With so much talk about the offense and the Kolb versus Skelton debate, I thought it would be nice to have a change of pace conversation. As many people have focused on the QB position, I was much more worried about our defense and how much they have stunk it up. Giving up two late 4th quarter leads is unacceptable. Our players weren't making the plays we needed to win us games. Lately they have and it's been a world of difference.
The defense has played extremely well these past two games. Horton seemingly has turned our defense into a respectable unit and earned the many praises that came from the players this last victory. While only two performances are not enough to gauge a true improvement, they do give hope that our defense has finally turned the corner.
As we have witnessed these last two weeks players have been stepping up and making plays. Namely, Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington whom have been putting on a clinic. In the last two games Campbell has 8 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL's, 3 QB hits, 2 PD's, a crucial blocked kick and a spectacular career first INT. Washington has 19 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL's, 1 QB hit and 2 very timely PD's. Other players have also played well, among them Paris Lenon has been his old reliable self, Wilson has stepped up his game and both our young LB's have made their presence known.
Statistically the defense these last two weeks has played well enough to garner elite numbers. Granted one of our opponents was the defunct St. Louis Rams, the other however was the awesomely explosive for-3-quarters Philadelphia Eagles who ranked third in total offense coming into the game.
The defense has given up an average of 275.5 yards per game the last two games, which is just under what the second ranked Pittsburgh Steelers defense has averaged this season. Note: I am not comparing the two teams as there is an obvious difference but simply showing how well our past two performances rank.
The defense has also only given up 23 points over the last two games which is an incredible number. Playing the St. Louis Rams inept offense has played a large part of that, but holding the Eagles to 10 points is in its self an incredible feat (I did not count the INT TD).
Also during the last two games we have only given up only 315 passing yards total. Yes, you read that right, our porous pass defense (ranked 29th in pass YPG) only allowed 315 yards total to Michael Vick and Sam Bradford. The same can't be said for our run defense, which has been gashed for 316 yards, or 5.4 YPC the last two games. Though thankfully the defense has only given up 1 rushing TD and that came after an INT put the Philly offense inside the 10. If any excuse can be made it was that we faced two premier backs in Steven Jackson and LeSean McCoy.
It is obvious that playing O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho has helped our defense. They have each made plays and both have applied pressure in the passing game. Heck even the struggling AJ Jefferson got in on the action with his first career INT which sealed the game.
Whether you believe in Whisenhunt or not, so far it seems his desire for a Steelers style defense has paid dividends. Ray Horton seemed to have his own learning curve to suffer through (4 loses by 11 points) and has made some questionable calls and decisions but in the end it appears to have been the right hire and maybe, finally, the Arizona Cardinals will have a defense teams fear.