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Cardinals vs.Saints: The Key Stats behind Arizona's 31-19 victory over New Orleans

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A look at what the stats told us about the Cardinals' thrilling season opener over the New Orleans Saints and a chance to vote on what stats mattered most

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A big win yesterday for your Arizona Cardinals in their 2015 season-opener vs. the New Orleans Saints that wasn't decided until the 4th quarter (funny how that works for the Cardinals).  And we know the score of the game, but what about the stats that reflect how it came to be.

That's what we'll be doing this season and since this was the season opener, today's story will be a bit shorter without the team's rankings in the major statistical categories both offensively and defensively (and same goes for statistical differentials).

During the season we'll also show that not all statistical categories are equal when it comes to ultimate victory using the Prob-O-Matic machine and we'll also include voting on which you think was the key stat that led to the outcome of the games.

It turns out that the stats really were representative of the final score when we take a close look.


Record: 1-0

The Cardinals win their 6th consecutive home opener in Glendale and are now 9-1 in home openers since moving to the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium. Coach Bruce Arians runs his regular season record as head coach of the Cardinals to 22-11.

Points Scored: 31-19

The most important game stat of all of course and it looks as if Cardinal games this year just may be of the higher scoring variety.  Last year's team ranked among the lowest in the league in total points with an average score of Cardinals 19.4 - Opponents 18.7.

Total Yards: 427-408

Perhaps another indicator of a different flavor of games we may see this year.  Last year's edition of the Big Red averaged 320 yards offensively and allowed 368 yards defensively per game by comparison.  Given the -48 differential, the 11-5 regular season record can best be described as an over-achievement — but there's nothing wrong at all with over-achieving as it suggests a team that finds a way to win, no matter what.  It is however still highly recommended that you outgain your opponent.

First Downs: 25-18

The league average for first downs last year was exactly 20.0 as the Cardinals took the 'under' with 18.9 and 18.8 per game (offensively and defensively respectively).  The 25 first downs would have tied for 2nd best for the 2014 Cardinals and the disparity in yesterday's totals are not surprising for a 12 point victory.

Rushing Yards: 120-54

For a team that ranked next to last in 2014 in offensive rushing yards at 81.8, yesterday's game was very encouraging indeed.  Same goes for the 4.8 yards per carry (25 carries) when compared to last year's 3.2 average that ranked dead last.  Much of the optimism for this year's Cardinals is the anticipated improvement of the rushing offense and the possibilities of a balanced offense.

Defensively, the Big Red allowed exactly half of their season average for 2014 (108) and reluctantly gave up a very stingy 2.7 yards per carry.  Superiority in rushing yards has been proven to rank highly when it comes ultimate victory (click the link below) and the Cardinals helped reinforce that notion.

Passing Yards: 307-354

One of the few major categories that the Cardinals were on the negative side but it didn't matter in the end.  The league average for passing yards was 237 yards per game last year which was surpassed by both teams on Sunday.  The Cardinals averaged 9.6 yards per pass play (very good) and allowed 7.1 per on defense.

Sacks: 2-0

The Cardinals surrender a grand total of zero sacks (enough said other than if we keep that up it would be some kind of record).

Turnovers: 1-1

A push with the Cardinals and Saints trading an interception for a fumble recovery.  And for whatever the reason, interceptions rate higher than fumble recoveries when it comes to ultimate victory (according to the link below) as the Cardinals add to the trend where interceptions are the leading cause of victories (other than points of course).  As a matter of fact, in the 14 games played prior to Monday night, teams that out-intercepted their opponents went 11-1.

Time of Possession: 26:36-33:24

With the Cardinals coming up on the short end, this stat seems to suggest that it's not what you got, but what you do with it.

Third Down Efficiency: 5-10 50%

Not bad when you consider the league average is about 40 percent which is almost exactly what the Cardinals averaged last year.

Red Zone Efficiency: 3-3 100%

Can't do any better than this even if you try and for reference sake, the league average is about 54 percent.  The Cardinals ranked 28th in red zone efficiency in 2014.

First Down Run/Pass Ratio

I decided to also dig into the run/pass ratio on first down for the Cardinals and found near perfect balance with 15 handoffs and 14 drop backs.  The runs may have not all been gems, but what better way to keep the defense off-balance and things seemed to work out.


Player Stats

Andre Ellington rushes for 69 yards on 12 carries for 5.8 yards per attempt including a 18 yard scamper before leaving the game with an injured knee.

Carson Palmer passes for 307 yards with 19 completions on 32 attempts for a pass percentage of 59 percent.  Add in 3 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 122.8.

Larry Fitzgerald is the team's leading receiver with 87 yards on 6 receptions for 14.5 per showing he's not quite over the hill.

David Johnson's career yards per reception average skyrockets to 55.0 with a 55 yard touchdown catch that seals the deal.  Earlier, David also sets his career kickoff return average of 43.0 per with a matching 43 yard dash from the endzone.

Darren Fells makes the best of his 4 receptions for an average of 20.5, which includes an 48 yard catch and run and also a touchdown included in his 82 total yards.

Rashad Johnson owns the team lead in interceptions this season with an interception in the 3rd quarter.

Alex Okafor racks up two sacks for the Big Red defense, who bent but didn't break against an always dangerous Saints offense.

Tyrann Mathieu roams all over the field making 8 solo tackles including a tackle for a loss and 3 passes defended.


We'll see you next week after the Bears game and for those interested in learning more about the relative values of statistical categories pertaining to victory before voting on the poll, Click Here