Cardinals: Run defense has been the key
The Cardinals’ quarterback issues and their negative impact upon the teams form have been well-documented. However it was arguably their strong run defense that was most responsible for their remarkable 9-1 start this year, a stretch in which they allowed just 80.5 rushing yards per game. Across their final six games however, that number ballooned to 155.7 yards per game.
Through their first ten games, the Cardinals defensive front seven combined for a Run Stop Percentage (RSP) of 8.5%, with just 11 missed tackles in 1195 run snaps. In their last six games however, that combined RSP has fallen to 6.5%, with 16 missed tackles in 865 run snaps. One defender who has maintained his high level of play for the entire season has been defensive end Calais Campbell, who has 33 defensive stops and just one missed tackle all year. That translates to a 12.0% RSP, good enough to lead all 3-4 DEs.
They will need to return to that early season form against the Panthers on Saturday, a team that relied heavily on the run-game during the four game win streak that has carried them into the playoffs. The Panthers can field a dangerous triumvirate of runners; the in-form Jonathan Stewart, quarterback Cam Newton and the returning DeAngelo Williams. The Cardinals can expect their run defense to be sorely tested.