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Arizona Cardinals used 4-man defensive line to show something new no one had seen

The move obviously worked.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals had a surprise for everyone on Sunday when they lined up on defense for the first time against the Dallas Cowboys. They came out lined up in a 4-3.

Arizona has been a 3-4 team (three defensive linemen and four linebackers in base defensive packages) for many years now, but against Dallas, they went with a lot of four-man sets.

No, this is not a new defensive philosophy. It was simply something defensive coordinator Todd Bowles cooked up for the Dallas Cowboys.

General manager Steve Keim talked about it on his weekly segment on The Doug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

"(Todd Bowles) had told me during the week that he was going throw in a little different wrinkle from a schematical standpoint that (the Dallas Cowboys) haven't seen yet," he explained.

"They've had a lot of success particularly when they've had their center uncovered," he continued. "Well, the one thing Todd wanted to do was cover up (Dallas center Travis) Frederick inside on the interior, whether it was with Dan (Williams) or Tommy Kelly or whoever it may have been and those guys were able to reestablish the line of scrimmage."

Arizona was successful with the setup, as running back DeMarco Murray was held under 100 yards for the first time this season and the team was, too.

They also brought back their normal 3-4 base sets and other defensive packages, but the four-man line was very good against Dallas.

Of course, another reason why it was successful is because the defensive linemen are playing so well and the Cardinals do not have a strong linebacking corps.

Head coach Bruce Arians was also asked about it in his Monday media session and he elaborated a bit (via Arizona Sports), saying it is something they have used "a number of times."

"When you take out a linebacker and put in a big guy, there's no bubble in that defense and then Larry (Foote) can scrape by everybody," he said. "Those guys did a heck of a nice job of penetrating and getting on the other side of the line of scrimmage and creating havoc."

Now, the comment about the "number of times" Arizona has shown a four-man line is questionable. I do not recall at all more than maybe one or two plays they used a four-man defensive line on anything other than goalline sets, and even then they use five defensive linemen. There were a couple of games last season when they did go with a four-man line, but it was never with three linebackers. It was using an eight-man front -- a 4-4 set.

It was a successful move, but it does make you wonder about the use of second-year linebacker Kevin Minter. His strength is against the run. He was not out there at all in those 4-3 formations. It was only Larry Foote there in the middle of the defense.

Is this something we can expect to see again this season? Perhaps, as Bowles has a way of making game preparation difficult for opposing offenses.

But Bowles will continue to be a 3-4 guy in philosophy. His nickel and dime sets were still based on 3-4 principles. However, he is willing to change things up, which is nice to see.

Do you think this was more of a one-game showing, or could you see Bowles moving direction towards a 4-3?