Sep 15, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; The Arizona Cardinals defensive line squares off against the Detroit Lions offense during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The Cards and defense have been a good combination in recent years and going into 2013 there were several questions as to what this defense will look like. The comparison to Ray Horton’s defense of last season has been the consensus talk around the sports talk world.
I even wrote a column about Todd Bowles defense last week questioning the comparison, leaning heavy on the Ray Horton defense being much better.
After the showing by the defense today against a pretty dynamic offense in the Detroit Lions led by Mathew Stafford and the magnificent Calvin Johnson, the Cards may have giving us hope that this defense will be something special, and has a chance to even be better than last years defense.
I think that the experience that the defense gained today will begin to build confidence in what they are doing. Getting better pressure up front and the defensive backs did an awesome job for the most part covering receivers, mainly in the second half.
When Calvin Johnson scored his second touchdown it appeared that the Lions were poised to run over the Cards defense like a Mac truck, leaving Peterson one on one with Megatron all day would have been a disaster. The coaching staff did a good job in the second have rotating help toward Johnson, and Peterson begin to cover better after getting used to the scheme of the Lions.
The defense only got one turnover today and that came on a miss handle of the exchange between the Lions Reggie Bush and quarterback Mathew Stafford. The key to the defense today was the tackling got better and the DB’s covered a lot better and the special teams were excellent, coming up with a blocked field goal by Justin Bethel at a very critical portion of the game.
Patrick Peterson had a very difficult first half trying to stay with Calvin Johnson, giving up 2 touchdowns, and one on a 72 yard big play where Johnson got free on a quick slant and went the distance. That play was able to happen because linebacker Karlos Dansby gambled on getting a pick and the pass was so fast and perfect from Stafford he could not get his hands on it and ended up flying past the play, leaving Johnson with a wide open field. The second touchdown of Johnson, Peterson got caught in a pick play and was late to catch up on a fade route in the corner of the end zone.
After those two scores the defense stiffened up and begins to press cover at the line of scrimmage and throw off the timing routes of the Lions receivers, and they were physical in doing so.
The Cards defense held the Lions to 3 consecutive three and outs in the second half and also ended 2 drives after only one first down. The running game of the Lions was held to only 49 yards rushing all day, which is excellent considering they were 28th in the league last year in run defense. The Cards did a good job stuffing the middle from the running game, being very physical at the point of attack and the backs did not get to the second level much all day.
In the crucial drive after the Cards got the lead back at 25-21 late in the fourth quarter, the defense had to make one final stand and bring home the win. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu proved again this week why he was worth the risk as a high third round pick.
Mathieu lined up in press coverage on a fourth and 4 against wide out Nate Burleson, and he man handled the receiver at the line of scrimmage throwing off the timing of a quick slant, which forced Burleson’s route to be short of the first down, Mathieu continued to drive right threw the receiver after the catch and made a great physical tackle to end the Lions hopes.
The Cards get the first win on the season and the first win for head Coach Bruce Arians.
I hope today’s defensive play can be the start of what we will see during the course of the season. Being able to hold down good offenses and play a physical style that will cause more turnovers. We will see if it continues next week as the Cards will go on the road to a hostile environment in the New Orleans Silver Dome against the Saints, and it will be a challenge to slow down Drew Brees and company, but if they play like they played in the second half of today’s game, there may be a chance to get an upset next week.