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Cardinals' defense shuts down Colts

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Overcoming obvious emotions he feared would arise before the game, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was all smiles after Arizona beat the Indianapolis Colts 40-11 at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.

After Arians shed some tears during pregame warm-ups and greeted opposing coach Chuck Pagano and several Indianapolis players, the Cardinals took care of business against their coach's former team. Arians was the AP NFL Coach of the Year in 2012 while serving the Colts' interim boss as Pagano was undergoing leukemia treatment.

The Cardinals (7-4) earned their fourth consecutive win, and they are now fully engaged in the conversation for one of the two NFC wild-card playoff berths.

Arizona's defense maintained its recent dominating form. The Cardinals limited quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense to 239 total yards. Luck passed for 163 yards and one touchdown, but he threw an interception that linebacker Karlos Dansby returned 22 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.

Arians, who guided the Colts to a 9-3 record last season, might be in line to earn another Coach of the Year honor with his new team.

After beating up on the likes of the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, teams that had a combined 5-25 record, Arians finally got a signature win by defeating the Colts (7-4).

"I don't think there's any doubt. Everybody wanted to see us play a quality football team," he said. "I thought we have been playing quality football teams, but this is definitely one that's in first place and we're going to play another one next week (the Philadelphia Eagles). We've got to be able to do it on the road, because probably in the playoffs we'll be on the road and we've got to learn to win on the road.

While Arians is already talking about the playoffs, Pagano has to wonder what happened to a Colts team that strung together victories over the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos earlier this season. Is this the same team?

"Doesn't look like it right now," Pagano said, "but we are going to figure out a way to get back to being that team that we were before. We're obviously missing some guys that (were not) out there when we won those games. Again, we make no excuses. We have to get it fixed, and we have to get it fixed in a hurry."

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer completed 26 of 37 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns, both of them to Larry Fitzgerald in the first half when Arizona built a 27-3 lead.

Halftime deficits are nothing new for the Colts. They trailed badly in each of their past four games, getting outscored 94-12 in first halves in November.

On Sunday, it was overwhelmingly ugly early.

The Cardinals outgained the Colts 274 yards to 58 through the first two quarters, and all Indianapolis could muster was a 27-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

"It's the same. It's embarrassing," Luck said. "I don't know if I can put my thumb on it, but I think it's a lack of execution. They executed, we didn't. Credit to them. They beat our butts fair and square. So, a lack of execution."

Fitzgerald sandwiched the Vinatieri field goal with his two touchdowns. He capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive on the first possession of the game with a 4-yard scoring reception from Palmer, then hauled in a 26-yarder from Palmer to end a five-play, 80-yard drive early in the second quarter.

Fitzgerald, who had five catches for 52 yards, said the victory "builds a lot of confidence," but he isn't expecting the Cardinals to start receiving tons of national notice.

"We don't care about that," he said. "We know we're probably not going to get a lot of attention anyway."

Arians added, "You're not going to fear us, but you're going to respect us."

The Cardinals scored points on four of their six drives in the first half and would have made it five of six if not for Colts defensive back Sergio Brown blocking Jay Feely's 28-yard field-goal attempt.

Feely converted from 48 and 50 yards later in the first half, then kicked two short field goals in the fourth quarter.

Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall (54 yards on 13 carries) padded the lead with his fifth rushing touchdown of the season, a 5-yard score in the third quarter for a 34-3 lead.

The Colts didn't find the end zone until early in the fourth quarter, when Luck, under heavy duress, hung in the pocket and found tight end Coby Fleener for a 17-yard touchdown.

It was no consolation for an Indianapolis team that continues to fall behind early. Asked where his team is now, Luck couldn't provide any answers.

"That's a good question -- a very good question," he said. "I don't know if I can really big-picture it right now coming off the field getting our butts beat like that. It's hard to. I guess we are sitting at 7-4, but I don't know what that means, either. ... We have to get better."

Wide receiver Michael Floyd, who posted a career-high 193 yards receiving in last week's win over the Jaguars, led the Cardinals with seven receptions for 104 yards.

NOTES: With a 17-yard reception late in the first half, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald became the youngest receiver to reach 11,000 career receiving yards at 30 years, 85 days. The previous youngest to 11,000 was Randy Moss (30 years, 222 days). ... The Colts lost CB Vontae Davis to a groin injury in the second half. He did not return. ... The last time Cardinals PK Jay Feely had a field goal blocked was in 2003, when he was with the Falcons. ... Colts WR LaVon Brazill suffered a back contusion in the fourth quarter and was forced to leave the game.
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