Yes, we know that the strength of the Arizona Cardinals is their defense. Yes, the defense was strong already over the final half of last season. But did you know that the Cards have made the biggest defensive strides in the division from last season to this season?
In his ESPN NFC West blog, Mike Sando posted the statistical changes for the whole division from 2011 to 2012. You can see how much better the Cards have been on defense.
They are giving up 312.8 yards per game this season, good for sixth overall in the league. That is is 42.3 yards less than the unit gave up per game a season ago. They are fourth in the league in points allowed per game at 17.8. That is a full four points less than they gave up per game a season ago.
They have not made huge strides in their rush defense, but it has improved. They are allowing four yards less per game. The huge improvement is in pass defense. They are allowing 38 (!!!!) yards less per game in the passing game than 2011.
They are getting 0.63 more sacks per game and 0.38 more interceptions per game. I know that the latter stat is something that Ray Horton wants to improve. He wants the defense to force more turnovers.
However, there are two things that have not been as good. They are a little worse than last year on third down. Their third down defense has gone up 1.3 percent. In the red zone, opponents score eight percent more often and opponents are 2.8 percent more successful in goal-to-go situations.
Should they improve in those areas a little bit more, you might be seeing one of the elite defenses in the game. It is already very good, but to cut down on the red zone numbers would make things even better.
Give your thoughts on these numbers. I was impressed myself by what I read.