The Cardinals usually don't have a great offense in the red zone. In fact, it's rare the team has a lot of success when it gets down inside the twenty yard line, usually settling for three points or, much worse, turning the ball over.
But this season it's been a different story. The team is ranked third in the NFL, scoring a touchdown 68.9% of the time when it gets deep in opponent's territory. Third! That's right behind the Patriots (70.1 percent) and Saints (70.9 percent), two offenses with a lot of firepower. Perhaps more amazingly, it's ahead of the Indianapolis Colts.
The previous franchise high was 55%, and that dates back to 2002.
So what's different this season?
First of all, the coaching has made an impact. Ken Whisenhunt has made it a point that the team is going to score when it has the opportunities. And secondly, it's been the execution.
"We all know when you get down tight, there is not a whole lot of room to do a lot of stuff," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "You try to design plays, but things just don't quite measure up like they do when you're on the 50-yard line.
"The good teams in the red zone are the ones who can run the ball in and just say, 'We're going to dominate the line of scrimmage.' And there are the ones that say, 'Things might break down, things might not be perfect.' But you find a way to get it done."
But why aren't the Cardinals more successful offensively? Ultimately, it's been turnovers and mistakes that have killed drives before they get inside the twenty. One particularly telling brand of statistics comes from Football Outsiders, some statistical gurus who keep track of "Drive Statistics." Basically, rather than taking the total number of turnovers or punts during the course of a season and comparing them straight up to another team, it's the number of turnovers per drive.
The Cardinals rank 31st in the NFL in terms of turnovers per drive, averaging .201. Said another way, that's one turnover every five drives. The Cardinals also punt once every 2.4 drives (21st in the league) and only average a little over 26 yards every time they get the football (25th in the league). In other words, the team is only scoring once per 2.6 possessions and that hasn't been enough to keep opponents at bay.