ARIZONA CARDINALS

Dealing Cards: Peterson vs. Bryant highlights Monday Night showdown

Sep 22, 2017, 5:26 PM
(AP Photos)...
(AP Photos)
(AP Photos)

TEMPE, Ariz. — By the time the Arizona Cardinals take the field at University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday, every other NFC team will have already played at least one home game this season. The Cards, on the other hand, haven’t been in their own building since their preseason contest with Chicago  – all the way back on Aug. 19.

That should drive up the intensity level for Week 3. As will the fact that the game is on national television against the Dallas Cowboys, of all teams. Add in the rivalry factor, and this one won’t exactly be lacking for drama.

There’s also a marquee matchup within the game to keep an eye on here as well, though. Patrick Peterson is carving out a spot for himself on the list of all-time great corners, and he’ll be predominantly lined up against physically gifted receiver Dez Bryant throughout the evening.

Peterson has reached that rarefied status where opposing quarterbacks rarely even throw to the guy he’s covering much anymore, choosing instead to take their chances with their lesser receivers – but better one-on-one matchups – in other areas of the field. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys don’t really have that luxury, though.

“You know you’re going to have opportunity to make plays,” Peterson acknowledged. “You know balls are going to come your way. You know this team is not going to shy away from you when you have a tier-one receiver like Dez Bryant. So I’m definitely more dialed in than I am throughout the other weeks when I’m getting prepared to guard a No. 1 receiver.”

Many believe the Arizona defense will have to carry the team for awhile until the injury-depleted offense can find a rhythm. With that in mind — plus the likelihood that Dallas is going to have to try to get the ball to Bryant somehow — Peterson is in a great spot to be a potential game-changer on Monday night.

CHALLENGING THE OFFENSIVE LINE

With D.J. Humphries unlikely to play Monday, and Mike Iupati still limited in practice, Arizona continues to deal with a patchwork offensive line for the time being. And that’s not an ideal spot to be in with DeMarcus Lawrence coming to town.

Lawrence leads the NFC with 3.5 sacks through two games and trails only Calais Campbell for the NFL lead. Keeping him as far away from Carson Palmer as possible will be vital for the Cardinals as they try to put some points on the board, and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin knows he needs more from his linemen.

“No. No, I’m not,” Goodwin answered when asked if he was getting the level of play he needed from the right side up front. “And they know it. I’ve tried a new approach – I’m not screaming as much, not as many curse words. But they’ve got to step up. And Jared [Veldheer] knows it. Jared’s been playing right tackle long enough that being over there should not be an issue anymore.”

The right side of the line isn’t even the depleted half of the line, so things could get interesting here. And it goes without saying that winning the battle in the trenches would go a long was for the Cardinals against a team like Dallas.

DEFENSE STEPPING UP?

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher acknowledged that his group didn’t start out strong enough against Indianapolis in Week 2, but he saw encouraging signs as the game wore on.

“I love how we are able to come to the sideline and make sideline adjustments,” he pointed out. “I love the intelligence of this defense. I love the awareness of these guys on this defense. I love how hard they continue to play throughout the course of the game, in regards to that.”

What’s more, Bettcher was impressed with how his group stepped up when the game was on the line.

“I love how we finished. Two three-and-outs, a four-and-out and a turnover the last four possessions of a tight ballgame. That’s what you have to do, defensively, to finish games. And that leads into this week.”

The hope is that the Arizona defense is building some momentum now. Whether the Colts are a weaker team or not, the fact remains that the Cardinals held them to one touchdown in their own building. But the Cowboys have a lot more offensive weapons at their disposal, so the bar will be raised this week.

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