TEMPE, Ariz. — All wins may count the same, but they’re not necessarily created equal.
Take, for instance, the Arizona Cardinals’ first three victories.
The wins over Detroit, Tampa Bay and Carolina all carried a theme that was both exciting and concerning.
All three games featured a defense that was both stingy and opportunistic; all three games featured an offense that at best didn’t get in the way, and at worst tried to give the games away.
It’s a formula that can win, but not often. Sooner or later, the offense was going to have to step up. And in Sunday’s 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons, it did.
“Oh there’s no doubt,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said when asked if a victory like Sunday’s serves to validate what he’s trying to do in his first season in Arizona. “When you preach ‘team’ and your defense is playing extremely well, it’s time for the other phases.
“Our defense and special teams have done really well, and now it’s time for offense to continually grow so it is a team effort.”
Following the win, everyone in Cardinal Red talked about how much better it is to head into the team’s bye week with a 4-4 record, rather than the 3-5 mark they would have had if they lost the game. Yet, the win probably would not have felt nearly as good had it followed the same pattern as the previous three.
Wins are wins, but at some point the offense needed to do something — anything.
“It felt great,” receiver Michael Floyd said. “I think we’re becoming a whole offense, a whole unit, and we displayed it real well [Sunday].
“It’s all about developing each week now. This week we didn’t have that many mistakes, and it showed out on the field what we’re capable of doing.”
Whether it was with the running game featuring Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor or the passing game behind Carson Palmer and his bevvy of wideouts, the Cardinals certainly were productive enough.
In total, the Cardinals gained 348 net yards of offense while averaging 6.8 yards per play. Arians pointed to the team’s lack of execution on third down, where they converted just three of 10 chances, as a negative from the game. But Arians said it was the best the offense has played this season because “we matched our points per minute of possession time for the first time.”
The Cardinals possessed the ball for just less than 26 minutes.
Even with a few not-so-good aspects, overall it was the type of performance that quieted down some of the offense’s naysayers, at least for a couple more weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons on offense,” defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. “Everybody knows we’re going to struggle here and there, but those guys work hard. They come to practice every day, they work, they grind.”
Dockett added that watching the film does not tell the story about how hard everyone on the offense works and how much they want to turn things around.
With Sunday’s effort included, the Cardinals rank 26th in yards per game and 24th in points per game.
“Our offense comes to work every day, and it’s good,” he said. “And things are going to change. Things are going to change.
“If they keep grinding, it’s going to get better and the good thing about it is it’s going to get better at the time when we need it most.”