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Arizona Cardinals and the issue of the day

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker (98) celebrates his sack of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) for a 10-yard loss as Atlanta Falcons guard Garrett Reynolds (75) watches during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The issue of the day probably is Larry Fitzgerald. The Adam Schefter trade rumors. The strong Steve Keim rebuke.

It could be Andre Ellington and the moment where the itch is scratched, where he gets the touches you've been craving for him to get.

Despite the obviousness of Fitz's future or Ellington's present, the issue of the day for me is the reason why the Arizona Cardinals beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday; the reason why they are 4-4 with at least a puncher's chance of claiming a wild card spot.

That defense is ballin'.

Sunday's 27-13 win was evidence that if the Cardinals are at least moderately productive offensively -- not spectacular, just steady, solid and relatively error free - they could win some of these games going away.

Ellington had a lot to do with that, obviously, and his breakout game serves as a notice that Rashard Mendenhall should take his time coming back from his toe injury. Is it any coincidence that the Cards won on a day where Carson Palmer threw more touchdowns than picks and only attempted 18 passes? Probably not.

Four interceptions. Four sacks. That's the story. Holding Atlanta without a touchdown until a faulty-looking pass interference call on Tyrann Mathieu in the fourth quarter. That's the story. Another Carson Palmer interception that led to another short field by the opposition that yielded only a field goal. That is the story.

A defense that held the opponent's star tight end to three catches. Given the narrative up until this point, that is the story.

John Abraham was listing all the studs on his side of the ball to, and even he lost track.

"Seeing the defense, the athletes we have, Karlos (Dansby), 58 (Washington), 90 (Dockett), me, 32 (Mathieu), he's an amazing rookie, 26 (Rashad Johnson), we've got so many numbers, 21 (Peterson) -- I keep forgetting him," Abraham rattled off. "There are so many numbers you can call."

There are so many that Abraham forgot to list Calais Campbell. That's OK.

The defense has been the guiding force in every win so far this season. There have been flaws; there always will be. The opposing tight end has been a thorn all year. The epic drive by the Niners was tough to stomach. And of course Sunday, Matt Ryan was on the road without his top two receivers.

But the fears of this unit losing its effectiveness minus Ray Horton, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes and four games of Daryl Washington have been dashed. This unit is playoff worthy. If the offense can build off of Sunday's performance, the same might be said for the entire team.

About the Author

School: Got my degree from NAU. Spent a year at U of A and a summer at ASU. I root for no one/everyone.
When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: August of 1998
Favorite sports memory: co-hosting the post game show for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series until five in the morning with Brad Cesmat and Craig Grialou. Close second: on the field at the end of ASU 19 Nebraska 0.
Favorite all-time athlete: Randy Johnson. No one in any other sport was better.
Favorite sports movies: Sports: Field of Dreams, The Natural, Moneyball. Non-Sports: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Silence of the Lambs


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