Despite getting dominated last week, the New York Giants somehow still own the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
The last two NFC champions meet Sunday night at Giants Stadium, with the Cardinals seeking a third straight victory and the Giants still smarting from their first loss of the season.
New York was riding high with its first 5-0 start since 1990 before a humbling 48-27 loss at New Orleans last Sunday. The Giants gave up 34 points in the first half and 493 yards for the game - their highest total allowed since the Cardinals gained 495 on Nov. 11, 1988.
The vaunted pass rush of the Giants produced no sacks after notching 15 during the undefeated start.
“We just made some mistakes that we can’t make, especially when you’re playing a team of that caliber,” cornerback Corey Webster(notes) said. “So we take the film, we take the whipping that they issued out, and we go back and start working hard and compete.”
The Giants maintained the top defense in the league based on the strength of their performances in their first five games. They’ll likely need to show that form again against Arizona (3-2).
The Cardinals have won consecutive games for the first time this season and improved to 2-0 on the road last Sunday with a 27-3 win over Seattle. Warner - who started nine games for New York in 2004 before Eli Manning(notes) took over - was 32 of 41 for 276 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Fitzgerald matched a career high with 13 receptions for 100 yards and caught his fifth touchdown of the season to lead all receivers. He quickly turned his attention to the Giants.
“Oh, that game is huge,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s really going to be an opportunity to see where we’re at.”
Warner has done an excellent job at distributing the football, with five players having at least 15 receptions and four catching touchdowns.
“Kurt Warner is having a real good year,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He is throwing the ball very well. All four receivers are involved. The tight end is involved. The backs - Tim Hightower(notes) is the third-leading receiver. They have excellent distribution. The numbers are spread around real good.”
While Fitzgerald is considered one of the best receivers in football, it’s a Giant who leads the NFC in that department. Steve Smith is tied for the league lead with 41 receptions and has 525 yards to top the conference.
“We’re going to put him in some different spots and do different things with him,” Manning said about Smith. “He is doing a good job of everywhere he goes, running routes, catching the ball and getting open. We just have to keep doing that with him and all the receivers.”
New York’s fifth-rated rushing attack will be tested by a Cardinals’ run defense that is the best in the league, allowing an average of 59.6 yards per game. The Giants were held to a season-low 84 yards rushing last week.
The Cardinals went 0-5 on the East Coast last year in the regular season before beating Carolina in a divisional playoff game and posting a 31-17 win over Jacksonville on Sept. 20.
“We are excited, but we know it is going to be a great challenge this weekend going on the road playing against this football team,” Warner said. “It is the best we felt at any point during this season. I think we have played our best football the last couple of weeks.”
Manning outdueled Warner in New York’s 37-29 road win last Nov. 23 as he completed 26 of 33 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Warner was 32 of 52 for 351 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Cardinals have lost seven of their last eight road games against the Giants and also want to redeem themselves for a poor effort Sept. 27 in a 31-10 loss to Indianapolis in their last Sunday night appearance.
“I just know we play New York next. I don’t care about stats or any of that,” Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson(notes) said. “We want to win this game. It’s a big game for us. The last time we played on national TV, it wasn’t a good game.”