The Arizona Cardinals got their 10th win of the season on Sunday, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 17-14. They got a lead, fell behind and rallied, using turnovers and second half defense to get the win.
What did we learn in the win?
10 wins are hard and the Cardinals needed this one badly
It took three tries, but the Cardinals did get to the 10-win mark for the second season in a row. It is the second time the team has done so and the first time since 1975-76. Bruce Arains said "the 10th one is always the hardest to get."
Arians agreed that the team needed a win emotionally.
"I ain't going to deny that, we needed one big," he said. "And not a better time or place to beat a great football team. I think the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the league. We corralled a great back and made plays."
Turnovers do matter
Arizona did not turn the ball over against the Chiefs. They also forced two turnovers. That has been the road to victory for the Cardinals. Check out this nifty fact:
2014 Cards in wins, 20 takeaways, +11 margin. 2014 Cards in losses, 3 takeaways, -1 margin. 9 turnovers in 10 wins 4 turnovers in 3 losses— Kent Hodder (@kenthodder) December 8, 2014
If the Cards don't take the ball away and they aren't careful with the football, they tend to lose.
"Those are the type of plays we've been making in the second half all year, and, for whatever reason, we don't make them in the first half," Arians said postgame. "We're pretty good about making them in the second half. To lead it down to points, (Alex Okafor's interception) was a big, big play."
Arizona found an answer for the running game problems
That turned out to be Kerwynn Williams, a player who wasn't even on the flipchart media members are given. he was promoted from the practice squad after it was printed.
Williams gained 100 yards on 19 carries and was the first back to reach 100 yards this season for the Cardinals.
The plan, according to Arians, was to give the ball early to Stepfan Taylor and then, between Williams and Marion Grice, "find whichever one had the hot hand, and he was going to get the ball."
Arians knew Williams was capable of it because of what he had done in practice as a member of the practice squad. "He was the only guy on our practice field the last three weeks that made our players go 'wow,'" Arians said of Williams.
In fairness, it did come against a bad rush defense. Kansas City was last in the league entering the game in yards allowed per carry and 30th in rushing yards allowed. Arizona rushed for 141, which was a little more than what KC gives up on average (136 per contest).
At the same time, this was the expectation last week in Atlanta against another bad defense against the run and they couldn't do it. We will see against a very physical Rams defense that has pitched two straight shutouts if this was a one-game thing or the start of something good.
Drew Stanton was better at home again and just good enough
The stats weren't great. He completed 50 percent of his passes for 239 yards and one touchdown. But he did not turn the ball over. He was erratic, but made a couple of throws that were fantastic. He also scrambled for 17 yards and played through an injury. Arians said Stanton was "playing in a lot of pain."
But when the defense and the running game were going, that was all they needed from him.
Larry Fitzgerald's presence was felt
Stanton's play improved, but the offense converted on 40 percent of third downs, compared to the 21 percent in the two losses. Fitz was clearly not 100 percent, but he still managed to catch four passes for 34 yards. But you could tell that merely being on the field meant the Chiefs had to do something differently.
The rush defense was better...and it wasn't
The numbers don't look so good. They gave up 126 yards on 17 carries -- 7.1 yards per carry. They gave up a 63-yard touchdown run to Jamaal Charles.
But outside of the one play, Charles gained 28 yards on 12 carries and the team was 16 carries for 63 yards. That's better.
The presence of Matt Shaughnessy was felt. He made several plays that showed why he was a big reason for the team's number one ranking against the run last season.
Still, Arizona cannot afford to give up those big plays if they want to get wins against their NFC West foes, all of which the Cardinals will face over the season's final three weeks.
The sky is not falling
This was a win the Cardinals needed. They got it. They beat a good team and kept themselves at the top of the NFC. There is no more panic in the Red Sea, and that is important.
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