TEMPE, Ariz. – One statistic has been conspicuously absent from the Arizona Cardinals' box score this season.
The Cards have recorded just one sack in the first two weeks, compared to six at this point last season. But there’s a tradeoff: The Cardinals are ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.
They’re not getting the quarterback, but they’re not allowing running backs to get through them, either. The Cardinals’ are surrendering 58 yards on the ground per game, fewest in the NFC. Only Denver (40.5) and Kansas City (54) are ranked ahead of them.
“I can’t say enough,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “Some of that lack of pressure on the quarterback is because we’re stopping the run, but I thought we got after the quarterback extremely well, pushed him around out of the pocket, had a couple of free blitzers coming again. We just have to get there sooner.”
Defensive end Calais Campbell was the only Cardinal to bring down Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who avoided a fair stream of pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals pressured Stafford seven times.
“Matt did a good job of running away and throwing the ball away, so it’s just as good as a sack,” Arians said. “He’s a very good quarterback, a veteran now. He’s not taking sacks. He’s throwing the ball away.”
Their stout run defense helped Arizona close out Detroit. After forcing the Lions into passing situations, the Cardinals held the Lions to 3-for-11 on third downs.
To Arians, that makes up for a lack of sacks.
“I’ll take the run defense because we still had great third downs defensively,” Arians said. “We don’t need sacks. We just need to get off the field.”