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The Defense (Finally) Rests

Notebook: Coming together for 81 snaps shows unit its possibilities


Safety Kerry Rhodes runs back his interception in St. Louis.

Kerry Rhodes admitted he "caught a flat tire" at the end of his interception return in the season opener. Exhaustion will do that to you, and Rhodes all but collapsed after a 65-yard runback.

It was time to rest.

"When I got the pick I knew the game was over," Rhodes said. "So I was already chilling, getting some water and high-fiving my mom in the stands. Then we had to go back out and get the focus back."

The Cards' defense was searching for down time. The unit ended up playing 81 snaps in the win against the Rams – a number cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie called "brutal" -- holding off two separate late drives by St. Louis to hang on to the victory.

Lasting that long was necessary. It also was a little tangible proof to the players that they indeed could be a good unit, after spending much of the preseason acknowledging they had to show their expected potential when they were on the field.

"I felt like Precious fell on me," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett deadpanned, referencing the movie character. "I am hurting. Adversity, guess that's the way it's supposed to be. At least we were on the winning side."

Overall, the Cards are ranked only 19th but the scoring defense is what coach Ken Whisenhunt looks at the most carefully. It will face an Atlanta offense that had just three field goals in Pittsburgh and is anxious to right its offensive issues.

The Cardinals probably can't count on generating four turnovers every game like they did in St. Louis, but that wasn't the biggest message that came out of the game.

"We had some chances to give up," Rhodes said. "We had people cramping up, people not on the field having to rotate some others in. But it shows our depth and that we play for each other."

 Added linebacker Joey Porter, "We thought the game was over and it wasn't over yet. We had faced all the adversity already. It was, 'Lets' go out and do what we've got to do.' "


After the still-healing knee of Larry Fitzgerald wore down at the end of last week's game, Whisenhunt acknowledged he hasn't let Fitzgerald take as many reps in practice this week to make sure the Pro Bowl receiver is "fresh" for Sunday's game in Atlanta.

"You walk a line because you want Larry to be in game shape," Whisenhunt said.

Rookie Stephen Williams is the one taking Fitzgerald's place on those plays, and Whisenhunt said Williams could take Fitzgerald's place a couple of times in the game for the same reason.


The Cardinals were out of the ASU practice bubble and back on their own fields Thursday as the temperature climbed to a hot enough point that Whisenhunt called it a "distraction."

"That's probably good work for us because that's what you have to face at different times of the year," Whisenhunt said. "If you can push through it on the practice field, it helps you prepare for the game."


With Beanie Wells still limited Thursday – he will try to practice Friday, and the amount he can practice Friday will determine how much he can play Sunday, Whisenhunt said – the availability of reserve Jason Wright becomes more important.

Wright, who has been battling a bad toe, was active last week but only for an "emergency situation," Whisenhunt said. He did play some special teams, but Whisenhunt said Wright has been able to practice fully and should be available for whatever is needed against the Falcons.

"He fills a lot of roles for us," Whisenhunt said.

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