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Tightening Up On D

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Linebacker Chike Okeafor's interception was one of the few bright spots for the Cardinals' defense Sunday against the Jets.

What if two trips inside the 10-yard line produced 14 points instead of zero? What would have happened then?

That point got lost in the maelstrom of details erupting from Sunday's loss to the Jets. Anquan Boldin's frightening injury, Brett Favre's career-high six touchdown passes, Kurt Warner's turnover fest and 472 yards passing – there certainly wasn't a shortage of storylines.

But what happens if the Cardinals, who methodically marched from their own 21-yard line to the Jets' 9 facing just one third down (and that was third-and-1), get seven points instead of flubbing into a 23-yard sack and kept fumble and then fumbling the ball away on the next play?

That would likely have changed everything, and it definitely would have changed everything had the Cards also punched in the ball from the Jets 8 after Chike

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Okeafor's interception return.

The Cards scored first in each of their wins and the other team scored first in each of their losses.

I bring it up because coach Ken Whisenhunt mentioned that part of the reason for defensive breakdowns in the 56-35 loss to the Jets came in part because the Cards were selling out to stop the run. Trailing early forced that to happen.

But the Cardinals have to improve defensively. Yes, they played on a short field much of the time Sunday because of all the turnovers. But the unit still surrendered two touchdown drives of at least 80 yards and and two of 49 yards.

Arizona needs more stops. The team found that out late in the Washington game and it carried over.

Losing safety Adrian Wilson to a hamstring injury didn't help Sunday. The Cardinals didn't get enough pressure on Favre, either.

But that still didn't explain fully how open the Jets got. After the first touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles – a bullet from a scrambling Favre – the coverage was not good enough.

"We gave him five of those six touchdowns," free safety Antrel Rolle said. "It's nothing we didn't work on in practice. I need to communicate better. We need to be on the same page. There were a few times we weren't on the same page and it cost us."

Cornerback Eric Green joked that he could have thrown many of the touchdowns with the receivers so open. On a personal level, Green said he was doing a lot of guessing in the game, trying in vain to play multiple positions.

Those are not comforting words from a couple of veteran starters.

To top it off, the Cards have made just one takeaway the last three games – and that one, the Okeafor pick, ended with a blocked field goal.

Whisenhunt correctly said the Cards are still in first place in the division, thanks to a tiebreaker against the 49ers and Seattle's bye. But they have two huge home games coming in the next two weeks against teams (Buffalo and Dallas) that are a combined 7-1.

Home is where the Cards need to do some damage in the win column. Better starts – and better defense – are important in making that happen.

Q SHOWS UP

As I noted on my blog earlier today, Boldin made an appearance at the team facility Tuesday. It was brief – he was just there to pick up a suitcase from the recently completed East Coast stay – but he said he was doing OK and looked no worse for wear, save for his slightly swollen jaw. As for the report coming from his dad that Boldin has a fractured sinus membrane, I'm hearing that might not be exactly the case (although I am not a doctor and I didn't even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night).

Speaking of Boldin, lost in the aftermath of his scary injury was the fact his 119 yards receiving game him his 23rd 100-yard game of his career, setting a franchise record. Q had been tied with tight end Jackie Smith with 22 100-yard games.

Larry Fitzgerald, who has 122 yards Sunday, has 16 100-yard games.

SOME NUMBERS

Steve Breaston, who obliterated his career-highs after making nine catches for 122 yards against the Jets, set a franchise record for total yards in a game. His 202 total return yards gave him 324 total yards, topping the 284 Ollie Matson had for the 1954 Cardinals in a game (85 rushing yards, 74 receiving, 135 yards in returns).

Fitzgerald, who has at least 109 yards receiving in three straight games, needs just 41 yards against Buffalo to reach 5,000 yards in his career. Fitzgerald is on pace to have 1,660 yards receiving this season.

In a statistical anomaly directly related to the points-inducing turnovers the Cards have made the past two games, the Cards are now 25th in the NFL in points against but ninth in overall defense – which ranks teams by yards allowed. * * * Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/30/08.

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