Arizona Cardinals: Defense showing some glaring weaknesses

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Tyrann Mathieu
(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Tyrann Mathieu /

The defense of the Arizona Cardinals has the potential to be one of the league’s best units if not for a couple of sore spots

For a good portion of Monday night, the Arizona Cardinals were playing some stout defense. Ezekiel Elliott was finding very little running room. The passes that Dak Prescott was completing were short, and inflicting limited damage.

Then came the fourth quarter, however. With roughly 12 minutes to play, Prescott found wideout Brice Butler for a for a 37-yard touchdown. The pass-catcher had gotten free in the end zone after faking Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel out of his shoes.

Arizona’s fourth-quarter defensive woes continued around seven minutes later. This time it was Tyrann Mathieu’s turn to get beat. Butler was once again the culprit.

After hauling in Prescott’s throw, Butler hit the ground but got to his feet after it appeared initially that he wasn’t touched down. Replays showed however that Mathieu had placed a hand on the Cowboy just before he got to his feet, and the ball was placed at the Cardinals’ 22-yard line.

The fact that the Dallas touchdown was reversed didn’t ultimately matter. Elliott would score from eight yards out just three plays later. The Cardinals were down by 11 points with under five minutes to play, and their chances of winning had severely diminished.

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The touchdown that Bethel surrendered was the third fourth-quarter score he’s allowed in this extremely young season. Arizona’s starting cover guy opposite Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson had actually played decently up until that point. Unfortunately, when the game is on the line, Bethel crumbles like a Drake’s Coffee Cake.

As for Mathieu, he’s just not the same player that was an MVP candidate just two years ago. The chunk play he gave up to Butler is becoming more common these days. Does anyone think he’s worth the five-year, $62.5 million extension he signed last summer?

While the Cardinals defensive line shouldn’t be considered a weakness, it certainly isn’t anything to write home about. The unit lost it’s only star component when defensive end Calais Campbell bolted for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coordinator James Bettcher has attempted to make up for the loss by heavily rotating their linemen.

Opposing offenses have figured out what to attack on the Cardinals defense when it’s crunch time. Bettcher has to find ways to remedy the problems. If not, the losses will start to pile up and Arizona’s 2017 campaign will become a lost cause.