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No Fun For Bowles Watching Cardinals Defense

Unit excels against former defensive coordinator, allows only a field goal in easy victory


Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu returns an interception in the fourth quarter.

Todd Bowles didn't like this view of the Cardinals defense nearly as much.

The team's former defensive coordinator and the architect of its aggressive, play-making style watched helplessly from the opposing sideline Monday night as many of his former players made life miserable for the Jets' offense.

New York quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was bad enough that he was replaced by Geno Smith late, while the Jets rushing game was nonexistent as the Cardinals cruised to a 28-3 win.

The Cardinals struggled defensively in two of their first three games but have been superb in the past three. The win over the Jets was the best of the bunch, as the defense answered every threat and allowed only an early field goal.

"They beat us all the way around," Bowles said. "They beat us in the secondary. They beat us on the offensive line. They beat us in the linebacker position. They beat us clean."

Bowles brought a confident, risk-taking plan to the desert in 2013 and the Cardinals immediately embraced it. The defense was impressive under his direction during his two seasons here, and it has remained that way in the year-and-a-half since James Bettcher took over.

After Monday's shutdown performance, the Cardinals are allowing 17.3 points per game, which is sixth in the NFL.

"We've got a lot of the core guys that were here when he was here," safety Tony Jefferson said. "It helps to be in the same system for a while. We've tweaked a lot of stuff, but at the same time we have the foundation of what he brought here."

The Jets were held to 11 first downs and 230 total yards. Fitzpatrick finished 16-of-31 for 174 yards and was pulled after safety D.J. Swearinger picked him off in the end zone late in the third quarter.

That was New York's last rally attempt, as the Cardinals scored a touchdown on their ensuing drive for a 28-3 advantage.

Smith came in but didn't fare much better, as he was 4-of-6 for 31 yards and was intercepted when safety Tyrann Mathieu got him late in the fourth quarter. It was Mathieu's first pick of the year as he continues to make his way back from last year's torn ACL.

"I've still got a lot of work to do," Mathieu said. "That series before, I was getting a lot of snag routes, a lot of pick routes, a lot of underneath routes, so teams are trying to see if I can go laterally. I just have to continue to work on that. But it felt good to get my hands on the ball."

The defensive front got a sack and forced fumble from Alex Okafor and kept up the pressure throughout. It also shut down the Jets' running attack, holding Matt Forte to nine carries for 19 yards. The Jets mustered just 33 rushing yards on 14 carries.

"They were out there flying around, doing their thing," money linebacker Deone Bucannon said. "That makes it easy on guys like me."

The Cardinals unveiled a new look defensively on third downs that featured seven defensive backs. Cornerbacks Tharold Simon and Justin Bethel saw a handful of snaps, giving the back end some big-time athleticism in passing situations.

The whole game plan seemed to play out to perfection, although Jefferson did point out one issue.

After one pass breakup by Mathieu, Jefferson scurried over to give him a celebratory high-five. Jefferson said he left his hand up in the air for "like 10 seconds" but Mathieu ignored it.

"He left me hanging, big-time," Jefferson said.

Mathieu explained himself afterward.

"I made a play, but the drive before that they caught like three balls on me," Mathieu said. "I wasn't in a position to be celebrating anything. My bad, Tony."

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