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Cardinals finally figuring out their own defense

The defense hasn’t been completely dismal in defensive
coordinator Ray Horton’s first season, but small mistakes
here and there helped add up to six consecutive losses.

That, however, seems to be changing, with the Cardinals
rolling off two straight wins, both of which the defense
played a key role.

Against the Rams, the Cardinals forced St. Louis to go
three and out in their first possession of overtime, which
paved the way for Patrick Peterson’s awesome 99 yard punt
return. The D followed that performance up by shutting
down Michael Vick and the Eagles, helping the team win its
first road game more than a year.

With the past two performances, Horton believes his system
is finally sinking in.

“I hear how they talk now and before they wouldn’t say
anything about what they were looking at,” Horton said.
“The other team, they were so worried about what they were
doing, I think now they understand what they’re doing and
so they can digest the information we give them about sets
and fronts and motions and looks and they start talking
about the 49ers offense and that’s how I know they’re
getting it.”

Even though the defense is finally progressing, Horton
says that his unit is far from mistake free.

“The results were probably an A, but getting there was
probably a C,” Horton said about grading Sunday’s
performance against the Eagles. “We left a lot of plays
out there missed tackles, dropped interceptions, called
back interceptions — penalties, so work in progress.”

Currently the Cardinals rank 22nd in total defense, so
there is room for improvement, but the area of
concentration for Horton is the pass defense. The team
still gives up an average of 255 yards per game through
the air.

“What we try to stress is give them the short stuff and
don’t give them the big stuff and we’ll win games,” Horton
said. “This league is, unlike the great game of female
soccer, every once in a while they’re going to score some
points and make some plays.”

The defense will learn just how much it has improved, as
the team travels to Candlestick to take on the 8-1 San
Fransisco 49ers Sunday. Horton knows his defense will be
tested against a rejuvenated Alex Smith and 49ers offense.

“He [Smith] probably understands the game a little bit
better,” Horton said. “It looks like the game has slowed
down for him and he’s making good decisions. He’s probably
the same quarterback he always was and maybe they’re just
better around him.”