BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. – Talk about being in rare air: the Cardinals are the only team in the NFL that’s ranked in the top five in four categories – Total offense (#1), points per game (#1), total defense (#5) and points allowed per game (#5).
“Rankings are cool, we like to be the top rush defense, (and) the top defense overall. Those are goals you set,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. “Really, it’s just about winning, man. I would love to finish, and have good statistics, and stuff, but it’s all about winning. If you win, then all the rest of it doesn’t matter.”
Speaking of having good statistics, Campbell packed the defensive stats sheet after Sunday’s win over the Packers. Campbell had the third most tackles (6) in the group to go along with his 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and three quarterback hits.
Campbell says it’s nice for Sunday’s stat sheet to reflect how much he’s been grinding this season.
“I’ve been playing my butt off every game, and sometimes things just don’t go your way, but I just kept playing hard,” Campbell said. “I gotta take my hat off to our DBs (defensive backs). They played great, and gave me some opportunities, and it felt good to capitalize on a couple of those.”
“It’s a d(efensive) lineman’s dream, to get pressure on the quarterback,” Campbell said. “Anytime you can get to them early and often, it really affects the rest of the game, especially really good quarterbacks. You can’t beat really good quarterbacks and not put pressure on the quarterback. If you don’t put pressure on them, they’re gonna tear you apart. Our DBs did a really good job giving us time to get there. We had our minds made up all week that we were gonna put pressure on him (Aaron Rodgers), because if we let him hold the ball, he was going to kill us.”
“Those (types of games) are rare. You don’t really get times like that (often),” Campbell said. “Those are one of those rare games that you really feel good being a part of, but you know it’s going to be a lot harder next time we face those guys; it won’t be that easy.”
It was without question, Arizona’s most powerful defensive performance of the season. To come up with 9.0 sacks, hold Green Bay to their lowest yards per play average (2.78) in over nine years, and hand them their worst defeat in the Rodgers era, had to feel good to Campbell and the rest of his guys.
“Aww man, it’s like (being) in the zone. Things are just going your way,” Campbell said. “One guy messes up, another guy’s doing his job so well that he covers for it. It was just so many different guys making plays. I think on defense (on Sunday), that was probably the best I’ve seen (us play), where just so many different guys got their hands in the pile, and made a different play and came up huge.”
Campbell has been pushed hard by his head coach Bruce Arians. Arians has been wanting Campbell to roar loud all season long, like he did against the Packers, because he knows Campbell’s got a lion inside of him that will slay every quarterback in the league if he just lets it out more.
Campbell was recently honored with his second straight Pro Bowl nod, which is an enormous award for him, because it shows his peers, coaches and fans have taken notice of what he’s been doing over the past couple of seasons.
“Those are always great honors, but when I’m out there on the football field, it’s about my 52 teammates,” Campbell said. “Those guys are my motivation. I want to go out there and lay it on the line for them, because we’re brothers; it’s a family hood, and I want to play my best (foot)ball in their honor. The true motivation is the team.”