Cardinals in prime location
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Arizona Cardinals conquered their House of Horrors, thanks to an opportunistic defense and big plays by their veterans.
Arizona erased some bad memories in its last regular-season visit to Giants Stadium, forcing four turnovers and bewildering Eli Manning with its blitzes in a 24-17 victory last night.
The Cardinals finished 3-15 at the Meadowlands, but this win lifted the defending NFC champions into first place in the West Division at 4-2 with their third straight win.
Kurt Warner, who was 6-2 as a starter with the Giants in 2004, threw one TD pass and got plenty of help from star receiver Larry Fitzgerald and a staunch defense led by safety Adrian Wilson.
Wilson had an interception and a fumble recovery, Antrel Rolle picked off Manning to clinch it, and less-heralded Cardinals Jason Wright, Tim Hightower, and rookie Beanie Wells found the end zone.
The Giants (5-2) lost their second straight and were let down by, of all people, their normally solid punter. Jeff Feagles struggled, helping to give the Cardinals a solid edge in field position for much of the prime-time matchup.
The Arizona secondary benefited from the confusion the defense caused for Manning, who was 19 of 37 for 243 yards and three interceptions - by Wilson, Rolle, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who left late in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
Rodgers-Cromartie was the featured character in two noteworthy first-half plays that both wound up in the end zone. He ran stride for stride with Domenik Hixon, then leaped to wrestle the ball away from the receiver in Arizona’s end zone in the first quarter.
He went from hero to goat in the second quarter on a bizarre play. In man coverage against Mario Manningham, Rodgers-Cromartie deflected a pass, but it went about 15 yards downfield, where Hakeem Nicks caught it in stride and sped to his fourth touchdown in as many games. The 62-yard play put New York ahead, 14-7.
The Cardinals got some points back quickly. Anquan Boldin, who was questionable with an ankle injury, beat Bruce Johnson for a 44-yard catch-and-run to the New York 19. Neil Rackers’s 30-yard field goal ended the first-half scoring.
The Giants got on the board first after Terrell Thomas picked off Warner. New York went 29 yards on two runs by Brandon Jacobs, who ran over safety Wilson for a 4-yard TD in the second quarter.
Wells tied it with a 13-yard run, his first NFL touchdown, after a mediocre punt by Feagles. In the third quarter, Feagles had a 35-yard punt, and Warner followed with 26- and 27-yard completions to Fitzgerald. That set up Hightower’s 1-yard TD run for a 17-14 lead.
Wilson picked off Manning at New York’s 20 when defensive end Calais Campbell tipped a pass, and third-string running back Wright scored on a 6-yard middle screen to make it 24-14.