Cardinals' defense shines in first shutout since 1992

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sunday's performance was the crowning achievement for the Arizona Cardinals' defense in what has been a weekly improvement during the second half of the season.

The Cardinals held the New York Giants scoreless at University of Phoenix Stadium in a 23-0 win, their first shutout since Dec. 12, 1992 -- coincidentally against the Giants.

What it means: The victory gave the Cardinals seven wins on the season, making them one step closer to achieving a .500 record. It held the Giants to 1-of-13 on third-down conversions and no first downs on the ground. Eli Manning threw two interceptions and went without a touchdown. And New York's leading rusher was Wayne Gallman, who had 18 yards.

What I liked: The Cardinals' defense has been steadily improving as the season has progressed, but Sunday's shutout was one of its best performances. It included two interceptions, both by safety Antoine Bethea, a fumble returned for a touchdown by defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and two sacks. The Cards' run defense, which entered Sunday as the sixth-best unit in the league, held the Giants to 43 yards on the day.

What I didn't like: It doesn't matter who's at quarterback for the Cardinals, they're going to get hit. And hit a lot. Drew Stanton was hit three times and sacked twice on Sunday. It was just as much a result of having an inexperienced offensive line -- especially at tackle, with rookie Will Holden on the left side and John Wetzel at right. But even when Stanton wasn't hit, he threw two interceptions to offset his two touchdowns.

Fantasy fallout: Whoever started Larry Fitzgerald got a big Christmas gift -- just in time for their championship game. Fitzgerald had 119 yards and one touchdown, giving him around 18 fantasy points.

Three-peat for Fitz: Fitzgerald became the oldest player in NFL history with 100 catches and 1,000 yards in a season when he reached both milestones on Sunday. This is his third straight season with 100 and 1,000, and the fifth of his career. His 100th catch came on a 13-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.

Nkemdiche gets a TD: Who needs sacks when you can get touchdowns? Nkemdiche has yet to get a sack in his two-year career, but the defensive tackle scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter, recovering a fumble and returning 21 yards for the score. It was the first big defensive play of Nkemdiche's career -- a play that the franchise has been patiently waiting for.

What's next: The Cardinals will conclude their season with a shot at going 8-8 at the Seattle Seahawks on New Year's Eve.