Defense holds 49ers down, lifts Cardinals up

Dec 12, 2011, 1:41 AM | Updated: 2:27 am

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the Arizona Cardinals
defense is playing at an exceptionally high level.

The San Francisco 49ers had the ball 14 times Sunday, and
they gained more than 20 yards on a drive five times, and
gained a total of 26 yards in the fourth quarter.

That’ll do, defense.

“The field position was bad in the first half,” head coach
Ken Whisenhunt said.

That’s putting it mildly.

The 49ers had drives that began at their 14, Arizona’s 43,
their own 33, Arizona’s four, their own 43, they’re own 22
and the Arizona 16. The net result was 12 points.

In total the 49ers had the ball in the red zone three
times, and three times they were kept out of the end zone.

“I think our defense, the best thing about us is we
respond,” defensive end and weekly monster Calais Campbell
said. “When we get put in tough situations, I feel like
right now what we’re doing is we’re not feeling sorry for
ourselves, we’re standing up and making plays that we need
to.

“We’ve got to respond.”

The defense has done just that, which is why they are
getting a lion’s share of the credit for the team’s
turnaround. The Cardinals have won five of their last six
games, and have beaten a pair of likely playoff teams in
their last two.

They’ve done it with a pass rush that has accounted for 10
sacks over the last two games and a run defense that held
the 49ers to just 90 yards on the ground. The Cardinals
didn’t force any turnovers, but they were stout. They were
good. They were a safety net.

“We just had so many guys make plays,” Whisenhunt said.

That’s how a team overcomes bad field position, a -3 in
the turnover department and an offense that scored a
paltry seven points in the first half. The game never
really got out of hand, which allowed the Cardinals to
climb back in and, ultimately, win.

“It’s incredible to know that if you do make a mistake,
you make a turnover, its not automatic points,”
quarterback John Skelton said.

So if you’re wondering how the Cardinals, who had lost
five straight to the 49ers, emerged victorious Sunday,
your answer is pretty simple.

“You start with the defense, that’s where it really
starts,” Whisenhunt said. “They held them and made them
struggle, and then we made some plays offensively.”

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Defense holds 49ers down, lifts Cardinals up