Cardinals' defense getting greedy

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Pointing to turnovers as a key variable can be a cop-out in place of real analysis. Not so with the Eagles and Cardinals heading into their matchup in the NFC Championship Game.

The Cardinals turned six Carolina turnovers into 23 points in the divisional round. They picked off Jake Delhomme five times. A week earlier, they picked off Matt Ryan twice and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Arizona has 37 points off turnovers in the postseason.

During the regular season, the Cardinals led the NFL in opponents' fumble recoveries with 17, a sign that they hit hard, strip the football well and pounce on it when the ball is free. Two plays against the Panthers demonstrate this point:

  • In Week 8, Karlos Dansby sacked Delhomme, stripped the ball and recovered it all in one continuous motion.

  • In the playoff game, Antonio Smith pulled off the same trick in more spectacular fashion. He beat his man with a spin move and swung his hand down on the ball in one motion. He fell on the ball right away.

Both turnovers came deep in Carolina territory. Both led to quick touchdowns for the Cardinals.

The Eagles are also opportunistic. Cornerback Asante Samuel has seven postseason interceptions, tied with Rodney Harrison for the most among active players. Philadelphia picked off Kurt Warner three times when the teams played in November.