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Tyrann Mathieu: December football is what really matters

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his second interception of the game against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals safety

The Arizona Cardinals are 9-2, at the top of their division, with Super Bowl projections and praise coming in left and right. But safety Tyrann Mathieu is still grinding like a guy with something to prove.

“I can always get better, not to sound cliché,” Mathieu told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Like I said earlier in the show, I should have eight interceptions and maybe I should have 80 tackles instead of 70. There are plays that I miss that I want back and that’s the challenge — to continue to get better week in, week out. When those plays are there to be made, you just want to capitalize on opportunity.”

That sentiment doesn’t just go for him, it goes for his whole unit, which is allowing the fifth-fewest yards per game in the league.

“We look at the defense we’ve been playing lately, it’s a good thing our offense has been scoring 40 points,” he said. “We don’t think we’ve been stingy enough on defense. Especially in the red zone, giving up touchdowns. I think we’re in the bottom half of the league when it comes to red zone touchdowns given up.”

They are, in fact No. 30 in the NFL with 65 percent of opponent drives in the red zone ending in a touchdown this season.

“We just have to continue to get better,” Mathieu said. “We’re going to hit those types of games where offensively, defensively, we may be struggling and we just have to find a way to make a play.”

Looking on to next week, the Cardinals are heading to St. Louis for a rematch with one of the teams they lost to this year and Mathieu is not underestimating the importance of this game.

“This is another quality division opponent,” he said. “They know us, as well as we know them, so it’s really going to come down to the little things, man on man, beating your man and just beating your assignments.

“We understand in order to get where we have to go, we’re probably going to have to get through our division, win our division and beat the teams in our division. It’s another quality opponent, I know their record doesn’t show that but we know what happened week four here. I know those guys feel like they can beat us and we have to go into the game willing to give everything we’ve got just get out of there with a W.”

Though the Cardinals obviously had a strong start, Mathieu feels that this last stretch is all that matters now.

“This is the time of the season where we really need our playmakers to make plays,” he said. “So the first half – September, October, November really doesn’t matter. This December football is very important. We need all our young guys to play big and we definitely need our veterans to step up and lead us.”

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