TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals' hearts may not be at home.
Although home-field advantage is desired throughout the playoffs, the Cardinals might actually be in a better position to advance to Super Bowl 50 by playing at Carolina in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Panthers.
Arizona has been a better team both offensively and defensively away from home this season. One theory coach Bruce Arians had was the schedule -- the Cardinals played just two road games against playoff teams.
The Cardinals went 7-1 on the road this year, losing at Pittsburgh in Week 6. They’ve scored more points on the road (262) than at home (227), which was highlighted by five away games of 30 or more points -- including three of 40 or more points at Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia. (Remember, they scored 39 at Seattle.)
They’ve also gained almost 300 more yards away from University of Phoenix Stadium. However, they scored three fewer touchdowns (29) on the road than at home.
Arizona’s quarterbacks had a higher completion percentage on the road (63.3 percent) than at home (62.3). The Cardinals also averaged 4.31 yards per carry during road games compared to 4.16 in home contests.
One reason for the Cardinals’ success on the road is that the offensive line kept its quarterbacks upright more often than at home, allowing 12 sacks on the road and 15 at home. It might not be directly related, but Cardinals quarterbacks threw three fewer interceptions on the road than at home.
Arians said one reason the Cardinals were better offensively on the road was because they were used to playing with a silent count. Arizona was forced to use it at home starting in Week 3 when San Francisco came to town. The Cardinals also used it significantly in Week 16 when Green Bay visited for the first time.
Though Arizona managed just 11 sacks on the road and 25 at home, and had five more interceptions at home (12) than on the road (seven), defensively there were areas where the Cardinals were better as a road team.
They allowed three fewer touchdowns on the road and held opposing quarterbacks to a 57.8 completion percentage, compared to a 62.2 clip at home. The Cards also held opposing quarterbacks to 6.8 yards per attempt on the road against 7.02 at home.
“We’re better defensively [on the road] because we can actually hear each other,” Arians said, referring to the crowd noise inside University of Phoenix Stadium when opponents are on offense.