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Defense Has A Nose For The Ball

Posted Aug 17, 2013

Jefferson grabs two interceptions as Cards force six turnovers against Dallas

Safety Tony Jefferson makes the second of his two interceptions at the end of Saturday's 12-7 win over the Cowboys.

In just about eight months, Bruce Arians has made himself a hefty list of Arians-isms, sayings those around him on a daily basis can recite from heart.

One common refrain during training camp is about the Cardinals – new and old – building a résumé. After Saturday’s 12-7 win over the Cowboys at University of Phoenix Stadium, it looked like rookie safety Tony Jefferson has been listening to his coach.

His two interceptions were one-third of the Cardinals’ turnovers, padding his personal resume and helping the defense’s identity come into focus.

“That’s just something I focused on this whole past week,” Jefferson said. “I had a good week of practice and prepared well for today.

“Sometimes they had us backed up against a touchdown and we were able to force turnovers and when your defense is forcing turnovers, it makes it more likely for your team to win.”

They’ve been the Cardinals’ calling card throughout the preseason, totaling eight in two games. And they allowed the defense to keep the Cowboys and Packers out of the end zone. The Cards had a shutout streak intact until the 10:55 mark of the fourth quarter, a span of more than seven quarters.

“We have to come up with a good fine for the players who gave up the first points of the year,” Arians said with a smile. “I’m sure the veterans will come up with a good fine.”

Not all of the turnovers, however, were a product of quick hands, anticipation or defensive coordinator Todd Bowles disguising coverages. Some started up front. Powers’ interception and Tony Jefferson’s first pick came when Dallas was pressing to get out of their side of the field. And Dallas was on the 50 for Jefferson’s second.

But Arians, whose goals this preseason was to win – an aberration from most of the league who don’t put much stock into wins and losses – was pleased overall with his defense’s nose for the ball. It was something that was contagious.

After the Cardinals went three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, Justin Bethel stripped Dallas’ Dwayne Harris on the punt return and Stepfan Taylor recovered the fumble. The turnovers died down for the rest of the quarter until early in the second when linebacker Jasper Brinkley appeared to be everywhere.

Off a short pass from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, running back Lance Dunbar cut back toward the backfield, running a circle around Brinkley before taking off down the Cowboys’ sideline. Yeremiah Bell knocked Dunbar off his run and, as the running back’s legs were above his head, he lost control of the ball. Brinkley picked it up gingerly, trying not to knock the ball out-of-bounds.

“Just being in the right place at the right time,” Brinkley said. “I should’ve pinned his hip. It was my bad play. We’ve got 11 erasers out there. One guy messes up and another guy cover up for him.”

On the Cowboys next drive, Powers stripped wide receiver Dez Bryant as he was going down and Brinkley scooped it up. Brinkley guessed the last time he had two fumble recoveries in one game was in high school.

But Powers wasn’t done. He intercepted Kyle Orton late in the second.

“I thought we did well but you know that old saying: It’s never as good as it looks and it’s never as bad as it seems,” Powers said. “So the main focus is we don’t like giving up yards. I thought we did give up a little too many yards. The main thing is if you can stop your opponent from scoring and create turnovers, you’re going to put yourself in position to win a lot of ball games.”


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