For a team to win in the NFL they generally only need to be good at two phases of the game, offense and defense. Special teams is often ignored unless they do something very good, or very bad. While the offense gets the most attention and the defense gets the most respect, it's special teams unit that often decides if the team wins or loses.
Over the last few seasons under Coach Whisenhunt the special teams unit has become one of this teams strengths and has helped the team win numerous games despite lackluster product from the offense. How many times has the team won because of a special teams play? It seems like almost every game.
Special teams may be the reason why the Cardinals are in the position that they are in and have been winning the way they have. Would everybody have bought into the system and fought as hard as they do if Peterson doesn't return a punt 99-yards? If Calais doesn't block a game winning field goal? Those plays add up.
Against the New England Patriots the special teams unit showed up again, delivering right on time. Quentin Groves, a once unheralded FA pickup, worked the Patriots punt team and came up with a critical block. How it went down after the break:
Quentin Groves joined the Arizona Cardinals as a player who was basically a bust. The former second round pick out of Auburn hasn't had a sack in since 2008, despite tying Auburn's sack record in college. Many wondered if he would even make the team. Ray Horton's defense offered him an opportunity and he capitalized on it winning Clark Haggan's roster spot.
Coming into this game Groves mentioned in an interview after the game that he had studied film of New England and saw an opportunity on the punt block team. He spoke with Coach Spencer, the special teams coach, and they decided to have him rush the Patriots shaky wing. He bull rushed Nate Ebner, the Patriots left flanker, twice to prime him and on his third rush he hit the gas and blew past Ebner.
The fruits of Groves labor paid off. Watching the game film and seeing the weakness ended up being one of the biggest plays of the game.
Special teams players often get lost in the mix and see limited playing time if they are a backup. Special teams offers them a chance to contribute and the Cardinals special teams players have done so with pride and gusto. Little things like that are why the Cardinals have been winning football games.