TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals' defense had a swagger about it through three games this season.
Arizona had won all three. The Cardinals hadn't allowed a point in the fourth quarter.
Then came an awful afternoon in Colorado.
By the time last Sunday's 41-20 loss to Denver was over, Arizona had allowed 568 yards, the most the franchise had given up since 1973. And there were some very bad Cardinals teams in that span.
It was not the kind of outing Arizona fans had come to expect from defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' squad. Last season, the defense ranked fifth in the league overall and first against the run.
The defense enters Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins depleted but determined.
''We've never ever since this D-coordinator has been here and this team has been put together had an outing like that,'' defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. ''It was humbling, but you know you're human and that was just one day.''
To make matters worse, the Cardinals lost defensive end Calais Campbell and outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy to injuries. Campbell sprained his knee when he was the victim of an illegal chop block and is out one to three weeks. Shaughnessy has cartilage damage in his knee and was placed on injured reserve/designated to return. He must miss the next eight games.
After Campbell left, the Broncos moved the ball on the ground.
''We gave up 4 yards rushing in the first half and about 90 in the fourth quarter, mostly from mental errors - nothing physical,'' coach Bruce Arians said. ''Guys were in the wrong gaps and wrong alignments, so we have to get those young guys up to speed and a little more responsible when they have to get on the field and play.''
Rookie Karim Martin, a third-round draft pick out of North Carolina, will see more playing time in Campbell's spot. Several others also will get a chance there.
''Calais is a star in this league and without an opportunity, he would never have been a star,'' Rucker said. ''Someone has to take their opportunity and rise to the situation.''
Second-year pro Alex Okafor will get his chance in Shaughnessy's absence. Okafor, a defensive lineman at Texas who was moved to linebacker by the Cardinals, played in one game as a rookie before being placed on injured reserve with a biceps injury. Then, after a strong offseason, he tore a quadriceps muscle against San Diego in the final preseason game. He finally returned to play against Denver.
''At first it was frustrating, but you've got to keep your head up for opportunities like this,'' he said. ''Earlier this season I got hurt but they told me about three to four weeks. I just made sure I stayed conditioned, stayed in shape because I knew further down the line they'd need me and I'd have my opportunity.''
Arians said he was pleased with Okafor's ability to put pressure on the passer, something that's been a problem for the team. But Shaughnessy is one of the team's best run defenders.
''Since I'll be in his place, I have to do the same thing for us,'' Okafor said, ''for us to maintain that good standard in defense, and I plan on doing that.''
The defense's biggest problems were against the pass, with Peyton Manning shredding them for 479 yards and four touchdowns.
''We didn't play a good ball game. We didn't coach a good ball game,'' Bowles said. ''They got some big plays over the top on us that we normally don't give up, and we can't let that happen this week.''
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie called it the worst game of his career.
Demaryius Thomas repeatedly burned him for eight catches and a Broncos record 226 yards.
Arians said he expects the Redskins to target Cromartie until he shows he can stop them. Bowles expressed confidence in his player.
''He's ready. He's been through it before,'' Bowles said. ''A lot of technique things we talked about and went over this week and I think he'll be fine.''
Bowles tried to put the game in perspective.
''At the end of the day it was one loss,'' he said. ''Nobody wants to lose and we don't feel good about it. They beat us pretty good. We have to take our butt-whipping. They made some plays. You've got to give credit to them. But we've got to come back and play. It's a long season. It's a 16-round season, we've got to win the rounds.''
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