Nearly three quarters of games around the NFL this week were decided by one possession or less, and the Arizona Cardinals made sure they weren't involved in one of those games.
Blowouts are a rarity in the NFL, but the Cardinals have consistently found themselves on the right end of lopsided competitions under head coach Bruce Arians and Sunday's victory over Tampa Bay was no different.
The Cardinals' 40-7 victory over the Buccaneers brought life back to a locker room that expressed obvious disappointment following a week one loss against New England, but even though the team's players were excited about the win, Arians suggested the Cardinals didn't come close to playing up to its capabilities.
"We'll continue to grow and continue to get better on the practice field," Arians said at his Monday press conference. "There's a lot of things to be corrected, the score doesn't indicate how poorly we played offensively and we can get a hell of a lot better. Communication was not very good in the beginning of the game, way too many mental errors, especially by a couple of younger players."
When Stanton was in the game, the Cardinals ran 12 offensive plays, went three-and-out twice, and gained just 31 yards total as the team struggled to bleed the clock.
"To keep pressing it, especially offensively. I wasn't really pleased with the last nine minutes," Arians said. "We pride ourselves on not having three-and-outs, of course I didn't throw the ball the last time, but we should have run the ball better, run that clock out."
Arians was much more satisfied with the overall effort of the Cardinals' defense Sunday, but said the unit's failure to stop the Buccaneers out of the half was one of the most disappointing series of the contest.
With the Cardinals ahead 24-0 entering the second half, the Buccaneers marched down the field on an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive in which Arizona struggled to make critical tackles.
"That's all we talked about," Arians said of keeping the Buccaneers off the board. "I was very disappointed by the first five minutes of the third quarter with our defense missing the tackle on the screen pass."
Though Arians expressed plenty of areas the Cardinals can grow in, Arizona's head coach still kept sentiments positive following the team's first win of the season.
Arians was especially impressed by the way his defense played in the first half, and said that the way Arizona finished the half was a textbook example of what the Cardinals should strive for in each game.
"Defensively I thought we ran and hit hard, played very physical," Arians said. "Again some communication stuff, but that's normal at home with all the crowd noise. Again the crowd was fantastic and I thought it was the best finish to a half we've had in a long time, with both sides. The offense scored, the defense got the ball back and the offense scored. That kind of really flipped that game around."
After struggling to defend the Patriots on third down in the opening week of the season, Arizona was much-improved in that regard against Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers converted on just 5-of-13 attempts. The team's secondary play was boosted by the efforts of recent acquisition Marcus Cooper, who snagged a pair of interceptions including one he returned 60 yards for a touchdown to help put the game out of reach.
"Game balls, Tony Jefferson, he had a heck of a game and Marcus Cooper," Arians said. "Nobody offensively or special teams really stood out."null