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Arizona Cardinals Beat the Bills 41-17: Defensive Report Card

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The Arizona Cardinals defense looked like a completely different unit than the group that took the field the past two weeks. The Red Birds brought the pressure from the outset and caused problems for the Bills offense all game long. By the end of the day, the defense had caused four turnovers and registered five sacks.

Defensive Line: The defensive line was in full force for the first time this season with Gabe Watson returning to the lineup and it's hard not to be encouraged by the results. Watson had a good game anchoring the middle of the defense and finished with a late sack and forced fumble. Antonio Smith made his first big play of the season when he shot the gap on on the Bills first offensive series to blow up a hand off between JP Losman and Marshawn Lynch. The result was a fumble that he recovered and the Cardinals' first touchdown, just over two minutes later. Darnell Dockett didn't have any highlight reel plays but he was effective making plays and he recovered a fumble that he returned 13 yards. Calais Campbell continues to impress as a backup and his days as a starter could come sooner rather than later. The D-line did a decent job of shutting down the Bills running game, holding Marshawn Lynch to 55 yards on 13 carries (4.2). The overall running game stats for the Bills don't look too terrible considering that they finished with 84 yards on 17 carries (4.9 avg), but 22 of those yards came on one play which raised the yards per carry a full yard. Grade: A

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Linebackers: The linebacking corps had a great game combining for 23 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. Travis LaBoy had his second multiple sack game of the season and he tied for the team lead in tackles with seven. He continues to look like a great free agent signing who is capable of getting to the quarterback on any Laboy2_medium
given play. When he fully wraps his head around the OLB position and improves in pass coverage, he just might be a truly special player. Karlos Dansby finished with half a sack and seven tackles, including two tackles for loss. Gerald Hayes checked in with five tackles including one big hit on Robert Royal that led to a fumble. Clark Haggans performed very well in the reserve role with three tackles and 1.5 sacks. Chike Okeafor had a underwhelming game though with just a single tackle. Overall the linebacking unit had a great game and this is what they're capable of on a weekly basis if Clancy Pendergast commits letting them play aggressive, fast and loose. Grade: A

Secondary: The secondary took it's lumps on Sunday by giving up another big play but overall, the performance wasn't too bad. The big concern for the secondary will be the status of Roderick Hood after he left the game with an injury, but we should know something about that by the end of the day. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie stepped into his spot and DRC, as well as Antrel Rolle, got burned on Lee Evans 87 yard touchdown. Outside of that one play though, DRC performed pretty well in his first significant playing time, finishing with a tackle and a pass breakup. Eric Green had a good game finishing with two tackles, two pass breakups and an interception. As well as Roderick Hood has played this season, if Eric Green can string together a couple of games like this one, the secondary would be greatly improved. Antrel Rolle finished the game with five tackles but the one play that sticks out is the bomb to Evans. He's got to get better about staying deep and not biting on play action. The hero of the secondary was undoubtably Adrian Wilson. He's the heart and soul of the defense and everyone else feeds off of his energy. Somehow he didn't manage to register a single measurable stat but he still made the play of the game, knocking Trent Edwards out of the game on the Bills third offensive play. The secondary, overall, made plays but they also allowed the Bills to make some big plays and until they get better about limiting the deep pass, they'll remain the glaring weakness of this defense. Grade: B-

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Overall the defense did it's part in disrupting the Bills offensive flow and made it tough for them to move the ball or establish any kind of rythm all day long. This defense may not be elite or even respected by those around the league, but they've got the play makers to cause problems for any offense. Thoughts? Agree/Disagree with the grades? What can be done shut down the big plays in the secondary?