Scott Bordow: Some NFL Sundays you want to forget when the alarm rings the next morning. But then there are the Sundays that tease your palate. You see the talent and the hunger and you can’t help but think about the possibilities. The Cardinals’ 24-17 victory over the New York Giants was one of those Sundays.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Some NFL Sundays you want to forget when the alarm rings the next morning.
Your team lost, you’re in a foul mood, and you don’t want to talk about the game around the water cooler.
But then there are the Sundays that tease your palate. You see the talent and the hunger and you can’t help but think about the possibilities.
The Cardinals’ 24-17 victory over the New York Giants was one of those Sundays.
Arizona didn’t beat New York on a fluke play or with a lucky bounce. It walked into Giants Stadium and manhandled the boys in blue.
It was, dare we say it, a Super performance. And yes, the “S” is capitalized for a reason.
“I think people forget that we won the NFC last year,” nose tackle Bryan Robinson said. “You watch the telecasts on TV and after we lost to San Francisco (in the season opener), we had no chance, it’s a wrap, we have an 80-year-old quarterback.
“But us winning the NFC hasn’t died. You have to take that from us.”
This was a litmus test for the Cardinals. They were blitzed by the Indianapolis Colts in their first prime-time performance. Get whipped by the Giants, and they’d be dismissed by much of the league as a team that simply got hot at the right time last season.
Well, that line of thinking can be thrown out with the garbage.
Arizona no longer can be considered a fluke or some one-hit wonder. Not after its performance Sunday. Instead, Arizona has to be viewed as one of the NFC’s elite teams, even if its 4-2 record doesn’t suggest that.
The Cardinals have won three straight games, they’re 3-0 on the road and the schedule gets considerably softer from here on out. It’s not a stretch to imagine Arizona winning 10 games and again running away with the NFC West.
“We’ve been trying to tell people all along we’re good,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. “Maybe now they’ll listen.”
If they don’t, it’s only because they can’t get past the idea that these are the Cardinals, and the Cardinals aren’t supposed to be doing this.
“It’s not like you can see us on the schedule and see an easy win,” Robinson said. “Those days are done.”
Arizona’s old demons could have resurfaced in the first half, when it gave up a fluke touchdown pass and lost two potential turnovers, one a pass Adrian Wilson should have intercepted and returned for a score.
Instead, the Cardinals displayed a maturity and toughness that wasn’t evident a year ago at this time. On the road, against one of the NFC’s best teams, they kept their composure and ultimately they proved they were the superior team.
“I think our team has learned a little bit about sticking together and not panicking,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We feel we can overcome things.”
Nowhere is that attitude more evident than on the defensive side of the ball. A few weeks ago, defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he thought Arizona had the talent to be the No. 1-ranked defense in the league.
It was laughable then.
It’s not now.
The defense forced four turnovers — including three Eli Manning interceptions — and made Manning look like a rookie quarterback instead of a Super Bowl champion. Manning’s only big play was the lucky 62-yard touchdown in which Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie batted a pass into the air and it flew right to New York receiver Hakeem Nicks.
The Giants never did get a handle on the Cardinals’ blitzes and stunts — New York was whistled for several false-start and delay-of-game penalties — and Arizona got contributions from sideline to sideline.
Alan Branch had two sacks. Calais Campbell tipped a pass that turned into an Wilson interception. Karlos Dansby finally showed up and made an impact. Clark Haggans played a terrific all-around game.
Given the opposition, the stage and the three turnovers, it was a better performance than the 27-3 demolition of Seattle a week ago.
“We feel like we have one of the best defenses in the league,” Boldin said. “It’s tough to move the ball on them, let alone score a touchdown.”
After Kurt Warner took a knee to end the game, the Cardinals celebrated on their way to the locker room as if they had won a playoff game.
They knew the rest of the league was watching. They knew what was being said of them. Now it was their turn.
“We didn’t forget how to play ball,” defensive end Bertrand Berry screamed. “They forgot who we were.”
Sunday, the Cardinals made sure that won’t happen again.