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Arizona Cardinals defense sends message to Patriots, NFL

According to the team’s 2012 media guide, Ray Horton “enters his second season with the Cardinals as defensive coordinator after being hired on 2/9/11. Beginning his 19th year as an NFL assistant, Horton came to Arizona after spending seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the last four years as the team’s defensive backs coach.”

On the off chance Horton is still around for the 2013 version and not beginning his first season as a head coach somewhere, the Cards should add “sorcerer” to his title.

Most of us felt the Cardinals’ defense would be good this season, especially with the way the group finished 2011. But few of us could have predicted they’d be this good.

Horton’s defense is the reason the Cardinals are 2-0 for the first time since 2008, it’s the reason the Cardinals are coming off a monster win in New England against the Patriots, and it’s the reason the team has a shot at getting to the postseason this year even though the offense has done little to help the cause thus far.

Let’s be clear: even before Ryan Williams’ untimely fumble the offense was doing everything it could to give this game away. The Cardinals picked up just 16 first downs, collected a mere 245 yards of total offense, and put together just three drives that lasted more than five plays.

Arizona averaged just four yards per play, and while Kevin Kolb was not horrible, his performance was not exactly what one would classify as a good one. He missed some throws but made some plays, doing nothing to cost the Cardinals a chance at a victory.

And that in itself was enough for the Cards to earn their biggest regular season win since 2009 because Horton’s group made Tom Brady as uncomfortable in the pocket as most of us would be around the QB’s wife and found a way to avoid giving up the big play.

The defense made one of the NFL’s premier passers and top offenses look incredibly pedestrian in their own building Sunday, and in the process sent a message to the rest of the league that states:

If you want to beat the Cardinals you’ll have to go through one of the league’s best defenses first.

Kind of makes you wonder, if only the team had this defense with Kurt Warner’s offense.

But that doesn’t matter, at least not right now. All the Cardinals need out of the offensive side of the football is exactly what they got Sunday in Foxborough: make few mistakes and just enough plays.

Seems easy enough, right?

The Cardinals don’t need a great offense to win games — that much is obvious. As long as they can play 60 minutes of football without messing up, the team will have a good shot at winning the game.

The Baltimore Ravens carried that philosophy all the way to a win in Super Bowl XXXV. Sure, Arizona’s run game isn’t as good and the defense is not quite as dominant (yet), but it has been proven that a team can win big even if it lacks an explosive offense.

It may not be pretty, but it is effective. And it’s exactly how the Cardinals are going to win games in 2012.