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Big plays are a big problem for Arizona Cardinals defense

The team's struggles can be directed at the defense.

Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals have been known as a defensive team in recent history. However, it is the defensive failures as of late that have been the problem for the Arizona Cardinals.

Yes, the offense has had its issues. It isn't scoring points. Since Week 11, the first game Arizona played after Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Cardinals have scored four offensive touchdowns, two of which came in the first two drives of the Week 11 game against the Detroit Lions.

But is the play of the defense that has been the most troubling. Big plays have been a big problem.

Arizona put up dazzling defensive performances in Week 11 (a 14-6 win over the Lions) and Week 15 (a 12-6 win over the Rams). They even played very well, considering field position in Week 12 against the Seahawks.

Let's see some of the numbers:

Against Seattle in Week 12, Arizona gave up 293 total yards, but 142 of those came on five plays.

Against Atlanta in Week 13, Arizona game up 500 total yards, but 219 of those came on seven plays.

Against the Chiefs in Week 14, Arizona gave up 390 yards, but 239 of those came on seven plays.

Against Seattle in Week 16, Arizona gave up 596 yards, but 346 of those came on seven plays.

That is 946 yards on 26 plays -- over 36 yards per play. More importantly, those 26 plays are more than 53 percent of the yards they allowed in those games.

When you aren't getting many points on offense and you are giving up big plays on defense, that is a recipe for losing. It should be no surprise, then, that the Cardinals are 2-3 in their last five games.

Tackling is an issue.

Bryan Gibberman wrote about the tackling woes for Arizona Sports.

Through the first 10 weeks of the season, the only time Arizona had 10 missed tackles or more was Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers, when they missed 11.

From Week 11 to Week 16, the Cardinals have amassed 10 or more missed tackles in four of their six games. They missed 12 against Detroit in Week 11, they missed 14 in a loss at Atlanta, 11 more in a Week 14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and the 16 they whiffed on Sunday.

Head coach Bruce Arians harped on it in two different press conferences. Unfortunately, there isn't much they can do to work on it in practice. "That's the problem with the rules," Arians said. "Once the playoffs start, I believe we're allowed one more padded practice. We'll see how that goes."

If the Cardinals want to do more than just make an appearance in the playoffs, something has to change. Either the offense needs to score points or the defense has to be near perfect -- much like it was against the Rams and the Lions. If the defense continues to give up yards in bunches on just a few plays, the Cardinals' postseason will be nothing more than a one-and-done experience.

It won't matter if It is Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas or Ryan Lindley at quarterback, and it will be a tough way to see a season end.