The Arizona Cardinals turned in their best defensive performance of the season Sunday night, limiting the Seattle Seahawks to just three points in regulation and holding Pete Carroll's squad to fewer than three yards per carry on the ground.
Despite the impressive display, though, Arizona didn't come away with a victory, instead allowing a game-tying field goal drive in overtime as the Seahawks ended up tying the Cardinals 6-6.
The Cardinals' inability to stop the Seahawks after a field goal of their own in overtime frustrated defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who acknowledged it's harder to play knowing the opposing offense will treat the entire field as four-down territory.
"Wish we would have played a little bit better in overtime, goes down and scores, kicks three, and you know, that's the thing. We want a stop. We want a stop on defense. We knew it was four down game from that point on and we allowed them to kick a field goal and tie it and maybe that was the second takeaway from it."
Even though Seattle wound up with a late opportunity to win the game thanks to a second long overtime drive, Bettcher is pleased with the effort and passion his defense has shown in its past two games.
Dating back to the Cardinals' Thursday night contest against San Francisco, Arizona has now played a full nine quarters without giving up a touchdown, which Bettcher attributes to an increased focus on fundamentals.
"After a couple of disappointing performances, whether it be a snap here or a snap there, we got back to those things and back to basics from that point and I think our guys have embraced that," Bettcher said.
Keeping their opponent out of the end zone is a much more difficult task for the Cardinals this week, as the team takes on a 1-5 Carolina squad looking to regroup after a bye week.
Led by 2015 MVP Cam Newton, the Panthers' troubles this season have mostly come on the defensive side of the ball, where a young secondary has limited Carolina's success. On offense, the Panthers rank 18th in the NFL in total yards a season after ranking 11th, but they also rank fifth in the league in scoring offense.
"Another team that has explosive players all over the field," Bettcher said. "On the perimeter with (Travis) Benjamin, at tight end with (Greg) Olsen, and in the backfield."
The Panthers put up 49 points in the NFC Championship game a season ago against Arizona, and Bettcher said it's a performance the Cardinals haven't forgotten.
Many of the Cardinals' personnel changes on defense this year came as a result of the team's blowout loss at the hands of the Panthers, as Arizona elected to revamp its secondary and add pass-rusher Chandler Jones through an offseason trade with New England.
Though the Panthers are hardly the same team they were a season ago, Bettcher said Arizona has enough players who remember what happened last year and are eager to avenge a loss.
"I think they're a little bit different and we're a little bit different and I think one thing that we have is we have enough guys that went there and experienced what happened in Carolina. So we will not, have not forgotten that."