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Arizona Cardinals: Breaking down the 2014 regular season stats

How did the Cardinals' season break down when it came to the numbers? Let's take a look at the stats that mattered with team totals, averages, differentials and league rankings.

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

A season we will never forget and the sames goes for the numbers.  There was the good, the bad and even the ugly.   So let's take a look at the Arizona Cardinals regular season team stats and see what worked and what didn't in 2014.

Wins/Losses 11 - 5

The Cardinals finished the season in 2nd place in the NFC West and earned a ticket to Carolina as the 5th seeded NFC wildcard team.   The franchise's best regular season record since moving to the desert and the eleven wins being the most since the 1975 St. Louis Football Cardinals who compiled an 11-3 record in a fourteen game season.  The Big Red won 7 of 8 in the nest with 4 of team's 5 losses coming on the road.

2014 Regular Season Stats

Category Offense Defense Differential
Points Scored 19.4 (24th) 18.7 (5th) +.7 (16th)
First Downs 18.9 (23rd) 18.8 (2nd) +.1 (16th)
Total Yards 319.8 (24th) 368.2 (24th) -48.4 (27th)
Rushing Yards 81.8 (31st) 108.7 (13th) -26.9 (26th)
Passing Yards 238.0 (14th) 259.5 (29th) -21.5 (22nd)
Pass Percentage 56.3 (31st) 63.0 (17th) -6.7 (30th)
Turnovers 17 (4th) 25 (14th) +8 (5th)
Interceptions 12 (8th) 18 (7th) +6 (7th)
Fumbles 5 (3rd) 7 (23rd) +2 (9th)
Sacks 28 (7th) 35 (23rd) +7 (10th)
Penalties (for/against) 130 (2nd) 91 (6th) +39 (2nd)
Time of Possession 29:48 (19th) 30:12 (19th) -:24 (19th)

Interesting stuff when you consider the team went 11-5 and you factor in any category that contains the word 'yards'.  And notice how the highlighted top 10 rankings group at the bottom of the table.

Things becomes more interesting when we break down the numbers into wins and losses.

Eleven Wins

The 'good' Cardinals played at a level nominally above their opponents, but the numbers wouldn't suggest 11 wins until you get to 'takeaways', ...

Category Offense Defense Differential
Points Scored 22.4 14.1 +8.3
First Downs 20.0 17.9 +2.1
Total Yards 341.4 321.7 +19.7
Rushing Yards 95.0 82.5 +12.5
Passing Yards 246.4 239.2 +7.2
Pass Percentage 59.6 61.1 -1.5
Turnovers 9 22 +13
Interceptions 5 15 +10
Fumbles 4 7 +3
Sacks 16 24 +8
Penalties (for/against) 86 76 +10
Time of Possession 31:33 28:27 +3:06

Five Losses

... while the 'bad' Cardinals underachieved greatly in every statistical category with the exception of penalties (more on that later).

Category Offense Defense Differential
Points Scored 12.8 28.8 -16.0
First Downs 16.4 20.6 -4.2
Total Yards 272.2 470.4 -198.2
Rushing Yards 52.6 166.2 -113.6
Passing Yards 219.6 304.2 -84.6
Pass Percentage 49.5 67.9 -18.4
Turnovers 8 3 -5
Interceptions 7 3 -4
Fumbles 1 0 -1
Sacks 12 11 -1
Penalties (for/against) 44 15 +29
Time of Possession 25:57 34:03 -8:06

Let's go through these categories one by one and see which stats mattered most in the Arizona Cardinals 2014 regular season.

Points Scored 310 - 299

You wouldn't think an 11-5 team would have only scored 11 more points than their opponents on the year, but that's what happens when you win the close ones and are badly beaten in the losses.   The Big Red out-scored their opponents by over 8 points per game in the wins, and were on the down side by an average of -16.0 when they lost.   The Cardinals defense was stingy when it came to the red-zone defense (3rd ranked) and finished 5th ranked overall on the year in points allowed.

First Downs 302 - 300

Pretty much even on the on the year, but a great disparity between the wins and losses.  Limiting their opponents to 300 first downs was good for 2nd in the league for the Big Red and a 12th ranking for third-down conversion defense (37.7%).  Offensively, 40.2% ranked 16th in the NFL, and when the Cardinals went for it on fourth down (the fewest times in the NFL), 3 of 4 was the result (75% - 1st ranked).

Total Yards 5,116 - 5,891

Exactly how does a team make it to the playoffs surrendering nearly 50 yards more per game than gaining (27th ranked no less)?   Largely because the five Cardinals losses averaged nearly -200 yards per game in total yards. Not out of character for the franchise — the wins came in close, hard-fought games, while the losses no so much. Arizona compiled a 6-1 record when out-gaining their opponent in total yards.

Rushing Yards 1,308 - 1,739

All five Arizona losses came in games when being out-rushed and the Cardinals won all eight games when out-rushing their opponent. The Cards can thank the team from Oakland for not being ranked last in the league offensively with 81.8 yards per game rushing.   Defensively, the Big Red falls to 13th ranked in the NFL with 108.7 yards per game allowed.   Particularly disturbing was the 52.6 and 166.2 per game averages in the team's five losses.

Passing Yards 3,808 - 4,152

The Cardinals pass defense ranked 29th in the league in yards per game allowed (259.5)  not quite what we were hoping for.  Same goes for over 300 yards per game allowed through the air in the five losses.   Offensively, middle of the road numbers in the victories, but a poor 219.6 yards per game passing in the losses.

Pass Percentage 320/568 - 365/579

Once again, an offensive ranking that would be last in the league if not for one other team (Cleveland).  All five Arizona losses have in common the opponent completing a higher percentage of pass attempts (a combined 67.9%) while the Cardinals offensive struggled mightily with more incomplete than complete forward passes (49.5%).  On the year, Arizona quarterbacks combined for 56.3% through the air.

Turnovers 25 - 17

The Cardinals went 7-1 in games when takeaways exceeded turnovers, and in four of the five Arizona losses the numbers were reversed.  As you saw above, the Cardinals didn't dominate their opponents in their wins when it came to yardage — clearly turnovers in the Cardinals victories (+13) played a large part in the team's win-loss record.  Arizona finished at +8 in turnovers for the season — good enough for 10th ranked in the NFL.

Interceptions 18 - 12

Eight of Arizona's victories came when winning the war of interceptions (picking-off 15 with only 5 giveaways in those eleven games).  Big Red quarterbacks were stingy in the first half of the season, yielding only two interceptions.  But that trend reversed the second half of the year with 10 quarterback tosses to players wearing different colored jerseys.

Fumbles 7 - 5

The Big Red with good ball security ranked 3rd in the league with only 5 fumbles lost in the 2014 regular season, while pouncing on their opponent's miscues 7 times (all in victories).   Strangely, four of the five giveaways were in Cardinals wins — only one fumble lost in the five losses (no fumbles recovered by Cardinals defense in the five losses either).

Sacks 35 - 28

When it came to pass protection, the Cardinals finished with their lowest sacks allowed total (28) since 2009 that earned Arizona a 7th ranking in the NFL in 2014.   Defensively, even though the 35 quarterback sacks where the lowest total for the team since 2010 (33), the Cardinals were still on the positive side at +7 in quarterback sacks (ranked 10th).

Penalties 130-91

Cardinals fans will need to think twice before complaining of poor treatment by officials as the team benefited 39 more times from penalties than their opponents — good enough finish as the 2nd-most liked team by NFL referees.  Then add the fact the Cardinals were the less penalized team in all five losses, with 15 penalties against compared to 44 penalties accepted by the Big Red.

Time of Possession 29:48 - 30:12

Another tale of the good, the bad and the ugly.  The good (+3:06) in the victories; the bad (but not really all that bad) for the entirety of season; and the ugly (-8:06) in the losses.   Not surprisingly, 8 of the Cardinals 11 wins came with the offense in control of the pigskin for over 30:00 minutes, while four of five Arizona losses resulted when visa-versa.

For Entertainment Purposes Only

The Cardinals matched their 11-5 record with the same mark against the spread, and in the eleven actual wins on the season, the ATS record was an impressive 10-1.  For those interested in point totals, Cardinals games took the low road — going 'over' only fives times in 2014.

* For those interested in learning more about the relative values of statistical categories pertaining to victory before voting on the poll, click here