It took longer than the Arizona Cardinals hoped, but on Monday night, head coach Bruce Arians' squad put together a complete performance en route to a 28-3 victory over the New York Jets, marking the first time this season the Cardinals have won back-to-back games.
Prior to defeating the San Francisco 49ers nearly two weeks ago 33-21, the Cardinals were 1-3 and tied for last place in the NFC West. Now, Arizona is within two games of first place Seattle, and can narrow that deficit with a head-to-head win on Sunday night.
The Cardinals will need to overcome a bit of adversity, though, as the team is playing on short rest thanks to a Monday night game that prevented the team from being able to practice in pads on Wednesday morning.
"It was a good start to the week, a lot of good focus," Arians said. "Obviously we could not go into pads being less than 48 hours since we played a very physical game which is part of the scheduling problems but it was a good practice anyway."
The Cardinals have put together six consecutive quarters of strong football dating back to the midway point of their Thursday night victory over San Francisco, and they've done so by keeping the ball on the ground on offense and in the hands of second-year back David Johnson.
On Monday, Johnson became the first running back to tally 100 yards rushing against the New York Jets this season and extended his streak of notching 100 total yards to six straight games to start the season.
Long known as a pass-first offensive coach, Arians said his philosophy hasn't shifted with Johnson in the backfield, but his presence has allowed the Cardinals to open up their offense and achieve more balance.
"We've always wanted to run it, we haven't always been able to. With the running back situation, we've been able to run the football and that makes it a whole lot easier, especially on the quarterback. But no, the philosophy hasn't changed, we're still who we are."
Arizona didn't connect on a single downfield shot against New York, and only targeted the Jets over the top on one occasion when quarterback Carson Palmer realized an offsides penalty would net his team a free play.
Instead, a passing game that has often relied heavily on vertical threats kept its natural tendencies in check, and repeatedly converted on short and intermediate gains.
"The biggest thing, you're not getting chunks," Arians said. "If you're taking that long to score, you're not getting chunks so you have to work your way by getting first downs on first and second. The biggest thing is negative plays or overcoming negative plays. The other night we got a false start on first and 15 but we overcome it. We got it to second and seven and got a first down. It's just a lot harder to go that route often."
One of the main factors in the Cardinals' early season turnaround has been the play of Arizona's special teams units, which were awful in the preseason and helped cost the team an opportunity to win its opening week contest against New England.
On Wednesday, Arians cited some of the Cardinals' biggest contributors to the special teams cause for their efforts, and included three players in Brittan Golden, Ifeanyi Momah, and Joplo Bartu who didn't begin the regular season on Arizona's roster as key assets.
"Brit Golden, as soon as he got out there," Arians said of who has stood out on special teams. "Jaron Brown has always been really good. Kareem Martin, Joppy (Bartu) has stepped in and done a heck of a nice job. Really impressed with the punter and snapper and Cat has kicked it pretty good. And Mo (Ifeanyi Momah), Mo jumped out there and made the big play but yeah there's a bunch of guys. And when one guy makes a play, it fires up the other guys to go out and make a play."null