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Grading the Defense: Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears

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Coming off a disappointing loss against the Carolina Panthers, Kurt Warner wasn't the only Arizona Cardinals' player with something to prove this past weekend. The Cardinals' defense, namely the front seven, had some serious questions to answer after allowing the Panthers to run rough shot over them just seven days prior. Standing in their way would be a Chicago Bears team that was undefeated at home and one of the league's more complete running backs in Matt Forte. Needless to say the Cardinals defense had their work cut out for them and here's a breakdown of how they performed.

Overall Defensive Performance: Depending on how you look at it the Cardinals defense was anywhere from very good to very marginal. From the "very good" department, the defense only allowed two drives of 45 yards or longer but the two "very bad" drives were both 90+ yards and resulted in touchdowns. From the "very good" file, with roughly one minute left in the third quarter the defense had allowed just 200 yards on the Bears' first seven drives, 90 of which came on their opening drive, but the Bears also racked up another 180 yards on their final four drives (including a 93 yard TD drive). One thing is pretty clear, the defense either started to fail or relaxed in the fourth quarter resulting in most of their overall numbers looking very average. it is worth mentioning however that portions of the fourth quarter were played with backups like Will Davis and Kenny Iwebema. By the time the game was over the Bears' offense had racked up 417 yards from scrimmage (averaging 6.6 yards per snap) and had scored 21 points.

Rush Defense: It's pretty fair to say that the Bears' abandoned their run game early in the game considering that they played at least 3/4 of the game from a two touchdown deficit. For the game they attempted just 12 rushes, although they did average 5.8 yards per carry. Forte led the way with 33 yards on five carries while (the other) Adrian Peterson and Jay Cutler added another 40 yards on the ground with their five combined carries. Their running game simply never had a chance to get on track and was limited to draw plays out of shotgun for most of the game, a scenerio the Cardinals are quite familar with.

Pass Defense: Normally when a team gets behind early they are forced to air it out for the rest of the game and that was certainly the case for the Bears. Cutler set season highs in completions (29), attempts (47), yards (369) and touchdowns (3) and posted a very respectable 98.6 QB rating. Most of his completions were a result of their short passing game where YAC receivers like Devin Hester and Johny Knox could excel, although two of his most successful deep balls were to tight end Greg Olsen. The Cardinals registered four sacks but more importantly they continously pressured and knocked down Cutler. Pressure from guys like Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Chike Okeafor and Clark Haggans were a big reason why the Bears were limited to short passes for most of the day.

Honor Roll:

Karlos Dansby and Ali Highsmith: Thanks to a back injury that prevented Gerald Hayes from suiting up, Highsmith got his first start as a pro and the defense didn't seem to miss a beat. There were times that he got pushed around but his energy and athleticism also made him an asset once the Bears turned pass-happy. Dansby did what he normally does, leading the team in tackles despite the Bears lack of a running game.

Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell: There may be better 3-4 defensive ends in this league but the way DD and CC are playing right now, I don't know that I'd trade them for any other pair. Dockett was his normal disruptive force and his second sack of the season. Campbell, regardless of what the boxscore says, recorded at least half a sack, if not a full sack (the sack that was awarded to Okeafor). One thing that really stands out about Campbell though is that he never gives up on a play. At least once a game it seems like he'll make a tackle ten yards down field while a back tries to wiggle through the secondary.

Matt Ware: We haven't talked much about Ware this season but if you me, that's a good thing. Ware has stepped into Aaron Francisco's role and has been a moster upgrade. He's not a great cover safety but he does alot of things well and so far the Cardinals are using him in a way that allows him to succeed. He registered his first career pick late in the fourth quarter.

Will Davis: Welcome to the NFL rook! Davis recorded his first career sack and don't look now but he's starting to get a couple of snaps a week with the defensive unit. He's already proving that he has the athletic ability to play in this league and his relentless motor and ability to get off blocks led to his fourth quarter sack on Cutler.

Overall Defensive Grade: C+

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Overall the Cardinals defensive effort can classified as good with plenty of room for improvement. One thing that will stick with me for a while is how dejected Jay Cutler looked after he continually got hit by the Arizona Cardinals. Very rarely do you visibly see a player quit, especially a quarterback, but he was very close on Sunday. As the game wore on he got up slower and slower as the hits kept coming and quaterbacks in the future will recognize that on tape. The Cardinals feel like they're building something special here and there were glimpses of that on Sunday. What's you're grade for the defense?