Daryl Washington, defense key Arizona Cardinals' win


Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington made coach Bruce Arians look like a smart man Sunday, leading a swarming defense that sacked Cam Newton seven times in a 22-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

In his first game back from suspension, Washington tallied a team-high nine tackles to go with his two sacks and an athletic fourth-quarter interception that thwarted any hope of a Carolina comeback.

After entering the game second in the NFL in run defense, Arizona held DeAngelo Williams to 39 yards on 12 carries. The Cardinals forced Newton to try to beat them through the air, which led to three interceptions and a forced fumble.

We've raved about the Panthers' improved front seven, but it's the Cardinals' defense that has them only one game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West.

Here's what else we learned:

1. The Panthers imploded in the red zone. Newton was sharp early on, but on separate drives, Steve Smith dropped an easy touchdown and Brandon LaFell muffed a fourth-down pass near the end zone. Newton went in a funk after that, showing no touch and scattershot accuracy. It was an undisciplined performance for an offense coming out of a bye week.

2. Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula needs to get Ted Ginn more involved via slants, crossing routes, wide receiver screens and the occasional shot play down the field. One of the team's few playmakers, Ginn has been dangerous after the catch and is second only to Greg Olsen in receiving yards despite sporadic playing time.

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3. How did Cardinals rookie running back Andre Ellington fall to the sixth round of the draft? The former Clemson star is providing big plays in the same role Giovani Bernard plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, a change-of-pace back and a receiving threat out of the backfield. Look for Ellington's playing time to increase at Rashard Mendenhall's expense.

4. The Cardinals didn't miss Levi Brown at left tackle after trading him to the Steelers. Carson Palmer played another bad game, but it wasn't because he was under abnormally heavy pressure from the Panthers' defense.

5. The Cardinals are winning games in spite of their quarterback. Palmer has just four touchdown passes versus nine interceptions, too many of which have been thrown in the red zone.

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