The Biggest Early Season Storylines for the Arizona Cardinals
Arizona has done it with defense and special teams. The Cardinals shocked the league by going on the road to New England and knocking off the Patriots in their home opener.
The offense has been stuck in park and ranks in the bottom five in rushing and passing. Yet they have been able to put 20 points on the board in each of the first two weeks and still post wins.
Dating back to last season, Arizona has won nine of its last 11 games, but none of the wins have been by more than six points. Four of those wins have come down to the final play of the game.
Start the slideshow and find out more about the Cardinals' story lines in the first two weeks of the season.
The Cardinals Are Undefeated
It's not a typo. It's not a practical joke. It's a cold hard fact. The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated.
They were expected to beat Seattle at home to start the season, but few people had them going on the road and shocking the Patriots.
With bottom-five rushing and passing attacks, the Cardinals' defense has been amazing. Placekicker Jay Feely has also been spot-on hitting all four of his field goal attempts so far this season.
The last time Arizona started a season 2-0 was 2008. That was the last time the Cardinals matched up with the AFC East in interconference play. It was also the season with the magical Super Bowl run when the Cardinals came up just short against Pittsburgh.
It would be outlandish to think the Cardinals should start booking hotel rooms in New Orleans for the Super Bowl in February now. A trip to the postseason, however, could be in order. Teams that start 2-0 have made the playoffs 64.1 percent of the time since 1990.
Arizona Has Won a Game Started by Each QB
John Skelton started Week 1 against Seattle and the Cardinals won. Skelton was carted off in the fourth quarter with an ankle sprain and Kevin Kolb led the team on the game-winning drive.
Kolb started Week 2 against New England and the Cardinals won.
Heading into Week 3, neither quarterback has made themselves the clear-cut starter. The team has scored the same number of points in each of their starts.The same quarterback question from the preseason is lingering in the regular season.
Kolb might be able to pull ahead of Skelton against Philadelphia, but would need a great performance to regain the top spot on the depth chart.
Kolb Could Get the Start Against the Eagles
Kevin Kolb might get the chance to beat his former team for the second time in as many years when the Eagles visit University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
According to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, John Skelton has been seen walking around but needs to be able to effectively move in the pocket before he can get the green light to get back on the field. There's no certain timetable on it, but Skelton might come back against Miami in week four.
Kolb hasn't been putting up the huge numbers but has been able to put up just enough points to win. He accounted for two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) against New England and chipped in 20 rushing yards on six carries.
Perhaps playing his old team might give Kolb a boost, but it would be difficult to expect him to put up Eli or Peyton Manning-caliber numbers.
Kolb has to capitalize on this opportunity since Skelton could be breathing down his neck in the near future.
The Cardinals' Offense Is Stuck in Park
The Cardinals haven't been lighting up the scoreboard in their wins. They scored exactly twenty points in their season-opening win against Seattle. They put up another twenty points on New England.
And yet it was good enough to go to 2-0.
Arizona stands at 28th in the league in rushing with 74 yards per game. The Cardinals have yet to register a play of 20 yards or more on the ground this season—their longest run is a 17-yard scamper from cornerback Patrick Peterson. Wide receiver Andre Roberts has the next longest rush at 15 yards. Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams have failed to get going in the first two weeks of the season.
The Cardinals' passing attack is worse—30th in the league—averaging a paltry 175 yards per game. Only Jacksonville and Seattle are worse at passing than the Cardinals are.
Arizona needs to get its offense rolling out of the bottom five if they want to stay atop the NFC West with San Francisco. If Arizona didn't have a stellar defense and a great special teams unit, the Cardinals would easily be 0-2.
The Cardinals Defense and Special Teams Are for Real
With the offense being offensive, the defense and special teams have stepped up to keep the Cardinals in games.
Quentin Groves made a key block of Zoltan Mesko's punt in New England to set the Cardinals up with excellent field position. The ball rolled out of bounds at the Patriot 2-yard line and Arizona cashed in on the next play with a Kevin Kolb touchdown pass to Andre Roberts.
The defense kept New England out of the end zone until the fourth quarter, which is an impressive feat. Even more impressive is that Arizona stopped New England on third down on 10-of-15 chances. The Cardinals are 10th in the league allowing just 32.3 percent of third downs to be converted.
Linebacker Daryl Washington is second in the NFL with 23 tackles and has posted double-digit tackles in both games so far. He posted 11 solo tackles and two more assisted ones in the win over New England. Washington is showing why he got a six-year extension earlier this season.
The old adage is "Defense wins championships." Perhaps the Cardinals are starting to put together a playoff-caliber defense.
The Run Could Continue for the Cardinals
The Cardinals' win over Seattle was not much of a shock. The win at New England, the team's first since 1991, was a shock.
The Cardinals could easily continue to shock the NFL if they can take advantage of the schedule they have in the first half of the season.
They host Philadelphia this week and Miami comes into town to close out September. Philadelphia is 2-0 as well but both of their wins have been one-point nail biters.
With the Cardinals' defense playing well and Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick committing turnovers, Arizona could take down Philly for the second straight year. Miami features a rookie quarterback with a pedestrian receiving corps and a resurgent Reggie Bush to lead the ground game.
Perhaps a 4-0 September is not that far out of reach.
In October, the Cardinals visit St. Louis on October 4 in a Thursday night matchup. They return home take on Buffalo before traveling to Minnesota and closing out the month with a Monday Night Football contest at home against San Francisco.
It may not be that much of a shock to see both San Francisco and Arizona with at least six wins when they meet at the end of October.
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