Defensive end Frostee Rucker celebrates his first sack as a Cardinal Sunday, one of four the Cards notched in a 27-13 win.
Calais Campbell remembered the game. It was impossible not to, the way the Cardinals' defense ransacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan a season ago.
It looked, actually, a lot like the one the Cardinals put Ryan through Sunday during the Cards' 27-13 win at University of Phoenix Stadium. Ryan threw four interceptions – after throwing five a season ago – with a meaningless late touchdown pass. He was also sacked four times.
"It's a mentality, you know?" said Campbell, who had one of the sacks and two tackles for loss. "It's a mentality we are trying to
establish here in Arizona. We want to be physical and fast and aggressive. We did that today."
It was apparent from the start, when the Cardinals forced a three-and-out on the first possession by denying twice passes to tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Cardinals made sure their problems with star tight ends did not carry over – Gonzalez had just three catches for 26 yards – and wouldn't let the Falcons in the end zone.
"You can't make those plays," Ryan said, "and think you're giving your team a chance to win."
Ryan did have 301 passing yards, but it took 61 passes to do it. He came into the game having thrown just three interceptions all season. Meanwhile, Atlanta gained a mere 27 yards on 14 rushing attempts, and 13 of those yards came on one Ryan scramble.
"Our defense is making great strides every week," coach Bruce Arians said. "I think they were the least-sacked team in the league. We thrive on turnovers and disruptive plays. We don't worry about the yards as much as points and turnovers, and we're doing a heck of a job of that."
While the interceptions came from familiar faces – safety Tyrann Mathieu had his second of the season, linebacker Daryl Washington had his second of the season while safety Rashad Johnson got a pair – the sacks were spread around. Campbell and former Falcon John Abraham each got one, while defensive end Frostee Rucker and linebacker Marcus Benard notched their first as Cardinals.
"I think we found our identity," Mathieu said. "That's how we want to play every game."
FITZ GETS 800, SHRUGS OFF TRADE RUMORS
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald collected four catches for 48 yards, and the last of which was the 800th of his career – making him the youngest player ever to reach that number at 30 years and 57 days. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had been the youngest, at 30 years, 238 days.
"Jerry Rice had 1,000 catches after he turned 30," Fitzgerald said. "So I'm a long way from where I need to be."
Fitzgerald was also matter-of-fact with the ESPN report that the Cardinals could trade him at some point.
"I come to work every day and just focus on how I can help the Arizona Cardinals and help my team win," Fitzgerald said. "If they decide to move me, that happens. I have no control over any of that."
TEDDY WILLIAMS' FIRST CATCH IS A BIG ONE
Teddy Williams did not play college football and the former track star had only played defensive back last season when he was with
the Colts. But in his first game for the Cardinals, as a receiver, he hauled in a 51-yard bomb from quarterback Carson Palmer. Williams was well behind the Falcons' defenders, but had to slow up and had a tough time tracking the ball, so he fell as he caught it.
"I'm just happy he caught it," Arians said. "I was holding my breath. I know he was holding his."
Palmer said he had thrown the pass to Williams just twice – once in practice last week, and then the one in the game. The two need work on chemistry, Palmer added.
"Early in the week we talked about the play," Williams said. "He asked me if he threw it far enough (in practice) and if I waited. I said, 'Yeah, I was kind of slowing down' so he told me he was going to put it out there. Coming out of the break I was expecting the ball 30 yards in front of me. I tried to hit another gear and I didn't have to. I had to slow down and get it."
ABRAHAM SAYS HE'S OK
Linebacker John Abraham left the game with a blow to the head, but said afterward he was fine.
"I was banged in the head a couple times," Abraham said. "You take precautions. I just did my little test. I'm OK."
Abraham, as he said last week, shrugged off the fact he had just played and beaten his former team.
"It wasn't really exciting like that," he said.
As promised, the Cardinals used Bobby Massie at right tackle for a couple of series, replacing Eric Winston. Winston did play the majority of the game, however.