After the Arizona Cardinals went on the road to upset the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, people around the league were shocked. Perhaps even some of Arizona's own media, fans and team personnel couldn't have foresaw what was going to happen.
The Titans appeared the most shocked of all, however. For a team many believe to be capable of playing deep into January, Tennessee was dominated from the very first snap and failed to make up ground the rest of the way.
Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards last season, and was a major story line concerning the Cardinals defense and how they would be able to stop the freight train that Henry has formed himself to be.
That train quickly went off the tracks, thanks to a stout Cardinals defensive game plan and execution (we're in favor of it). Henry was limited to 58 yards on 17 carries, only the fourth time in his last 33 regular-season games the workhorse runner was limited to that amount of rushing yards or less.
Henry's inability to propel the Titans on the ground stalled any hopes of a balanced attack, forcing Tennessee to throw the ball 35 times last Sunday. The Titans only had that many attempts in four games all last season.
Arizona's next task gets no easier, as running back Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota Vikings come to town. Cook, considered to be one of the best running backs in the league, brings a pass-catching dynamic to the Vikings backfield to form an all-around threat as a runner or receiver.
Despite amassing over 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown last Sunday, Cook and the rest of the Vikings are looking to rebound after an overtime loss to the Bengals.
While the Cardinals are confident in their own defensive abilities, the team also recognizes what Cook brings to the table.
"For us, a lot of it comes down to us playing our game and making sure we do what we're supposed to do. That's when you get yourself in trouble with a great back (such as Cook), is when you start trying to do too much or guys start trying to put too much on their plates," said Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt on Thursday.
"A great running back is gonna make you pay for your mistakes. So that's the No. 1 thing you have to do is just trying to eliminate your own mistakes."
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph echoed the same sentiment, and explained why defending the run was vital to the overall success of the defense.
"If we can stop the run and we can win first down, then we can dictate second and third down which obviously allows us to rush the passer," said Joseph.
"If you can't stop the run, you're going to spend most of your time in second-and-five/six and your third downs in third down and two/threes. That's not where you want to be. You want to be in third-and-eight plus and that way rushers can rush. So (for the Cardinals), so far so good."
The Cardinals will have another tall task ahead of them on Sunday, yet all working pieces on the defensive side of the ball know as long as Arizona plays true to themselves, similar results could follow from the Week 1 strong performance.