Safety Kerry Rhodes smiles as he revels in his interception last week in Atlanta.
With every interception last Sunday in Atlanta, each push-up seemed to be paying off.
The secondary goes through a series of ball drills every week and for each missed interception, they have to do pushups.
"You kind of get tired of doing the push-ups so you want to catch the ball," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "Little things to give us incentive."
It has worked. The Cardinals intercepted five Matt Ryan passes in a 23-19 loss to the Falcons, giving them 14 for the season – four more then they had in all of 2011. The Cardinals made interceptions a point of emphasis last season, the first under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but they couldn't capitalize on prime opportunities.
Like the rest of the defense, the secondary benefitted from a whole offseason to learn the scheme, as Horton benefitted from learning about his players. He noticed the defense wanted to pressure the quarterback more often.
"I'm calling a lot more pressure," Horton said. "They seem to want it so I'm just giving them what they want. I think the guys are just more comfortable."
It's showed in their interception rate, which is third-best in the NFL. Horton's pressure up front has been felt throughout the three layers. Last weekend, safety Rashad Johnson, linebacker Sam Acho, cornerback William Gay, linebacker Daryl Washington and Rhodes all recorded interceptions.
"A lot of times it's the bounce of the ball," Rhodes said. "Sometimes teams are down so they have to force some balls in. It's a combination of a lot of things. I think for us this year though, it's we've been able to get pressure on the quarterback and they can't really sit back and hold the ball as long as they want to. That's been a big part of it."
NEW FACE, NO PROBLEM
Larry Fitzgerald will be catching passes from his third starting quarterback this season, but he hasn't changed his demeanor or routine for any of them. That will continue Sunday when rookie Ryan Lindley starts at quarterback for the Cardinals.
"I just go out there and do what I always so and make sure I'm where I need to be," Fitzgerald said. "Ryan knows he can count on me and I can try to go out there and make some plays for him."
Fitzgerald said Lindley throws "a good deep ball" and keeps his eyes downfield. Both are good attributes for Fitzgerald, who's itching to have his first 100-yard game since Sept. 23.
"That's exciting as a receiver," Fitzgerald said. "You might have some opportunities down the field. We just got to make them."
CARDS QUARTET QUESTIONABLE
Cardinals DE Calais Campbell (calf), QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (ribs) and WR Early Doucet (ribs) were listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Rams. Campbell is expected to be a game-day decision.
Campbell missed last weekend's game in Atlanta and Kolb hasn't played since Oct. 14 against Buffalo.
Gay and S Rhodes were upgraded to full participation in Friday's practice. Both are probable. The Cardinals have 12 players listed as probable, including RB Beanie Wells and TE Todd Heap.
Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola (foot) is doubtful.
CARDS TO HOST ANNUAL CELEBRITY GOLF CHALLENGE
The Cardinals will host the 8th annual Celebrity Golf Challenge presented by Albertsons on Dec. 10 at Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass. Scheduled to appear are Cardinals alums Larry Wilson, Ron Wolfley, Frank Sanders, Derek Kennard, L.J. Shelton and J.T. Smith.
Registration is at 9 a.m. followed by a shotgun start at 10 a.m.
All proceeds benefit Cardinals Charities. For more information on how to register, call 602-379-0101 or e-mail email@example.com.