First-half woes: Let’s just start Cardinals games at halftime. Over the past three weeks, that’s when the team has started to play, so why shouldn’t that be when the fans start to cheer? Arizona scored three points in the first 30 minutes Sunday, unable to convert on third down except with the help of a penalty. Then they went on a 19-0 tear in the final 30 minutes. But the question has become, why can’t Arizona get its engine started sooner? Are the Cardinals prepared for what opponents are throwing at them? Quarterback Carson Palmer said the energy from the defense rubs off on the offense at halftime. Why does it take so long? It’s going to hurt Arizona sooner or later when a team puts up big numbers before halftime.
Daryl Washington's return to the lineup provided a spark for the Arizona defense.
Dependable defense: There’s one word for the Cardinals’ defense after Sunday’s performance: legitimate. This is one of the league’s top units on all three levels. It has a front line that proved it’s more than just a brick wall for running attacks, it can also get to the quarterback. It has a linebacking corps that, with the addition of Daryl Washington, covers simply everywhere. And it has a secondary that is anchored by Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson. Whatever flaws the defense has, it’s able to mask them with talent. Seven sacks. Three interceptions. A safety. Not a bad day at the office, and it put the rest of the league on notice.
Running away: While the Cards’ running game gave the offense a boost and helped score the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, it hasn’t provided the balance needed. Sunday was the 11th straight game Arizona has not run for 100 yards or more. That’s the longest active streak -- drought, maybe? -- in the NFL. The Cards had 18 rushing yards at halftime and finished with 90, led by rookie Andre Ellington's 52.
D-Wash is back: The best thing to happen to this defense this season took the field with 12:53 left in the first quarter. That’s when Washington made his return after a four-game suspension. His impact was felt immediately. He wasn’t rusty -- maybe just a little slower than usual after Cam Newton caught him on an interception return. Washington gave Arizona the shot in the arm it needed, and he’ll allow the Cardinals to mask any deficiencies that hurt them in the first four games.