By the numbers: Arizona Cardinals’ win over the Cowboys
Aug 26, 2018, 8:57 PM | Updated: Aug 27, 2018, 8:56 am
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
The Arizona Cardinals came a minute short of shutting out the Dallas Cowboys in their third preseason game.
Instead, they won 27-3 without star players Larry Fitzgerald or David Johnson.
Despite the convincing win, the offense struggled to get going and was frequently lifted by the dominant defense that didn’t have to face Dallas stars Ezekiel Elliot or Dak Prescott.
But the defense forced turnovers, the special teams took advantage of muffed punts and the Cardinals improved in a specific area compared to their win last week over the New Orleans Saints.
Let’s take a look at some of the numbers that defined Arizona’s game Sunday.
The Cardinals had eight takeaways in their defensive dismantling of Dallas.
Five Arizona players recovered fumbles: Josh Bynes, Cap Capi, Rudy Ford, Dennis Gardeck and Trent Sherfield.
Three intercepted passes: Patrick Peterson, Budda Baker and Travell Dixon.
One Cowboy scored: the backup kicker, Brett Maher, with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Peterson scored on his interception and Sherfield recovered a muffed punt in the endzone.
The Cardinals now have 16 takeaways in three preseason games.
And while it is the preseason and the starters play as limited snaps as possible, it’s heartening to see the defense of new head coach Steve Wilks and coordinator Al Holcomb working out so far.
Over the week, Holcomb talked about closing the gaps and limiting the opponent’s run game.
After the Cardinals gave up 183 yards on the ground to the New Orleans Saints last week, it was a given.
“What we have to do a better job of as a defensive front, as a defense in general, (is) in terms of being disciplined in our gaps,” Holcomb said Thursday.
“That’s the biggest thing — and trusting in the system. Guys are in position and then somebody gets nosy, jumps out of their gap and all of a sudden the ball is on the second level, it’s a 15-yard gain.”
But against the Cowboys on Sunday, the Cardinals only allowed 2.5 yards per carry en route to 52 total rushing yards.
Dallas running backs Bo Scarbrough and Rod Smith combined for 38 yards on 14 carries.
On the other side, Arizona rushed for 146 yards and averaged 5.4 per carry despite David Johnson sitting and D.J. Foster getting injured.
The biggest rush came from T.J. Logan.
While the seriousness of Foster’s knee injury was unclear, the Cardinals probably breathed a sigh of relief when Logan, broke free for a 59-yard run for the only offensive touchdown of the night.
If the worst-case scenario occurs, and Foster is forced to missed the season with an injury, Logan showed he can provide some relief behind Johnson and backup running back Chase Edmonds.
His speed was apparent as he burst past the linebackers and into open space.
Last season, Logan was thought to be a rookie who could play a big role on the Cardinals. He got injured, though, missing him to force 2017.
He’s back to show that last year’s projections can still come to fruition.
In completing eight of his 10 passes while backup quarterback Josh Rosen was injured, Mike Glennon reminded the Cardinals how valuable a solid third-string quarterback performance can be.
He spread the ball around, connecting with five different receivers and leading the team to a field goal.
Sam Bradford completed one pass for six yards and Chad Kanoff, who has been creating some hype for himself with strong play this preseason, went 4-for-10.
After missing last week due to a forearm injury, Glennon’s performance was solid for a player of his role.
It might have been in part due to Glennon spreading the ball, but the Cowboys defense was effective in preventing the Cardinals receivers from getting the ball.
Arizona wide receivers only had six receptions on Sunday.
It’s not just because Larry Fitzgerald didn’t take part in the game. In week one of preseason, the receiving core only caught three passes.
J.J. Nelson couldn’t catch either of his targets, Greg Little only caught one of three and Brice Butler caught a pair of his four.
Running backs and tight ends got involved in the passing game, but the No. 2 receiver is still unclear heading into the final week of the preseason.
Punter Andy Lee had a phenomenal night, punting eight times for 376 yards – an average of 47 per kick – with a long of 67 yards.
He punted inside the 20 yard line four times, including one where Bené Benwikere leapt into the end zone and saved it from bouncing in for a touchback.
Lee only had one touchback on the night.
This was especially important with the inefficiency of the Arizona offense.
Once they got to third down, they rarely moved the chains forward.
Arizona is still struggling to convert on third down.
After only converting twice Sunday, the team is 7-for-38 over its three preseason games, including an 0-for-11 showing in week one against the Chargers.
The defense and special teams bailed out the Cardinals multiple times against the Cowboys. After going three-and-out on the first drive and failing to move forward on any of the plays, Dallas muffed a punt and Arizona recovered.
The Cardinals missed a field goal, and on the next drive, they punted after five plays.
Didn’t matter. The Cowboys muffed another punt, which Arizona recovered in the end zone for a score.
Two plays later, Peterson picked off a pass and returned it to the house.
So, after the offense advanced a total of nine yards and kicker Phil Dawson missed a 55-yard field goal, Arizona led 14-0.
After another five-play drive resulting in a punt later in the half, safety Budda Baker intercepted a pass in the end zone to prevent the Cowboys from scoring.
Arizona won 27-3, but the offense only scored once. When they reached third down, that typically spelled the end for their drive.
Arizona Sports reporter Kevin Zimmerman contributed to this report.