The Arizona Cardinals have won three games in 2013, and one pattern has remained consistent. In all three victories, Todd Bowles’ unit has shut out the opponent in the second half.
But Sunday’s blank job over the final 30 minutes of play against the Carolina Panthers had a different feeling to it.
“The swag we had on defense,” said Calais Campbell when asked what was the key to the Cardinals’ defense in the second half of the 22-6 victory. “Everybody stayed together. So many guys made plays. If we play like that, man we can be scary.”
Campbell certainly had his hand (two sacks, forced fumble and safety) in the defensive dominance, but even he had to admit that the ‘scary’ part had a lot to do with the return of inside linebacker Daryl Washington.
Washington, who missed the first four games of the season due to a league-imposed suspension, came back with a vengeance Sunday. The 2012 Pro Bowler had a team-high nine tackles, two sacks and a key red zone interception to start the fourth quarter.
“That guy is special,” said Campbell. “I love playing with him, because there’s nothing he can’t do. He makes my job a lot easier, because people have to worry about him so much. They leave me alone sometimes. One hundred percent that guy is the best linebacker in the game right now.”
Another member of the Cardinals’ defense who also benefited from Washington’s presence was fellow linebacker Karlos Dansby, who moved over to the ‘Mike’ position to make room for the former TCU standout.
Dansby recorded his first two-sack performance since Sept. 2007 and sealed the victory with an interception of Panthers quarter Cam Newton late in the fourth quarter.
“He’s the truth. Hands down, he’s the truth,” Dansby said of Washington. “I love having the opportunity to play next to him and to see that kind of speed and the football savvy that he has. He played well, real well today.
Washington, though, was tad more low key when discussing his 2013 debut.
“I didn’t even know what kind of game I had,” Washington said. “I wanted to come out here and play the best football I could.
“I thought in the first half, individually, I started off slow. Once I got into my rhythm of playing the game and trusting the scheme, it made it a lot easier on me. I was able to perform well.
‘Well’ is probably a little bit of an understatement, considering the Cardinals recorded a season-high seven sacks and kept Newton from scoring a touchdown — pass or run — for the first time this season.
Regardless, the proof is in the pudding no matter what word is used to describe Sunday’s performance. With Daryl Washington in the lineup, the Cardinals’ defense is a force to be reckoned with.