The Cardinals are off to their best start in 40 years, when the St. Louis Cardinals started the 1974 season at 7-0. Dating back to Week 8 of last season, the Cardinals are 13-3, which is tied with the Denver Broncos for the best record in the NFL during that span. In fact, the Cardinals only loss this season came to the Broncos, who are currently No. 1 in the power rankings.
What is fueling the hot start for the Cardinals? A little bit of everything.
Only the New England Patriots (+11) have a better turnover differential than the Cardinals (+9) this season. The Cardinals have forced 14 turnovers this season, which is four shy of the NFL lead, but they’ve also limited their own mistakes. Only the Broncos (4) have committed fewer turnovers than the Cardinals (5) this season.
The lack of turnovers stems from quarterback play. Carson Palmer has thrown one interception on 154 attempts this season after throwing 22 last season. Even when he missed time, his backups Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas did not throw a single interception.
This has led to the Cardinals yielding only 10 points off turnovers this season, tied for best in the NFL.
Andre Ellington gives the Cardinals a versatile option out of the backfield, something they have not had in a long time.
Ellington has accounted for 31 percent of the Cardinals’ yards from scrimmage this season, fifth-highest in the NFL. The last two Cardinals running backs to even account for at least 25 percent of the offense were Edgerrin James in 2006 (26 percent) and Marcel Shipp in 2002 (26 percent).
The Cardinals rank third in the NFL this season in both rush yards per game allowed and yards per rush allowed. The Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8 were the first team to record 100 rush yards in a game against the Cardinals since Week 16 of last season.
Since Todd Bowles took over as the Cardinals defensive coordinator in 2013, the team ranks first in rush yards per game allowed and second in yards per rush allowed.
Another key to Bowles’ defense has been blitzing. The Cardinals have blitzed on an NFL-high 47 percent of dropbacks the last two seasons.
It has been a boom or bust strategy for the Cardinals, especially this season, but the blitz has come up big late in games this year.
In two of the biggest wins for the Cardinals this season, their opponents had one final possession needing a score. In Week 1, Philip Rivers was trying to drive the San Diego Chargers downfield trailing by one. The Cardinals blitzed on all five plays of that drive, forcing three straight incompletions and a turnover on downs.
In Week 8, the Eagles need a touchdown and reached the Cardinals 16-yard line with 13 seconds remaining. The Cardinals blitzed on Nick Foles ’ last two attempts, putting him under duress and forcing incompletions.
Not to be forgotten, Cardinals rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro has made all 16 of his field goal attempts to start this season. That’s tied with veteran Adam Vinatieri for most makes without a miss this season.
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