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Examining what the Cardinals can learn from NFL playoff teams

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs and Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans shake hands following the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

They say the NFL is a copycat league.

If that’s the case, the Arizona Cardinals ought to feel no shame if they take cues from this year’s playoff teams, who continued the chase for the Lombardi Trophy over the weekend.

The action prompted 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf to have the discussion: What can the Cardinals copy from playoff teams so they can get to the playoffs themselves?

Arizona will try to improve on a five-win 2019 season next year with Kyler Murray entering his sophomore year. Same goes for head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Here’s what the hosts came up with on the segment “four downs”:

Doug Franz

1. Run-to-pass ratio: The Cardinals’ run-to-pass ratio was 42% run, 58% pass in 2019. The playoff teams were reversed: 57% run. “The NFL is changing,” Franz said. Arizona did have the third-best yards per carry and 10th-most rushing yards as an offense in 2019.

2. The Chiefs’ big comeback over the Texans. “To be down 24-0 and not look at block punts and punt fumbles as a sign we’re all going down. When things go bad during the season next year, Cardinals players, how do you take it? How do you deal with it? How do you overcome it?”

3. Winning in the trenches. Franz posed this question for general manager Steve Keim: “How many of your individual Cards offensive linemen would start this weekend? Other than Chandler Jones, how many of your defensive linemen would start this weekend, compared to the four teams that are still playing?”

4. Coaching, and not being afraid to run the ball. “[San Francisco head coach] Kyle Shanahan can really, really coach.” Running the football leads to championships.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Ron Wolfley

1. The line of scrimmage. “The reason why teams won is because they controlled the line of scrimmage.”

2. Stop the run. “Forget about pass-rush — give me a run-stuffing defense.”

3. Tight ends. “Tight ends, tight ends, tight ends. Run the ball and use tight ends. I think the Arizona Cardinals are inching closer to that.” The Cardinals recently extended Maxx Williams and picked up Dan Arnold late in the season, the latter of whom had 76 yards and a touchdown in Week 17.

4. Run the ball.

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Paul Calvisi

1. Physicality. “Physicality wins playoff games. Especially in the trenches, make sure you’re drafting or signing dudes with an edge.”

2. Third down and red zone. “You know what you need? You need to get yourself a dynamic tight end.” Examples: Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, George Kittle, Jimmy Graham.

3. Defense. Not Russell Wilson nor Kyler Murray can overcome a lackluster defense. The Seattle defense ranked 22nd-best in points allowed, 26th in yards allowed, 28th in yards per play, 26th in first downs against. “Does that sound familiar to anyone?”

4. Run game; a balanced offense. “Keep emphasizing it like you did in the second half of the season.”

Phillips Law Group

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