Safety Antrel Rolle celebrates after grabbing the game-clinching interception Sunday night.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on the bench, his stellar game derailed by a badly sprained left ankle. Safety Adrian Wilson was in and out battling cramps that left him walking funny in the locker room afterward.
The Cardinals' secondary was beaten up Sunday night but never beaten down, one of the reasons the Cards captured a 24-17 win over the Giants in New York.
"We just wanted to play four quarters," cornerback Bryant McFadden said. "We just wanted to stand our ground."
Not only did the group stand their ground, but almost every single one of them made a play.
Rodgers-Cromartie made a highlight-version interception over Hakeem Nicks in the end zone to end one Giants' threat. Wilson made one interception, should have had a second before letting it slip through his hands, and jumped on a fumble late that was forced by fellow safety Matt Ware.
Reserve cornerback Michael Adams stepped in for Rodgers-Cromartie to break up a down-the-middle pass to Steve Smith when he jumped with his back to the ball and it hit him without him ever seeing it – "Our coach tells us every day there's no face-guarding rule," Adams said – on the next-to-last play for the Giants.
The last play was all Antrel Rolle's, when the safety atoned for not breaking up a third-and-15 pass earlier in the last drive by picking off Giants quarterback Eli Manning for one final time.
"At the end of the day," said Rolle, playing through a left foot sprain, "we made the plays we needed to make."
Almost every defensive back was dealing with some sort of ding by the end of the game. Even nickel corner Ralph Brown was forced to play some safety on the final drive.
"You work and practice with those scenarios in case it happens," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "But you never know when you're throwing guys out there into the fire, under the lights, like it was tonight."
Whisenhunt said the X-rays on the left ankle of Rodgers-Cromartie were negative, showing there was no fracture. What that means going forward won't be determined until the Cards get deeper into the week.
"We'll see how he recovers," Whisenhunt said.
Rodgers-Cromartie wore a boot out of the locker room and was definitely limping, but he proclaimed optimism in the afterglow of Sunday's win. "It's OK," he said. "I can bounce back quick."
BEANIE BREAKS OUT
It was the game that Beanie Wells had been waiting for, when the Cards leaned on him to take the bulk of the running duties. And, save for yet another fumble – which bounced out of bounds – Beanie delivered.
The rookie had 68 yards and his first touchdown on 14 carries, 10 more totes than start Tim Hightower (who also fumbled, and lost it). Wells also caught three passes for 10 yards, one more catch than Hightower.
"We ran the ball successfully and we kept on doing it," Wells said. "It was fun, we definitely got in that groove and … I don't know what to say."
Wells' big highlight was his touchdown, a burst outside for 13 yards that tied the score at 7-7.
"We've seen that from day one," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "We've seen what he can do with the ball in his hands when he's running downfield. He has to continue to improve on the little things … and that will make him even more effective, when we can change pace with him."
BRANCH GETS FIRST SACKS
Unlike last season, the Cardinals pressured Giants quarterback Eli Manning often, creating numerous bad throws, the three interceptions and three sacks. One came from defensive end Calais Campbell, who stretched out his 6-foot-8 frame on the play to trip up Manning. The other two came from improving defensive lineman Alan Branch, who has gone from a player on the verge of being an ultimate bust to a key member of the line.
Branch knew he had gotten his first NFL sack, but the other – officially a sack when Manning was brought down scrambling at the line of scrimmage – was enough of a mystery that Branch had a mini-celebration when he heard afterward.
"That counted? Woooo! Give it to me! I'll take it, man," Branch bellowed, bring a smile to the face of teammate Chike Okeafor.
"(The sacks were a) long time coming," he added. "It took, what, three years? Hopefully I can get a couple more and try to help these guys out, make sure they don't feel they are taking a step back when the backup guys get in."
Despite an ankle sprain that was originally diagnosed as possibly keeping him out three-to-four weeks, wide receiver Anquan Boldin not only played but was doing well enough that the Cards kept fellow receiver Early Doucet inactive. Whisenhunt called the decision to play Boldin "tight," although Boldin looked well enough before the game that he didn't even seem like he needed to test the ankle.
Boldin made three catches for 75 yards, including a 44-yard reception-and-run at the end of the first half in response to the Giants' fortunate DRC-tipped Hakeem Nicks' 62-yard touchdown. The Boldin catch set up a field goal.
"We said it was going to be a game-time decision during the week and it certainly is a great credit for him that he was ready to play," Whisenhunt said. "He made a big play for us right before the half. He was struggling a little bit at the end so we just cut his reps."
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