It's not a fancy offense, but it does the trick. The Cardinals have only turned the ball over four times in six games, only giving up their first interception this past Sunday against the Raiders, and tight end John Carlson had to tip it to make it possible. Modest efficiency can be preferable to reaching for a big play and making a costly mistake. After all, which model of offense would Carson Palmer be more wont to run?
Arizona converts their third downs at a 43.68 percent clip, and plays virtually mistake free, but the defense has a big hand in their victories. The Cardinals average a respectable 23.3 PPG, but allow just 19.8 PPG. With such quality assurance on the defensive side of the ball, there's less chance that Palmer will be forced into taking chances in order to steer a victory.
If Palmer's 101.3 passer rating stood for the season, it'd be a career high for one year. Only one pick in three games is a far cry from the 22 he tossed last season, a considerable Achilles heel for a 10-6 playoff exemption. Palmer's completed 66.07 percent of his throws, his best average since leading the league with 67.80 percent in 2005. Slow and steady has Palmer in rare form.
KEY STAT: Palmer averages merely 10.91 yards per completion, the second-lowest average of his career, lending credence to a more conservative offense.
The running game is where Arizona hits a pothole. The Cardinals 3.44 YPA rushing ranks third-worst in the NFL, and Ellington's 3.74 YPA actually boost it. Ellington actually averaged 5.52 YPA last year on nearly the same amount of carries, but since becoming entrusted as a starter, he hasn't replicated that potency. In just one game has Ellington averaged more than 4.1 yards per carry: a 6.07 YPA day against the Giants. Otherwise, he's ranged from horrid to mediocre.
KEY STAT: Of 14 running backs with 90+ carries, Ellington averages the second-worst yards-after-contact with 1.83.
Floyd, not Larry Fitzgerald, assumes the role of alpha-receiver on the team, averaging 18.58 yards per reception to Fitzgerald's 12.30, on nearly as many receptions (Floyd trails 19 to 23). Floyd finds himself tied for fourth in the NFL with most catches of 20 or more yards, hauling in six passes beyond that length, on a scant 36 targets. As conservative as Palmer and company can be, Floyd's the choice deep threat, although his production has tapered off in the past three weeks.
KEY STAT: Floyd averaged 22.91 YPC in the first three games, but just 12.63 YPC since.
Left guard Larsen is having the roughest season so far out of a largely unspectacular line. Poor pass protection and spotty run blocking are a big reason why the offense relies more on safe throws than anything else to move the chains. That the Cardinals have only thrown one interception this season is astounding, given the porous nature of the center line, with Larsen it's most inconsistent component.
KEY STAT: In the last four games, Larsen has conceded three penalties, five quarterback hurries and a hit.
Trent Cole dedicated the Giants massacre to the late Jim Johnson, a defensive coordinator to whom Cole is the only current defensive Eagle to have played for. Johnson never got a shutout in green, but he had a defense capable of wreaking such havoc. Today's crop may not have Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter, or Troy Vincent, but through tight outside coverage, aggressive pass-rushing, and heads up run-stopping, the shutout win could be a template of sorts, not so much a one-time anomaly.
Eagles fans had clamored for that elusive 'sixty-minute game' all year, with the loudest cries following the near fourth-quarter meltdown against the Rams. Eight sacks and plenty of incompletions against the Giants pacified that savoring, with a goose-egg to set upon the mantel.
One puzzle piece of the new-and-improved pass rush (16 sacks in the last three games) has been the explosive Curry, to whom four of those sacks are credited to. The fact that those four sacks came in 81 snaps over said three games surely has coordinator Bill Davis looking for new ways to plug Curry into the game. Generally considered a raw talent, it's easy to see why Curry's a fan favorite: using him does get results.
KEY STAT: Curry played in just 30.17 percent of defensive snaps in the first three games, but then 34.18 percent over the last three (39.33 percent over the last two).
High-haired Barwin sees Curry's four sacks, and raises it by a couple. Barwin leads the team with six QB kills on the season, all acquired over the past three games. Part of Barwin's success has been beelining north past the right tackle, and then working around him behind the quarterback to draw the sack, as evidenced on an outmatched Justin Pugh in the Giants game. Barwin's deep stride makes the quarterback wary; he knows someone's behind him, and that only adds unwanted urgency. Eli Manning looked uncomfortable for many reasons, this being among them.
KEY STAT: Barwin's run-stopping prowess has risen in recent games. After notching just one stop in the first three games, he's racked up 11 from the 49ers game onward.
Short of standing outside the NovaCare Complex chanting "ATTICA", seemed as though every Eagles fan was demanding more playing time for the instinctive slot corner. Boykin came in handy during the Giants game, helping remove the underneath game with press and zone coverage alike (Manning's quick passes have been the key to his 2014 success). With Arizona employing plenty of three-receiver sets, and two-tight end looks, Boykin will be pressed into duty plenty this Sunday.
KEY STAT: Since leaving the 49ers game with a thigh injury, Boykin has played in 56.67 percent of defensive snaps over the last two games.
Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.
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