After such a promising start to the year, the Arizona Cardinals' defense from 2008 decided to return on Sunday night. The Cardinals defense began a few solid drives in the first quarter, but became deflated after a costly turnover by Tim Hightower. A few Peyton Manning completions later and Reggie Wayne was falling over the corner of the end zone scoring the Colts first touchdown. The Cardinals would never regain the lead after that point. Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention that the Cardinals gave up over 500 yards of offense and allowed over 100 rushing yards to one of the worst rushing teams in the league. Where did this team go wrong?
The defensive line - As they say, the game is won and lost in the trenches, which is exactly what happened to the Cardinals. They registered zero sacks for the game, and only pressured Manning on a few plays. The closest they came to a sack was an arm Alan Branch got up in time to disrupt one of Manning's passes which turned into a turnover. Other than that, Manning was able to freely roam about in the pocket and make all of his reads. This is coming from a team that was second in the league through two weeks with 8 sacks. When you give a quarterback of that caliber that much time, you're bound to give up the numbers they did.
DRC - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is now in his second year in the league, and is still developing into a quality starting corner back. Peyton Manning and the Colts offense exploited that tremendously. On the first touchdown given up, DRC was completely out of position while Wayne quietly ran across the middle of the field. According to Ken Whisenhunt, that was a play they had game planned for the Friday before in practice. Obviously we all know that DRC is still a work in progress and we can't expect him to turn into a shut down corner back in less then two years. It's already apparent that teams will continue to target him as an offensive game plan. The Cardinals need to give DRC some kind of support over the top.
Adrian Wilson - Stemming from the last point, I blame some of DRC's coverage issues on Wilson consistently playing so close to the line if scrimmage. Correct me if I'm wrong, but A-dub is a safety, right? Wilson plays a large amount of snaps at or around the line of scrimmage, rather then dropping in coverage. The Cardinals led the league in deep balls given up last year. Is there a connection? I don't know. If Wilson were to occasionally blitz (which is fine because we all know he's one of the best blitzing defensive backs), and drop in coverage the remaining time, the pass defense could likely improve. Aside from that, Wilson also had a horrible game on Sunday. Blown coverages and missed tackles didn't help his national spotlight. Granted, Wilson usually plays phenomenal and I think we can let the occasional bad game slide by. Whether Wilson prefers to play that way, or not, Bill Davis will need to drop him in coverage against the teams that can really air it out.
After a performance like what we saw on Sunday, we can only hope that most of the problems get worked out over the next two weeks. Aside from the emergence of Alan Branch, it's safe to rule that nobody played great against the Colts offense. What problems do you see with the defense so far? What do they need to do to get back to how they started the season?