Week 1 for the Arizona Cardinals was a rough one. They not only lost their home opener against the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots, but they also allowed 363 total offensive yards, including being picked apart by Brady’s fill-in, Jimmy Garoppolo.
While Garoppolo has had plenty of time to prepare for this game, he still shouldn’t have been able to make it look quite as easy as he did, completing 24-of-33 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown.
It didn’t stop there either, as running back LeGarrette Blount totaled 70 yards and a score, and Garoppolo wound up hitting six different players with completions. In the end, the defense allowed 23 points in the 23-21 loss, and questions were flying about what needed to be fixed heading into Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it seemed as though they could be in for a real test in Week 2, as quarterback Jameis Winston was fresh off a four-touchdown performance against the Atlanta Falcons. Could the Cardinals improve on third down defense (the Patriots went 10-of-16), and would they be able to generate more pressure than they did against Garoppolo, who was sacked just twice?
These questions got answered pretty quickly against the Buccaneers, and all signs are pointing up for this defense. While the Cardinals had three sacks against Winston, they totaled an impressive eight quarterback hits. To go along with that, the Cardinals defense intercepted Winston four times and allowed him to total a completion percentage of just 51.9 percent.
In the total yards category, the Buccaneers totaled just 306, while going 5-of-13 on third downs. Those numbers are even more impressive considering that the Buccaneers were down 24-0 at halftime and playing catch up the entire second half.
To put it simply, the Cardinals defense is fixed, at least for one week. The good news for Arizona is that they won’t face another very strong offense until taking on the New York Jets on October 17.
Before that, they draw the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. The bad news is that from there they face the Jets, Seattle Seahawks, and Carolina Panthers, who all have plenty of offensive weapons.
The exact answer to the question of whether Arizona’s defensive issues are now put to bed is more of a “for now” type of deal. They’ve shown that they can be a top-tier defense, but consistency is going to be big for this unit. The Cardinals have an exceptionally talented offense, and their defense, on paper at least, should be able to do their part as well.
While Week 1 was a bit of a disaster, we saw a well-rounded team in Week 2, which is the group who many predicted to be one of the Super Bowl favorites for the 2016-17. At the very least, things are looking up and trending in the right direction for Bruce Arians and his loaded roster. Let’s see how the next few weeks play out before passing our final judgments, though.