The Cardinals took another body blow this week when Pro Bowl linebacker John Abraham left the team to ponder retirement.
The defense wobbled a bit on Sunday afternoon against the Giants, but rather than just absorbing the hit, it showed it still has a counter-punch left.
While Giants quarterback Eli Manning found success through the air and moved the ball effectively for portions of the game, the scorecard finished in the Cardinals’ corner: Only two touchdowns allowed and three forced turnovers in the 25-14 victory to move the team to 2-0 on the year.
“I know what we can be, and I know what we can do, so I want to be perfect,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “But I know
this is the NFL and those guys get paid, too, so it’s not going to happen. All in all, we had a great performance.”
Two of New York’s drives ended with a turnover in Cardinals’ territory, the first on an interception by linebacker Sam Acho in the opening quarter and the other on a fumble recovery by safety Rashad Johnson as the Giants attempted to tie the game in the fourth.
While the Cardinals took care of business, the defense felt like it lived too dangerously. The Giants totaled 341 yards compared to the Cardinals’ 266, averaging 5.0 yards per play.
“You’ll take a win – and 14 points and four turnovers normally gets you a win –and we’re happy we were able to stand tall when we needed to in the fourth quarter, but we’re not pleased with our performance today,” Johnson said. “We gave up a lot of plays by not playing our technique and not doing our jobs.”
The four-man pass-rush did not create a lot of pressure. The Cardinals hurried Manning mostly with blitzes, and besides Campbell – who finished with a team-high 10 tackles and a sack with another sack-fumble wiped out by penalty – the defensive line did not get much penetration.
It in turn put stress on the secondary, and Manning finished 26-of-39 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. The second scoring drive
was impressive and put the Giants ahead 14-10, but the Cardinals rallied back to take the lead and didn’t allow the Giants to find the end zone again down the stretch.
“They were hitting a lot of quick routes and making plays with the ball after that,” said Johnson, who had six tackles and a sack in addition to the fumble recovery. “We just adjusted our coverage, tightened up, and knew it was on us. We just tightened up and played more aggressive.”
Abraham had 11½ sacks last year and his absence was notable. He has a couple days left to decide whether he’s going to call it quits or return to the team.
“With a four-man rush, we should be getting there more often,” coach Bruce Arians said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed that somebody’s coming out of retirement Monday.”
The Cardinals have allowed an average of only 15½ points through the first two games against a pair of proven quarterbacks, but there is the desire for more. While the result on Sunday went in their favor, the defense is not yet satisfied.
“It looked good, but there’s a standard that we set here,” cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. “We want to make sure we’re not below that standard.”