New quarterback, same result as the Arizona Cardinals (9-1) ran their win-streak to six, starting fast and holding off the Detroit Lions 14-6 Sunday afternoon at sold out University of Phoenix Stadium. Detroit falls to 7-3.
Here are five things we learned in the win.
1. Not Always As They Drew It Up…you would expect there to be some rough patches for Drew Stanton going against one of the more stingy defenses in the NFL and that proved to be the case. His reads were, for the most part, solid as was his accuracy but he got into trouble at times staring down receivers and throwing late. Stanton made just enough plays and eliminated the errors in the second half to keep Arizona’s win streak alive. “He hung in there,” head coach Bruce Arians said afterwards. “He was over 60% on third downs. I was really pleased with the way he played.” He finished 21-32 for 306 yards. He threw two touchdowns and two interceptions and finished with a respectable 91.4 passer rating.
2. Less Is More…one trend which continued with Stanton is Arizona’s offensive success working with an empty backfield. The Cards were particularly efficient on third down (8-14 conversions) spreading the field and allowing Stanton to distribute the ball in different formations. 10 different players caught a pass against the Lions with rookie John Brown leading the way with five grabs for 69 yards.
3. Patrick’s Hat Trick…Patrick Peterson vowed his play would improve and, for the third consecutive game, he kept his promise limiting arguably the league’s most talented receiver Calvin Johnson to five catches for 59 yards. He was targeted a game-high a game-high 12 times and did not find the end zone. Those numbers are a far cry from Megatron’s six-catch, 116-yard, two touchdown performance last year in Arizona. He also received some post-game praise from his coach which hasn’t always been the case this season. “Patrick played an outstanding ballgame. Holding [Johnson] down is a huge accomplishment.”
4. Ailing Ellington…Bird Gang has to hold their breath every time Andre Ellington takes a big shot and gets up slowly like he did in the third quarter. The playmaking running back hasn’t been healthy all season and Arians’ and his staff have kept his practice time to a minimum, opting mostly for treatment on his partially torn foot tendon. The second-year player believes the injury won’t completely heal until after the season ends. He reeled in a 24-pass in front of the Lions’ sideline but again struggled on the ground managing just 42 yards on 19 carries (2.2 yards-per-attempt).
5. Road Warriors…if you believe a three-game lead in the NFC West is safe, think again. The Cardinals, as evidenced by more national media in the press box and locker room, are no longer a secret and can expect everybody’s best shot–starting next weekend in Seattle against a Seahawks team looking for payback after the Cards silenced the 12th Man in a win last December. They finish the season with four of six on the road, including games in St. Louis and San Francisco. There’s plenty of football left and you can bet Arians and his staff will be pounding the point home to the team this week.