Both proved their value in Arizona’s 17-14 victory over the sputtering New York Giants on Sunday. The Giants also pitched in to aid greatly in their own demise.
Smith rushed for a pair of touchdowns for the first time in two seasons and Arizona sacked Kurt Warner six times, including four by Berry, and the revived Cardinals (4-5) handed the Giants (5-4) their third loss in four games.
“You don’t win very many games when you only score 17 points,” Arizona coach Dennis Green said. “And we didn’t get any turnovers, so we had to do it the hard way. We had to slug it out.”
After Warner was sacked seven times in a loss to Chicago a week ago, the Cardinals emphasized applying pressure.
“We knew that he tends to hold the ball quite a bit, a little bit longer than most quarterbacks,” Berry said.
New York coach Tom Coughlin placed the blame on a lack of protection.
“We worked 70 percent of the time last week against the pressure package, the blitz package, and acted like we never saw it before,” Coughlin said.
Then there were the penalties, 10 of them for 97 yards. Infractions by New York aided all three of Arizona’s scoring drives.
“As poorly as the offense played, particularly in the second half, I still felt like we had a great chance to win had we not penalized ourselves over and over,” Coughlin said.
The Cardinals had three penalties for 15 yards.
The cry in New York to play rookie Eli Manning won’t subside after this one. Will Warner start next week?
“I’ll think about all those things when I look at the tape,” Coughlin said. “But I expect right now the answer is yes.”
Smith rushed for 67 yards on 19 carries—and 30 of those yards came on Arizona’s go-ahead touchdown drive. He had scoring runs of 2 and 3 yards en route to passing 18,000 yards rushing in his career.
Arizona won its second straight, improved to 3-1 at home and is just a game back in the weak NFC West.
“We understand that we let a few slip away at the beginning of the season,” Berry said, “but we were growing at that point. We’re continuing to grow, and this was a big step in that growth process.”
New York’s Tiki Barber rushed for 108 yards on 21 carries, but had only 28 on nine attempts in the second half.
“They decided to sell out and stop the run, and we weren’t able to respond with anything in the pass game,” Barber said. “We didn’t protect Kurt, and that put us in a bad position as the game went on.”
New York’s futility included a bizarre fake punt, with punter Jeff Feagles throwing incomplete in an odd formation with players spread out all over the field.
With Arizona trailing 14-10, Karl Williams’ best punt return of the season— 38 yards—put the Cardinals at the Giants 37. Reggie Taylor sacked Josh McCown for a 12-yard loss, but a hands-to-the-face penalty against Will Peterson negated the play.
Smith’s 3-yard burst up the middle put the Cardinals up for the first time, 17-14, with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
He has eight touchdown runs this season, an NFL-record 163 for his career.
“Down there, you have to be cutthroat,” Smith said. “There’s not enough time for a lot of shake-and-bake. You have to have a nose for the end zone, and I feel like I’ve had a nose for the end zone for a long time.”
New York’s hopes for a comeback ended when Karlos Dansby, who had two sacks, deflected Warner’s pass on fourth-and-2 at the Giants 33 with 1:04 to play.
The Giants’ offensive line pushed the Cardinals around like playground bullies on a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives to start the game.
“It was like we could do anything we wanted to, then what happened?” Warner said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why we couldn’t do it the rest of the game.” ^Notes: Berry has nine sacks this season. … Coughlin thought the Cardinals jumped offside on New York’s final offensive play. … Neither team had a turnover.