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Second half is when Arizona Cardinals’ defense really comes to play

TEMPE, Ariz. — They’ve all been beaten by the Arizona Cardinals, but that’s not the only thing the Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers have in common.

Neither one of their offenses scored any points in the second half against Arizona. Each went into the half with the lead, and each finished the game with a loss.

So, why does defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ group seem to undergo a transformation during the 12-minute break?

“We’ve just got to wait for Todd to talk [expletive] to us,” linebacker John Abraham joked.

Whatever it is that Bowles and his staff do, it’s working.

In Sunday’s game against the Panthers, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton completed 14-of-21 passes for 215 yards in the first half, finding open receivers with great precision. In fact, had his wideouts not dropped some very catchable passes, his numbers would have looked significantly better.

Things changed after the half, though, as Newton completed just 7-of-18 passes for 93 yards with three interceptions over the final two quarters.

Newton, along with Mike Glennon and Matthew Stafford, combined to complete 45-of-65 first-half passes for 540 yards and three touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 109.78, but completed just 24-of-53 passes for 239 yards with five interceptions for a rating of 19.30 in the second half of the Cardinals’ three wins.

Not that the defense has been bad in the first half, but it has certainly been great in the second.

“I think great adjustments by the players and the coaches,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “Having seen pretty much what is going on in the first half of a ballgame, there’s not a lot of change usually in the second half.”

Cornerback Patrick Peterson echoed those sentiments, saying offense generally don’t change much from the first half to the second. So, as long as the Cardinals can adjust, they can match up.

“We’ve got a pretty good eye in the sky with [defensive backs coach Nick Kapone] and those guys up in the box taking great notes and coming into halftime making those minor adjustments,” Peterson said. That, he added, allows the players to go out and play fast. And by the looks of it, when the Cardinals defense plays fast, it plays well.

Then again, it can’t just be about coaching. After all, the opponents have coaches too, all of whom are watching the Cardinals looking for weaknesses to expose. But so far it is the Cardinals who have been able to use the intermission to their advantage, meaning the team is not out of any game as long as it is still in it after 30 minutes of play.

“We start off slow just because you’ve got to get comfortable; you’ve got to see what they’re doing,” Abraham said. “Any time you play a team you go through practice, you see a lot of plays, but then you’ve got to kind of get into it.

“You can’t just come off firing sometimes, you’ve got kind of see what they’re going to do and play off that.”

It’s kind of a “punch/counter-punch” scenario, as Abraham said the Cardinals may need to feel their opponent out a bit before going for the knockout blow.

“We know what they’ve got to give and we’re ready to go.”

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