Improved Defensive Depth Evident

The Cardinals displayed two attributes in the fourth quarter against the 49ers that will serve them well, provided they make regular appearances this year. They were able to control the ball with a running game, going on a 10-minute drive that sealed the game. And they pressured the quarterback late, ending the 49ers' last legitimate hope of scoring with a sack and a fumble.

"That was huge, man," linebacker Karlos Dansby said of the 10-minute drive that resulted in a field goal.

The defense was on the field for just 7:22 of the second half, as the offense played keepaway from the 49ers. That was a good thing, because it seemed like the only way to stop 49ers running back Frank Gore.

"The thing I liked the most was that the second half of that game was a great improvement from the first half," said coach Ken Whisenhunt, "and we've got something to build on and carry that over into this next game."

The improved depth on defense was evident. Weak outside linebacker Travis LaBoy had two sacks, including the final one. His backup, Bertrand Berry, had a sack and caused a fumble.

The Cardinals are trying not to make a big deal out of their fourth opening-day win since 1988.

"San Francisco?" said defensive end Darnell Dockett. "I don't really count that as a win until you start playing the cream of the crop, the Seattles, the Philadelphias, the Buffaloes. Until then..."


--QB Kurt Warner didn't have a turnover last week and played smart and efficiently. He would like to throw more, but he had 30 passes, completing 19.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald was bracketed by corners and safeties most of last week. He had just three catches for 31 yards, but one of those came on a one-yard touchdown.

--WR Anquan Boldin's contract dispute with the team didn't affect his performance. Boldin caught eight passes for 82 yards, all in the second half. When the team needed a first down, it went to Boldin.

--RB Edgerrin James gained 100 yards for the seventh time as a Cardinal. James was steady, not spectacular. He carried 26 times, so backup Tim Hightower might need to start taking some of that workload.

--RB Tim Hightower is the team's short-yardage back and plays on special teams. He had a two-yard TD run and could well lead the team in rushing touchdowns this year.

--TE Leonard Pope caught just one pass for five yards and needs to become a bigger part of the passing game. Pope has good hands, but with WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, there just aren't enough opportunities.

--WR Steve Breaston solidified his hold on the No. 3 receiver's job. He made two big catches and is also an excellent returner.

--NT Alan Branch, a key backup, has a sprained ankle and his status is day to day. Branch's health is important because the Cards already have another nose tackle, Gabe Watson, who is out with a knee injury.

--NT Gabe Watson returned to practice last week on a limited basis. He hopes to do more this week but might be another week away from returning. He suffered a fractured knee cap in the offseason.

--OLB/DE Travis LaBoy paid big dividends in his first game with the team. A free-agent signee, LaBoy had two sacks and caused and recovered a fumble on one of them.

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