Arizona Cardinals’ defensive gem was worth the wait
The superb play of the defense has observers of the Arizona Cardinals optimistic about the team’s chances for next season
In what has been a mostly disappointing 2017 campaign for the Arizona Cardinals, something unique has come out of it. It took until week 16 for it to happen, but it was worth the wait. The fans who attended last Sunday’s game at University of Phoenix Stadium certainly got to witness something special.
The Cardinals’ 23 to nothing shutout of the New York Giants was the franchise’s first in 25 years. The team had only been in Arizona for four seasons when the last one occurred. They were called the “Phoenix” Cardinals at the time, Joe Bugel was the head coach and that particular defensive gem took place at Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium.
Coincidentally, that shutout also came against the Giants. New York’s offense could generate just eight first downs and 131 total yards during that contest. Their quarterback, former Card Kent Graham, completed just seven of twenty-one passes for 54 yards and two interceptions.
Phoenix’s defense in 1992 was loaded with talent. Players like Eric Swann, Ken Harvey, Tim McDonald, Eric Hill, Freddie Joe Nunn and Michael Bankston were the main cogs. Maybe the best one of all, Aeneas Williams, would go on to have a Hall of Fame career.
More from Raising Zona
- Arizona Cardinals: Could Eric Bieniemy come to the desert?
- Would Jonathan Gannon be a good fit for the Arizona Cardinals?
- Arizona Cardinals: Budda Baker right in his take regarding the next coach
- Arizona Cardinals: 3 reasons new coach should want to work with Murray
- Arizona Cardinals special teams could be completely revamped in 2023
The unit’s coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, was an experienced 60-year old who had been around the block. When injuries struck the linebacking corps that season, the assistant came up with a scheme called the “Big Nickel”. The alignment consisted of five defensive backs who lined up near the line of scrimmage, positioned in a way that allowed them to play both the run and pass equally.
The 2017 version of the Cardinals defense isn’t led by a grizzled veteran like Shurmur. Instead, a 39-year old named James Bettcher is running the show. His group has been excellent, ranking sixth in the NFL this year, second last season and fifth-overall in 2015.
After a shaky start, Bettcher’s boys have done a bang-up job over the last few weeks. If Arizona had it’s offensive weapons healthy, who knows what kind of run this squad could’ve made. If Cards’ management can keep this group of defenders together going forward, then perhaps their fans will get to see what heights can be reached in 2018.