Since the Cardinals came to Arizona they have had one continuous problem facing them - winning on the road. Prior to this season the team has won just 18 games out of 80 on the road in the past 10 years. This year the Cardinals came into Sunday winning one game on the east coast(Jacksonville Jaguars), and one game in one of the hardest stadiums to play in(Seattle Seahawks). Now the Cardinals were faced with coming on the east coast and playing one of the best teams in the NFL, the New York Giants. No one really gave them a shot to win this game. They would prove those naysayers wrong as they came into the Meadowlands and played one of the best games the Cardinals have ever played on the road.
Defense: The Cardinals have always had the talent to have a good defense since Whiz took over, the problem has been getting them to play consistent. They came out against the Seahawks and made a statement by forcing three turnovers and four sacks all while allowing just 167 total yards. Sunday, against the Giants, they face a task of sacking a quarterback that has some of the best protection in the NFL and a quarterback that rarely turns the ball over. They would stand up to the task and force Eli Manning to throw three interceptions, three all year, and three sacks, three all year. They would also force Ahmad Bradshaw to lose a fumble. They would allow 17 points in this game but that really should have been 10 as the Giants scored off a fluke play that had Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tipping a ball up into the air and Hakeem Nicks returning if to a 62 yard touchdown. If this defense continues to play like this the Cards will have a great chance of winning every week.
Beanie Wells: Beanie picked a good night to have his best night of his young career as he carried the ball 14 times for 67 yards and 1 touchdown. This would prove to be crucial as he kept the opposing defense honest that allowed Kurt Warner to run a better play action, even though the passing game was not exactly stellar. The Cardinals will need Beanie to continue to run like this to get back to that balanced offense they had in the playoffs. The one thing that Beanie needs to work on is holding onto the football as he had another fumble, not lost. The fumbling problem is a rookie problem and should get fixed over time but it still needs to be pointed out.
The Passing Game: Kurt Warner had a rough nite on Sunday despite throwing for over 230 yards and a touchdown. Usually when you give Warner time in the pocked he will pick apart the opposing defense but in Sundays game he often overthrew or missed his receiver that could have possibly gone for a touchdown or a big gain. Warner also threw one intercepiton in this game. Luckily Beanie Wells had a great game otherwise the Cardinals might not be talking about a great win against the Giants.
Penalties: These continue to hurt the Cardinals every week and they have got to start not shooting themselves in the foot with them. There were several drives in which the Cards had a good opportunity to stop a drive or drive down the field to score. One of these notable drives was when the Giants were 3rd and 12, they would have simultaneous offsides penalties moving the Giants up to 3rd and 2nd. These penalties would allow the Giants to convert and drive down the field. Luckily they were able to force a punt rather than allow a score but they cannot give opposing teams second chances like that. On offense the most notable drive that did not go anywhere was in the third quarter. The Cards had the ball on the Giants 40 and it was 2nd down. The Cards would have a holding penalty and a chop block penalty that would back them up to their own 35 yard line and would be 2nd and 27. These type of penalties have got to be cleaned up.
Turnovers: Turnovers will generally happen in games but the way they generally happen for Arizona has got to stop also. Tim Hightower lost a fumble on the opening drive on the Giants 27 yard line. The Giants would not score off of this but the Cards could have started the game off with getting the lead first. The other turnover was by Kurt Warner that happened on on their own 24 yard line. Warner's interception would lead to the Giants scoring first with a touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs. Turnovers generally do not happen at good times but for the Cardinals they always seem to happen at bad times. Beanie Wells also had a fumble but it was kicked out of bounds so they never lost possession of the ball.
Alan Branch: Branch continues to play well this season as he had a couple sacks in this game. Both sacks would be his first sacks of his career. Branch has also gotten pressure in key situations in other games and has deflected a couple of passes, one leading to a pick. Branch is starting to look like the player we thought we were getting when we drafted him with the 1st overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft.
The Cardinals now have sole possession of first place in the division and will look to increase their lead with a win of the Carolina Panther next week here in Arizona. What did you think of the Cards / Giants game?