On the other side of the ball, the Arizona Cardinals aren’t officially out of the playoff picture quite yet, but the road ahead seems impassable. Realistically at this point in the season they know they’re simply hoping to turn their season around and charge into 2012 with good momentum.
Although many predicted a blowout by the Cowboys, the Cardinals were able to hang in the game up until the very end, when they blew the opposition out of the water. The offense had some exciting moments, but the real stars were on the defense.
Over the next 12 slides, we will go over some lessons that we learned about the Cardinals in their 19-13 win.
Last week against the St. Louis Rams we saw something special in Beanie Wells as he ran his way to 228 yards—a new franchise record.
He started much more slowly against the Cowboys, putting up just 11 yards in the entire first half. When the second half started, though, he came out of the gates strong. He didn’t manage to put together a 100-yard game, but he did increase his average to 3.5 yards per carry and a touchdown in regulation time.
That’s a pretty good day’s work for Wells.
One of the tendencies the Cardinals have shown throughout the year is that they are prone to penalties—particularly at extremely inopportune times.
Although there were still a few miscues on both sides of the ball, the penalties were nowhere near as endemic against the Cowboys. In fact, compared to many of their performances this year, the Cardinals played a very clean game.
The Cardinals defense has had difficulty bringing down runners and receivers with the first man who comes into contact with the ball-carrier. Against the Cowboys, however, the Cardinals were able to play a much cleaner game defensively than we are used to.
This, perhaps, was the biggest reason that the Cardinals were able to emerge victorious. Since the ball-carriers were generally held to next to nothing, the Cowboys had to earn every single yard as they marched down the field.
While we’re talking about the defense as a whole stepping up, let’s acknowledge that stopping the opposition on third down was key.
The Cowboys were able to put together many drives that looked promising on their side of the field, but which stalled once they crossed into Cardinals territory.
Arizona was able to stop the Cowboys at the far end of their field-goal range, forcing Dan Bailey to miss two of his four tries. Those two field goals ended up being the difference for the Cardinals.
Finally, for perhaps the first time this season and perhaps in his career, Andre Roberts has shown fans why he is the starting wide receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald.
Roberts was a star on offense, pulling in six passes for 111 yards. He wasn’t able to find the end zone, but he definitely contributed towards moving the team down the field on multiple occasions.
This is only the second 100-yard receiving game he has had in his young career and will hopefully mark a positive turning point for him.
Kevin Kolb was sacked five times during the course of the game. He was knocked down and hurried up on countless other plays.
Given those numbers, it’s clear that perhaps the biggest problem for the Cardinals is not whether Kolb is a good fit at quarterback for the team. If the Cardinals offensive line can’t stand up to opposing pressure, then it won’t matter who is under center—the quarterback will never live up to his potential.
It’s a little bit difficult to judge whether Kevin Kolb has calmed down and found his stride as the starting quarterback because of the aforementioned offensive line. That being said, his ball protection skills have certainly gotten better.
Kolb was able to throw for 247 yards and a touchdown. After the first six games in Kolb’s season, though, perhaps the most important thing to consider is that Kolb didn’t turn the ball over once.
One thing we haven’t seen very often from Kolb this season is his athletic ability on the ground. His longest and most impressive run of the day was a 17-yard run for a first down, but there were a couple of other times that he was able to make an impact even when there was nothing available in the air.
Despite a refreshingly sharp offensive showing, Cardinals drives still stalled when it mattered most. There were many opportunities for points that the Cards were not able to capitalize on.
Of particular note was the third-quarter field goal that should—and could—have been a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.
Speaking of the second half, how about the changes in the Cardinals after the break?
An offense that looked characteristically anemic during the first two quarters of the game came out strong on the other side of the field. The defense really stepped up, putting together an almost perfect series of stops.
There is still plenty to work on for the Cardinals, but watching the difference between the first-half team and the second-half team was encouraging.
Sometimes it’s all about the numbers and stats that players post. Sometimes it’s not.
No matter what the stat sheet shows at the end of the game, Adrian Wilson has consistently earned his paycheck this year.
He’s been all over the field finding tackles and creating pressure when it counts. He’s a disruptive force that the offense must account for, which is exactly the type of player every defense needs.
Although he is currently best known for his skills as a punt returner, there’s more than that to Patrick Peterson.
When he was drafted, there was high hope that he would become one of the best cornerbacks in the league. He has clearly evolved into a playmaker over the course of the year, showing better judgment and consistency with every game.
The best part: He is still in his rookie season and probably has nowhere to go but up with time.