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Cardinals defense recovers from slow start in win over Browns

Glendale, Ariz. — The Cardinals have four games in a row,
and six of their last seven. In that time the defense has
morphed from a group that anyone could score on to one
that gets key stops whenever it needs them.

Sunday was no different.

The Browns took a 17-7 lead on a 76-yard touchdown pass
with roughly three minutes left in the third quarter, but
gained just 66 yards the rest of the way, a period that
included the entire fourth quarter and one possession of
overtime.

So, in reality, it’s no wonder that the Cardinals not only
came back in the game, but ultimately won it.

“I think our offense rubbed off on them a little bit
because they didn’t start as fast as they have been, but
boy they really stood up when they had to and that was
big,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said of the group.

The Cardinals defense did struggle early on, surrendering
a 7-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to open the game and the
aforementioned score in the third quarter. Allowing one of
the league’s worst offenses to pile up 17 points was,
well, a little unexpected.

“The thing that’s different about our team is that even
though we struggled a little bit defensively, the guys
were still together on the sideline and they were talking
to one another about how we could improve,” Whisenhunt
said. “There was confidence that we were going to get a
turnover, that we were going to stop them.”

The Cardinals did both, with O’Brien Schofield collecting
back-to-back sacks in the third quarter, the second of
which led to a Cardinals fumble recovery. Arizona tied the
game up a few plays later, and the defense was once again
in control of the game.

Schofield, who said he was just trying to get up the field
as fast as he could on the plays, said his speed led to
the first sack. But the second, which was on the very next
play?

“[Darnell Dockett] told me to get up field as fast as I
could and he would smash the tackle, he did that and I was
able to run free and get a sack and forced fumble,” he
said.

But that wasn’t enough. Lost in the hoopla of the
Cardinals’ close wins is that in two of the three overtime
battles the defense has been on the field first. If they
don’t get a stop, the special teams and offense don’t get
a chance to win the game.

“I never for a second thought they would take it down and
score,” quarterback John Skelton said. “I think our
defense there at the end of the game, they flip a switch
the same way our offense does and they did a great job of
getting us the ball back with great field position.”

And that’s just the thing with this defense; so many
different guys are making plays, and if all goes according
to plan they can be a real force.

“If we play the defense right, it is going to work,”
Schofield said.

That may just be the scariest thing of all. No one on the
defense feels like they’ve “arrived,” and even Whisenhunt
said there were plays left out on the field.

“I’m disappointed that we had opportunities to make plays,
to make sacks,” he said. “Those are things you have to
overcome sometimes and we did that.

“That says a lot about our team.”