Cardinals Counting On Confidence In Carolina

The Cardinals' run defense was exceptional Saturday against the Falcons, limiting Michael Turner to 42 yards on 18 carries. It faces another big challenge this week in Carolina, and the Cardinals must prove they can take the act on the road.The Cardinals had success against the Panthers earlier this season, limiting them to 113 yards rushing.

The Cardinals lost that game, 27-23, after leading 17-3 in the third quarter.

That performance gives them confidence they can be successful Saturday night in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The run defense was a sieve at critical points this season. The Vikings, Eagles and Patriots ran at will against the Cardinals late in the season.

The Cardinals said then they weren't concerned about the developments. They had clinched the NFC West, and those teams were fighting for a playoff spot. The difference in intensity was clear.

The Cardinals believed they would crank up the emotion for the playoffs, and they did against the Falcons. Coordinator Clancy Pendergast helped by concocting an imaginative game plan that used alignments with three, four and five defensive linemen.

The linebackers were disciplined in filling gaps, and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby was especially effective, finishing with eight tackles, including three for losses.

"We stopped one of the best running backs ... and (the media) are saying we can't stop the run," said defensive end Darnell Dockett. "But we're getting better. We're going to keep a humble head and we're going to keep working. We'll let everyone put their predictions out there and we're just going to get to the lab and keep working."

Their work is cut out for them. Carolina has a dominating offensive line and an even better collection of running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The Cardinals' defense also won't have the home crowd behind them. All season, it's been a group that feeds off emotion, and they are going to have to provide it themselves in Charlotte.

The Cardinals have had trouble all year playing through adversity in a game, and how they respond to mistakes will be key this weekend.

"The development of a good team is being able to really withstand those momentum swings," said strong safety Adrian Wilson.

Quarterback Kurt Warner saw a higher level of commitment in preparation last week, and he knows the Cardinals can't let up.

"I think guys bought in a little bit to this whole playoff thing," he said. "You came into (the first playoff game) and you didn't feel like guys were just happy to be here."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's huge for us. I know next week (the media) won't give us a chance, and that's cool. We're just going to study and work hard and feed off of everyone who doesn't give us a chance." -- Defensive end Darnell Dockett.

TRENDING: The offensive line appreciates the emphasis on the running game the last two weeks. The group has been maligned, sometimes fairly and sometimes not, for the team's lack of production in the running game. The linemen, however, have been adamant throughout that they are capable of run blocking; it's just that they weren't asked to do it that much. Now, they are. The club has averaged just under 100 yards the past two games and almost 4.2 yards a carry. Those are modest numbers, but a dramatic improvement over the first 15 games of the year. They were averaging 71.1 yards a game and 3.3 yards a carry until then.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Anquan Boldin suffered a hamstring injury on a 71-yard touchdown pass against the Falcons. Boldin's status for this weekend's game is in question, and we're not likely to learn much during the week. The Cardinals usually don't reveal much information about injuries.

--OLB/DE Travis LaBoy has missed three consecutive games with an ankle injury and he likely will be questionable for this divisional round playoff game. LaBoy has been hampered by injuries for most of the season.

--ILB Karlos Dansby showed just how good he can be last week in the playoff game. Dansby was a key figure in shutting down the Falcons' run game. He had eight tackles, including three for losses.

--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looks like a steal with the No. 16 pick in the draft. Rodgers-Cromartie is now the team's top cover corner. He tracked Falcons receiver Roddy White throughout the game Saturday and picked off his fifth pass of the season.

--DE Bertrand Berry is playing well when the Cardinals need him most. Berry is starting in place of the injured Travis LaBoy, and is putting consistent pressure on quarterbacks. He had a sack Saturday against Atlanta.


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