Not long after the Cardinals inspired hope, confidence, and happiness with their victory over the New Orleans Saints four weeks ago, we've witnessed two consecutive losses in two very winnable games. Sunday was the Cardinals fourth of the year, and normally we'd be bashing Bill Davis and his defense -- only this time, the defense has played remarkably well.
Davis, who was roasted by the fans of the Cardinals after the rough start, has won them over for the time-being. His questionable play-calling isn't off the hook yet, but there is a cause for optimism.
Two weeks ago on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, the defense shutdown most of Seattle's redzone attempts, limiting them to just one score in seven tries. They also held Matt Hasselbeck to just 192 passing yards and brought the 35-year old veteran quarterback down five times. Despite the Cardinals sputtering offense, they were kept in the game through the fourth quarter because of the defense.
Just two days ago, we saw the same improved defense against a very underrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. They blanketed the Bucs through the beginning of the first quarter, added two more sacks to their season total, and forced two turnovers -- returning one for a score. Once again, the Cardinals struggling offense could not take advantage of the improved play.
Just where does this leave the Cardinals? They're currently standing in the middle of the road of this NFL season and haven't given much promise to the remainder of the year. With a defense playing increasingly better, it should spark some hope. They have Pro Bolw'ers throughout(Darnell Dockett, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson) the defense. Depth is not an issue. Davis has been able to shuffle numerous players in and out of the line up and it has helped the starters.
John Lott, the Arizona Cardinals strength and conditioning coach, is someone we've grown to respect and love. The Cardinals have been one of the healthiest teams in the league the last three seasons. That's a testament to Lott's program and it's managed to keep the defense relatively intact.
Gerald Hayes, who returned to the field for the first time this season after missing the first six games with a back injury, proved why he was desperately missed in just a limited amount of plays. He recorded five tackles, but more-importantly, returned a LeGarrette Blount-fumble to the endzone, cutting the Bucs lead to three. With Hayes back in the line up, the tension at linebacker can now be loosened.
Another return was rookie linebacker O'Brien Schofield. The fourth round draft pick also missed the first six games recovering from a knee injury. Schofield still has some healing to do, but there's little doubt that he won't be able to improve the Cardinals pass rush once he is fully healthy.
Factor in that rookie's Dan Williams and Daryl Washington are getting better with each passing game, and you'll understand that the defense has some room to grow. I can't sit here and preach that they'll become a top ten defense, but at least we know what direction they are headed. Now if you want to know where the offense is going, that's a discussion for another day. As long as the defense can continue to improve and do their job, let's hope that all the pieces fall into play very soon.