Just a quick note on something I’ve been looking at here. It’s no secret that the Cardinals are playing much better in the playoffs. Most of the credit has been going to their defense, and there’s a good argument for it. In the regular season, the Cards gave up an average of 27 points per game. Now it’s about 22. They also have a ridiculous turnover margin of +9 in the playoffs (it was even in the regular season). But there’s a flip side to this where the stats aren’t so drastic. The total yards given up per game is pretty even: 331.5 in the regular season, 324.3 in the post season. The number of first downs given up per game is also pretty even: 19.5 regular season, 19.3 post season. It looks a lot like the Cards defensive stats in the post season have been the result of a few big plays rather than sustained improvement. Their stats are a ‘house of cards’, if you will (insert rim shot and groan here).
I’d argue that the Cardinal offense has seen a bigger turnaround in the playoffs. They’re scoring an average of 5 more points a game (32 vs. 27). The yardage is pretty similar (366 ypg regular season 362 ypg post season), but the big difference is time of possession. Arizona had the ball an average of 30:10 minutes a game in the regular season: for all intents an purposes, exactly half the game. In the post season, they’ve had the ball an average of 33:15. That doesn’t sound like much, but that creates a gap of more than 6 minutes of possession between them and their opponents. The cause of this is obvious: more balance with the rushing game. Arizona averaged 74 ypg on the ground in the regular season. That’s gone up to 111 ypg in the post season. The balance is also evident in play calling. In the regular season, the Cardinals were 65% passing plays 35% running plays. In the post season, they’re 48% pass and 52% run.
The best receiving corps in the league just found a running game to ballance them out? That’s got me a little nervous.