Thursday, December 6, 2012
Cards down, but Horton's defense shines
By Mike Sando
The Arizona Cardinals' ongoing offensive decline comes as the team's defense continues to rise under second-year coordinator Ray Horton.
The defensive improvements date to a 19-13 victory over St. Louis in Week 9 last season. The trend has continued this season as the Cardinals have continued to rank among the league leaders in a range of categories.
Arizona's defense was at its best in holding New England to 18 points and later picking off Atlanta's Matt Ryan five times. The Cardinals also held Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers below 50 percent completions, although Rodgers did connect on four touchdown passes, some requiring pinpoint throws and outstanding catches against tight coverage.
The Cardinals' defense has traveled well, in other words. That is a potential concern for the Seattle Seahawks as they prepare for what otherwise looks like a favorable matchup against a struggling opponent. Arizona has, after all, lost its last eight games. But as the chart shows, defense has not been the problem since Week 9 last season, a span of 21 games.
Separate from the chart, Arizona ranks among the NFL's top 10 this season for road defense in the following categories: interceptions per attempt (first), yards per game (third), yards per play (third), passing yards per game (third), Total QBR (fourth), net yards per pass attempt (fifth), third-down conversion rate (seventh), goal-to-go efficiency (seventh), first downs (eighth), points allowed per game (eighth) and red zone efficiency (ninth).
Horton, who interviewed for the St. Louis Rams' coaching vacancy last offseason, figures to have additional opportunities following this season. Losing him would set back the defense in Arizona, most likely.