Indianapolis running back Donald Brown runs away from Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson during a 72-yard play Sunday night in the Colts' 31-10 win.
The Cardinals had been fairly happy with their defensive play through two weeks of the regular season.
But they hadn't played someone like Peyton Manning, either.
Early in Sunday night's 31-10 loss to the Colts at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cards looked like they had figured something out, forcing three punts and getting an interception in four drives. But starting with the Colts' first possession of the second quarter – a 95-yard touchdown drive – Indianapolis scored touchdowns on four of six possessions. The other two ended with a missed field goal and a kneel-down to end the first half.
"It's tough," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "because we didn't give (the defense) a lot of help as far as keeping that offense off the field.
"You'd like to think athletically we could match up with those guys and win our share of battles and we didn't do that tonight."
Manning had the 18th game of his career with four touchdown passes and seemed to downplay the Colts' success – "We just got hot," he said – but the Colts ended up with 12 plays of at least 15 yards on the night.
The Colts ended up with 505 yards of total offense, which included passes of 33 and 27 yards to Reggie Wayne, a 53-yard pass to Pierre Garcon and a 72-yard pass in the flat to running back Donald Brown, which broke when safety Adrian Wilson took a bad angle to the ballcarrier.
"That's what (Manning) does," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He puts it where no one else can get it. If you're coverage ain't that tight, the receiver will catch it every time."
THE PASS RUSH DIFFERENCE
The pressure – and disruption – of the quarterbacks were expected to be crucial in the game, and it was. Manning wasn't sacked and rarely felt much pressure, while Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was under duress most of the night. Cardinals left tackle Mike Gandy had his difficulties with Colts Pro Bowl end Dwight Freeney, who had two sacks and was credited with another four quarterback hurries.
"This is the type of thing that we, especially as a D-line, we kind of just lick our chops," Freeney said.
That's because the Cardinals fell into a deficit. Warner ended up throwing 52 passes in the game as the Cards ran just 12 times. The Colts had four total sacks and were credited with four quarterback hurries.
"(Falling behind) definitely didn't help our cause," Gandy said. "But there will be times like that where we have to overcome that situation. We did that last year, coming from behind a few times. We learn from our mistakes and try to regroup as a team."
Whisenhunt said the protection was good early, before the Colts got to "pin their ears back."
"We still have to do a little better job at protection than we did tonight," Whisenhunt added.
DRC'S ROUGH TIME
Rodgers-Cromartie had a difficult night against the Colts. He was beaten for the 53-yard Garcon touchdown when he looked like he was in position to make a play. Instead, Garcon hauled in the pass for a 21-3 lead.
"Instead of just going for that knockdown, I always go for the ball," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I tried to make a play and I jumped too early."
DRC had already missed out on defending Wayne on a spectacular 20-yard one-handed touchdown grab. In a zone coverage, Rodgers-Cromartie tried to read Manning and cheat on an inside route of a different receiver, leaving Wayne alone.
"I was looking back at Peyton and I saw him move that arm and I was trying to track the ball," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I'm still learning."
Warner was intercepted in the end zone on a broken play at the end of the first half. Warner threw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald when the original target – Anquan Boldin – seemed to be grabbed by a Colts defender. The Cardinals looked upset, but afterward, Boldin quickly steered away from any talk about the play.
"No comment," Boldin said. "I want to keep my money so no comment."
DOCKETT HURTS ANKLE
The only injury reported for the Cardinals was the ankle sprain of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who hurt himself early in the game but returned after missing a series. Whisenhunt said Dockett will be reevaluated, but called him a "tough guy who tried to fight through it."
"I feel bad because I feel if I was out there the momentum of the game would've been different," Dockett said. "I just have to bounce back. I'm glad they didn't run the ball the entire game, otherwise I would've been in trouble."
Arizona Cardinals Home: The official source of the latest Cardinals headlines, news, videos, photos, tickets, rosters and game day information
Cardinals' Offensive Line Handled The Pressure
Group allowed hurry probability of only 7.2 percent in 2020, per NextGenStats tracking data
Kingsbury: Cardinals Have Been 'Overly-Educated' About COVID-19 Vaccine
Cardinals coach unsure about percentage of his players who are vaccinated
Ready Or Not, Zaven Collins' Time Is Coming
Rookie middle linebacker attempting to learn defense quickly
You've Got Mail: Seven Weeks To Training Camp
Topics include CB2, Kyler Murray's immediate future and Chandler Jones
Top Takeaways From The Cardinals' 2021 Offseason
In shortened offseason, team younger at inside linebacker, Watt impact felt
Kyler Murray's Legs Can't Shoulder The Whole Load
Cardinals' offense suffered when quarterback ran less due to injury
Robert Alford Hoping Third Time Charm As Cardinals' Cornerback
Season-ending injuries have cost veteran two full years in Arizona
Not For A Second Does DeAndre Hopkins Seem Anything But A Star
After franchise-record 115 receptions, wide receiver preps for Year 2 in Arizona
Top Cardinals Pick Zaven Collins Signs First NFL Contract
Second-rounder Rondale Moore lone draft pick unsigned