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Cardinals' Defense Has Been Stingy On Scoreboard

Notes: Run defense will be tested against Browns; Phillips closer to return

Defensive linemen Zach Allen (94), Rashard Lawrence (90), Corey Peters (98) and J.J. Watt (99) against the 49ers.
Defensive linemen Zach Allen (94), Rashard Lawrence (90), Corey Peters (98) and J.J. Watt (99) against the 49ers.

This season, the Cardinals' defense has shined, from stout cornerback play to the amount of heat its pass rush generates on opposing quarterbacks.

But the best part is that they don't give up points.

The Cardinals are allowing only 19 points a game, ranking them sixth in the NFL -- and what would be their best average since 2014.

The defense has allowed a touchdown or field goal on just 27.8 percent of opponent offensive drives, fourth in the NFL. Excluding the two touchdown returns against Minnesota and Jacksonville, the Cardinals have allowed just 82 points, third in the NFL.

But coach Kliff Kingsbury does not eye metrics in determining how well the defense performs. Instead, he looks at the outcome of games.

"Wins and losses," Kingsbury said. "When we win the game, that means they played well enough."

Sunday will be a challenge for the Cardinals' defense since the Browns have the sixth-best offense in the NFL in total points.


As impressive as the Cardinals' defense was last week, containing the run remains a problem. The Cardinals shut down Derrick Henry in the season opener but sport the 28th-ranked run defense.

The Browns have the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging nearly 188 yards per contest with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Both running backs are averaging more than five yards per carry, combining for nine touchdowns.

Ahead of the matchup in Cleveland, defensive coordinator coach Vance Joseph said the Cardinals must stop the run in order to keep their undefeated record without a loss.

"They've got two big-time backs, " Joseph said. "Obviously, with Chubb, he's a steady guy -- breaks tackles, makes every cut, and every read correctly. That's tough to defend because if you make a mistake, he's going to find it. That's what good backs do.

"Then, you add Hunt into the mix. He's a receiver in the backfield and makes the same cuts and big plays Chubb makes. But to beat this team, you have to contain the run game."


The Cardinals opened the window for defensive lineman Jordan Phillips to return to practice this week -- he remains on injured reserve with a back problem -- and Joseph was asked if conditioning had been an issue as Phillips has rehabbed. Phillips went on IR as the regular season began, and also missed almost all of training camp.

"He had a real issue with his back," Joseph said. "He's working his way back but it's tough with back injuries, especially for a big guy. Then getting back into contact shape takes some time. He's working hard; he's close. Hopefully, he's back in the next week or two – even maybe this week – we'll see. But he's a big part of our defensive line."


For a second straight day, starting linebacker Jordan Hicks (toe) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) did not practice for the Cardinals. Neither did offensive lineman Rodney Hudson (ribs/shoulder) or linebacker Tanner Vallejo (hand).

Offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (ribs), tight end Darrell Daniels (illness), running back Chase Edmonds (shoulder), quarterback Kyler Murray (right shoulder) were limited.

For the Browns, running back Nick Chubb (calf), offensive lineman Jack Conklin (knee), running back Kareem Hunt (wrist/knee), linebacker Malcolm Smith (abdomen), offensive lineman J.C. Tretter (knee), offensive lineman Jedrick Willis Jr. (ankle) did not practice Thursday.

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (elbow/knee), defensive end Myles Garrett (knee/ankle), defensive end Takkarist McKinley (ankle/knee), tight end David Njoku (knee), cornerback A.J. Green (shoulder/knee), defensive tackle Malik Jackson (knee), defensive tackle Malik McDowell (elbow/foot/neck), cornerback Greg Newsome (calf), cornerback Denzel Ward (neck), cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder/knee) were limited.