Not that we have any historical basis to fall back on, but you’d think an NFL team that won its first four games and then proceeded to lose their next seven would have an unbelievable shift in statistics.
In the case of the 2012 Arizona Cardinals, the only team ever to fall into this category, that is not true.
When comparing the numbers between Arizona’s four-game winning streak and their current seven-game skid, the numbers, strangely enough, look very similar in most categories.
In fact, in their last seven contests, the Cardinals are averaging more rushing yards and more passing yard per game on offense. On defense, they’re allowing fewer passing yards and total yards per game.
Their turnover margin is even during the losing streak.
The overall stat sheet shows opponents are scoring more points against the Cardinals during the losing streak, but let’s keep in mind that Arizona’s last seven opponents have combined for four defensive touchdowns and a safety.
The Cardinals’ inability to get the ball to All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald more has been magnified because of their recent losing. But in actuality, Fitzgerald’s production is only down less than a catch and seven yards per game in losses.
Sacks? Opponents sacked Arizona quarterbacks 3.5 times per game in wins, and 4.5 times in losses, so the difference is negligible.
The Cardinals have been abysmal at both times in converting third downs — 30.9% in wins and 27.1% in losses.
So what is the big difference? Why has a seemingly promising season been derailed in a fashion that has many bellowing “ah, it’s the same ol’ Cardinals.”
The answer is simple. Quarterback play.
Paul Calvisi suggested as much in a column he penned for ArizonaSports.com, and he’s absolutely right. The difference for the Arizona Cardinals in wins and losses comes down to quarterback play.
Kevin Kolb is by no means a franchise quarterback, but his rib injury has absolutely crippled the Cardinals’ chances of winning football games. Kolb did just enough in four contests to help Arizona win football games, including his stint in relief of John Skelton in the season opener against Seattle in which he completed six passes for 66 yards and a touchdown in the 20-16 win.
His passer rating of 86.1 won’t wow anybody, but it still ranks eighth in the NFC and is ahead of the likes of Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler.
Oh, and it’s much better than the figures of Skelton (64.4) and rookie Ryan Lindley (47.0), who have yet to lead the Cardinals to a win in Kolb’s absence.
Over 26% of the possessions Kolb engineered ended in points, while only 24.8% of Skelton’s and 16.7% of Lindley’s have.
It’s hard to believe, especially considering how a lot of fans thought of him after training camp, but Kevin Kolb is the most important player for the Arizona Cardinals this season.
Unfortunately, for the last seven weeks, he’s been wearing a ball cap and a gray hoodie and hasn’t been able to help his team on the field.
You want to know the difference between a 4-0 start and an 0-7 stretch? There’s your answer right there.