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Arizona Cardinals defense shining on third down

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The second half of the season has been fantastic so far.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals like to preach situational football. When it comes to the defense, how they play on third down is critical. since the bye week, the Cardinals have been fantastic on third down, especially in their three road wins over the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams.

In those three wins, the Cardinals held their NFC West rivals to a combined 2/29 on third down. Seattle was 1/8. San Francisco was 0/9 and St. Louis was 1/12.

Even their win at home over the Cincinnati Bengals, who have one of the league's best offenses, was solid. They held the Bengals to 5/13 on third down.

Doing basic math, Arizona has allowed only seven third down conversions on 42 attempts -- less than 17 percent of the time.

The Minnesota Vikings offense has converted on over 36 percent of its third downs this season. Arizona has allowed its opponents to convert on 32 percent of their attempts on the season.

But notice the improvement. The first half of the season, Cardinals opponents converted on 43 of 113 third down attempts -- over 38 percent. With the current clip of less than 17 percent since the bye, that number on the season has dropped by six percent.

It has been a focused effort in practice. "It was a focal point," said head coach Bruce Arians to the media on Monday. He said the team "had begun to slide" in that area and in the red zone. They have worked on that in particular in practice recently.

If the Cardinals are going to continue with their current run, that will need to continue. They play four teams over the least four weeks who are all in the playoff mix. Getting teams off the field on third down is how you win ball games.

Doing so against Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings will be critical so they do not wear the defense down with as much as they run the ball.