The Cardinals' defense clearly played its best football down the stretch, which has coach Kliff Kingsbury optimistic about its ability to take a step forward in 2020.
There were a few reasons why things seemed to click: Chandler Jones and Budda Baker ramped up already-impressive years, Jalen Thompson settled in at safety, and the move of Haason Reddick from inside linebacker to the edge seemed to help both spots.
However, the biggest difference may have been the return to form of cornerback Patrick Peterson. The perennial Pro Bowler missed the first six games of the season due to suspension, and then struggled upon his return.
In his first seven games, Peterson gave up 32 receptions on 41 targets for 447 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, per Pro Football Focus. The passer rating allowed of 126.3 was very un-Peterson-like.
But then he made a request to shadow Odell Beckham, Jr. against the Browns, was given the opportunity, and won that matchup easily. Peterson shadowed D.K. Metcalf in Week 16 – holding him without a catch – and then did a nice job on Robert Woods in the regular season finale.
In the final three games of the year, Peterson allowed eight completions on 20 targets for 87 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. His passer rating against in those games was a sparkling 49.4 despite facing Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson and Jared Goff.
As he spoke outside the locker room at the L.A. Coliseum following the loss to the Rams, Peterson was bummed the season was over but excited about the future.
"I feel like I'm really getting back into my groove, my legs are back under me, playing with a lot of fire, playing with a lot of energy," Peterson said. "The guys really feed off that."