Saturday, September 8, 2012

Notes On The Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals lose a lot. In fact, no team has won fewer games since the advent of the 16-game schedule in the NFL back in the 70s. Ken Whisenhunt has done his best to battle this, bringing a couple division titles to the desert. His team was among the most underappreciated 8-8 teams in the NFL last season. They featured a Top 10 defense and the most dynamic special teams unit in all of football. Dissecting their season uncovered some trends the Seahawks, and their fans, should be aware of.

Comfortable in close games

The Cardinals did not win a game by more than seven points last season. They were undefeated in four overtime games, including the final game of the season against the Seahawks. They only lost one game when allowing fewer than 20 points, which was to the Seahawks in Seattle. This is a team built to keep games close and win down the stretch with special teams and dominant play from Larry Fitzgerald.

Uncomfortable in high scoring games

The Cardinals allowed more than 21 points seven times in 2011. They were 0-7 in those games. Seattle averaged just over 20 points/game last season, but averaged only 16.5 versus the Cardinals. 

Opponent touchdown passes are rare, but deadly

Arizona finished 5th in the NFL in opponent touchdown passes, allowing only 17 all year. However, things do not go well when opposing teams get at least two touchdown passes in the game. The Cardinals were 1-5 when this happened in 2011.

Accustomed to seeing their quarterback get hit

The Cardinals allowed two or more sacks in every game last season, and that was with a healthy left tackle. They allowed three or more sacks in 11 (!!) games last season, and were essentially unmoved by it, as they finished 5-6 in those games.

Slow starters

There were only three games in 2011 when the Cardinals led at halftime. Two of those were against the Seahawks. 

Too much passing is a bad thing

Despite having the best wide receiver in the NFL, this team did not do well when passing was too large a part of their game. Seven of their eight losses came when they were forced to throw the ball 30 or more times in a game. 

Efficient passing is rare, but big for them

The Cardinals do not complete a high percentage of their passes very often. They eclipsed the 60% mark only five times last season, but were 4-1 in those games. Their only loss was by three points to the Seahawks.

This is  a team that defies convention. Turnovers don't mean they always lose. Having their quarterback get annihiliated is not a death sentence. Starting slow does not hurt much. Holding down their offense is almost expected. Finding a way to find traction on offense can force them into throwing the ball more, which can lead to even more sacks and more turnovers. 

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