Sometimes football statistics can be misleading. If you look at Tom Brady’s stats for the game against the Cardinals, he was 28-46 for 316 yards and a touchdown. If you look at Stephen Ridley’s stats, he gained 71 yards, averaging about 4 yards per carry. Combine those stats with a Patriots defense that limited the Cardinals to 245 total yards, and you would think that would be a recipe for a Patriots victory.
However, the biggest stat that explains why the Cardinals were able to win this game–and how good the defensive unit played–was the Patriots third down conversion ratio. They were 5-15 on third down attempts. Four of the Cardinals third down stops forced the Patriots to kick a field goal rather than extend a drive that could have resulted in a touchdown. If any one of those four field goals ended up being a touchdown, the Cardinals would have lost this game.
The other stat that will never really get reflected in the box score was the play of the game, in my opinion: Kerry Rhodes brilliant coverage against Rob Gronkowski when the Patriots were attempting a game-tying two-point conversion. Rhodes deflected the pass from Brady, and the Cardinals maintained their two-point lead, which turned out to be the margin of victory.
Bottom line: the Cardinals defense made stops when they counted. Those are the kind of plays that win football games. And it’s why the Cardinals now sit atop the NFC West at 2-0.