2011 Cardinals Week 4: Five observations

Five things I noticed while watching the Arizona Cardinals during their 31-27 home defeat to the New York Giants:

  • Ray Horton wasn't lying. The Cardinals' defensive coordinator promised to blitz. He sent seven pass-rushers after Eli Manning when the Cardinals were protecting a 27-24 lead with 2:46 remaining. The Giants had seven blockers in protection. That meant Arizona had four defensive backs against three receivers. Manning threw the ball within two seconds of taking the snap. Hakeem Nicks caught it at the 7-yard line. Cornerback Patrick Peterson was in coverage, but had no safety help against one of the elite receivers in the game. That was problematic. Strong safety Adrian Wilson was scrambling over but was still about 10 yards away when Nicks made the winning touchdown reception.

  • Andre Roberts was invisible. The Cardinals' No. 2 receiver finished the game with more tackles (one) than receiving targets (none). A penalty negated the only play featuring Roberts as a target. Kevin Kolb targeted three tight ends, two running backs and a fullback. He targeted receivers Larry Fitzgerald (11) and Early Doucet (six) a combined 17 times. Roberts has been targeted 15 times this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Seventy-three wideouts have been targeted more times through four games. The trend appears likely to continue as long as Fitzgerald is healthy, Doucet gets ample third-down work from the slot and multiple tight ends factor as well.

  • Campbell doesn't know his own strength. After dominating at Seattle in Week 3, defensive end Calais Campbell rocked the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw and forced him to fumble on the Cardinals' first defensive series. That play was tough to miss. Another less visible one impressed me at least as much. Campbell was rushing from the inside on second-and-7 late in the second quarter when the Giants' left guard, David Diehl, came over to help center David Baas on the play. Campbell, while still locked up with Baas, extended his right arm and decked the 6-foot-5, 304-pound Diehl with a shove to the chest area. I watched the play several times to see if someone had stepped on Diehl's foot, but that did not appear to be the case.

  • Wells' power changes the the Cardinals. Giants defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy had his arms around Beanie Wells' legs near the Arizona 12-yard line. Jason Pierre-Paul and Greg Jones were there too. Wells somehow emerged from the pile and advanced the ball to the 20, where Michael Boley finally dragged him down. Wells is averaging 2.7 yards per carry after contact, which ranks tied for fifth in the NFL. He has gained 152 yards after contact; each of the five players with higher totals also have at least nine additional carries. Wells ran over the Giants' Corey Webster with such force at the goal line that Webster, who had gotten too low and dipped his head, flew onto his back and lost his helmet.

  • Fitzgerald showed up as a blocker. The Cardinals' receiving leader drove Giants safety Kenny Phillips to the ground to help Wells find the end zone with 10:28 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals were running from a tight formation against an 11-man box. Phillips might have made the tackle had Fitzgerald not cleared him out of the way. Fitzgerald also made a key block on Wells' 39-yard run in the fourth quarter. He threw his body into former teammate Antrel Rolle, getting the worst of the collision but getting the job done. Wells' running behind rookie fullback Anthony Sherman also caught my attention. Sherman appeared more consistent in this game than he appeared earlier in the season. He also gained 19 yards on a reception. The Wells-Sherman combination could be a very good one for Arizona if they get enough time on the field together.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Wells fares against Minnesota in Week 5. More than two years ago, Kevin Seifert and I considered whether Wells or the Vikings' Percy Harvin would be more productive as rookies. Harvin ran away with that one thanks to his special-teams production and the Vikings subsequently adding Brett Favre at quarterback. Wells has come on strong this season.