The Arizona Cardinals have won seven straight games, but they have needed some late-game heroics in a few of the wins. In fact, against the Seahawks, Bengals, 49ers and Vikings, they had two-score leads they gave up. You would think this is a defensive issue, but Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians sees it differently. He more blames the offense, as he told reporters recently.
Take the game on Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings. Arizona was up by 10 in the fourth quarter and then Minnesota kicked a field goal to pull within seven. The next Cardinals possession was a three-and-out and it came when they could not convert a third and one.
"That just can't happen with our offense," Arians explained. "We needed to answer that score with a score, and put our defense right back out there. So I think it's on them."
Against the Seahawks, it was two turnovers that caused them to give up the lead.
Against the Bengals, it was similar to the game against the Vikings. When they were up 10 with 6:27 to go, Cincinnati scored a touchdown to get within three. What did the offense do right after that? They prompted went three and out. And it was the inability to convert on third and one.
"Defensively, if there's a common thread, it's getting off the field on third down," Arians said.
Against Seattle and San Francisco, it wasn't an issue, as the Cards held those two teams to a combined 1/17 on third down.
Against Cincy and Minny, it was different. The Bengals was 5/13 and the Vikings were 6/11. Against the Vikings, in the touchdown drive to tie the game, Arizona gave up conversions on third and nine and third and seven.
One can also point to the level of competition. The Bengals, Seahawks and Vikings will all likely be in the postseason. Playoff football frequently goes back and forth.
Is it reason for concern? If the trend is the same and the Cardinals keep winning, no. They have three games against three potential playoff teams and all three are dangerous offensively. Arizona's offense cannot falter late.