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Cardinals' Defense Shining Early

Numbers of note following the Cardinals' 30-15 win over Washington

Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters registers a sack on Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins on September 20, 2020.
DT Corey Peters celebrates a sack on Washington QB Dwayne Haskins.

After poor play in 2019, there was hope the Cardinals' defense could improve to average in 2020.

Through two games, it has exceeded those ambitions.

The Cardinals are ranked No. 8 in Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency following the 2-0 start and are allowing only 17.5 points per game, which is the second-lowest figure in the NFL behind the Ravens.

The group has been dominant situationally, first in the league in both third-down (26.1 percent conversation rate) and red zone defense (28.6 percent touchdown rate).

As coach Kliff Kingsbury said after Sunday's 30-15 win over Washington, it's been a “night and day” improvement from a season ago.

Other numbers of note following the Week 2:

  • Kyler Murray had the sixth-best Total QBR this week and is No. 5 overall among quarterbacks after two games. Murray's 90.1 rating on Sunday trailed Baker Mayfield (98.1), Jared Goff (95.9), Josh Allen (93.7), Ryan Tannehill (90.2) and Matt Ryan (90.2). Murray accumulated 3.8 expected points added on the ground, the second-best mark behind Patrick Mahomes.
  • Speaking of Murray's legs, he leads the NFL in yards per carry at 7.5, which is 0.6 yards better than second-place Aaron Jones of the Packers. If not for two kneeldowns against the 49ers, Murray would be averaging 8.8 yards per carry on the season. He is tied for ninth in the NFL in rushing yards (158), tied for first in 20-plus-yard runs (3) and tied for third in touchdown runs (3).
  • After the win over Washington, the Cardinals are being given a 61.7 percent chance to make the playoffs by Football Outsiders, which is a 6.8 percent improvement from last week. Despite being undefeated, the Cardinals' odds to win the division are only 21.9 percent because the Seahawks and Rams are also unblemished, while the 49ers are 1-1.
  • The Cardinals had four different players – DeAndre Hopkins, Andy Isabella, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald – finish with 50 or more receiving yards on Sunday. According to my research, the Cardinals hadn't done that since the 6-6 overtime tie against the Seahawks on October 23, 2016. There were actually five pass-catchers who finished with 50 or more yards in that game: J.J. Nelson, Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, David Johnson and Ifeanyi Momah.

Images from Sunday's 30-15 victory at State Farm Stadium.

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