap coverage, mistakes the Cards didn't make against Peterson and the Vikings.

"Our main focus is don't give up that one big play to make the stats look like something it's really not," Dockett said.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt praised the Cards' solid tackling against Minnesota as well as their adherence to responsibility. But he also stressed the need for the defense to carry that over game to game.

"When we play together, and you have talent and speed, there is nowhere to go," Davis said, noting that most of the time, "we are our own worst enemy."

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