It was pretty much assumed that the Arizona Cardinals would have a much better offense in the 2013 NFL season. With the arrival of Carson Palmer, the Cardinals would be able to utilize the talents of guys like Larry Fitzgerald. It’s not that Palmer is an elite quarterback, he’s just not Ryan Lindley, which is a huge plus for the Cardinals.
One thing that wasn’t as widely assumed, though, was that Arizona’s defense would be able to impact their games as much as they have. As the Cardinals sit at 3-2 after a week five victory over the Carolina Panthers, it became quite clear that their defense is the catalyst for their success this season.
On Sunday in Arizona, the Cardinals defense absolutely wreaked havoc on Cam Newton and company. The Cards were able to completely stifle the Panthers running game, holding Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert to just 95 yards rushing with none of the three going for more than 40 yards on the ground. They allowed 308 yards through the air, but were constantly putting pressure on Newton, sacking him seven times and forcing him into throwing three interceptions.
Through five games, the Cardinals run defense has quietly been one of the best units in the league. They’re allowing just 79 yards per game, the second best rate in the league, as well as having only allowed one score and forcing two fumbles.
Their pass defense has been more inconsistent, ranking 19th in league allowing 264.4 yards through the air per game. However, when you take into account that they’ve faced two pass-happy offenses in the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions this year, that number doesn’t look as bad. Beyond the yardage, though, they’ve been successful. They’ve only allowed eight touchdowns overall through the air, have forced seven interceptions and have accrued 14 sacks on the year.
The Cardinals defense isn’t on par with some of the elite units in the league, but they’ve been the driving force behind Arizona’s solid start to this season. By playing solid defense, they’ve allowed their offense to play reserved and haven’t had to put the game in Palmer’s hands, something you really don’t want if you’re the Cards. If their defense continues to perform at this level, Arizona could be a team that could compete for a wildcard spot.