Arizona Cardinals: First quarter grades
By Scott Allen
Sep 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates with safety Tony Jefferson (22) after intercepting a pass against the San Francisco 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The defense allowed 19 points in the opener to the Saints, 23 to the Bears, seven to the San Francisco 49ers and 24 to the Rams. Their best overall play came against the 49ers where they allowed just 156 yards. They also picked off 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick four times, including two returned for touchdowns.
If you had to point out the most valuable players so far the first three names that should come up are safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end Calais Campbell, and safety Deone Bucannon. Mathieu has 23 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble.
Campbell has 25 tackles and 0.5 sacks. Coach Arians said Campbell had his best game of his career against the Rams. He was all over the place so I’d have to agree with that notion.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson has played well as has safeties Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson. Peterson was to blame for a blown coverage touchdown against the Bears but was all over the Rams this past Sunday.
Corberack Jerraud Powers struggled a bit against the Rams but cornerback Justin Bethel has had his moments, including an interception returned for touchdown against the 49ers. Mathieu and Jefferson each have a pick six as well.
The accuracy of opposing quarterbacks has been a little alarming but for the most part the Cardinals have kept the plays in front of them save for the touchdown against the Bears and a couple of long plays allowed to Rams quarterback Nick Foles and his receivers.
The most disappointing half of football in the first quarter as far as the defense went was this past Sunday against the Rams in the second half. Rams running back Todd Gurley ran for 146 yards, 144 of them in the second half. He did a good job of making sure the Cardinals offense stayed off the field in an attempt to come back at the end of the game, running off 20 and 30 yard gains in the Rams final drive.
For the most part there isn’t much to complain about here. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro has done a fine job. He is 7-7 on field goal attempts this season. He did miss an extra point going 17-18. The biggest knock people had on him was his ability to get touchbacks. Post game analysts were getting on him this past Sunday but he kicked them all at least halfway or more into the end zone. You have to give the coverage some blame.
Punter Drew Butler is averaging just 38.9 yards-per-punt however six of his 12 punts have landed inside the 20. One was nailed down at the one-yard line against the 49ers. The very next play linebacker Kevin Minter was able to stuff 49ers running back Carlos Hyde in the end zone for a safety. Those are the kinds of things I look for in a punter. Yardage isn’t everything and field placement is. So far, so good as far as I am concerned.
Of course as I mentioned earlier, David Johnson had a nice kickoff return for touchdown against the Bears. His 108-yard return was the longest play in Cardinals franchise history, breaking a 36-year record held by former Cardinals receiver Roy Green of 106-yards. Johnson did fumble the opening kickoff on Sunday and it cost the Cardinals seven points quickly.