The week 5 game for the Arizona Cardinals was at Paul Brown Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a 10am game, Arizona time and was raining most of the game. Either of those issues alone can present challenges for the Cardinals but this time, they were able to squeeze out a win.
Sunday’s game was the first game without veteran safety D.J. Swearinger. In his place, Vance Joseph utilized rookie safeties Jalen Thompson and Deionte Thompson. After Tramaine Brock suffered a knee injury late in the game, both took position as safeties on the field with Budda Baker as the slot CB. Baker started Sunday’s game as Arizona’s highest rated defender so far this season, according to Pro Football Focus, with a grade of 75.8 which puts him on track to have his most productive year.
Just based on the eye test, the Cardinals had far less missed tackles in this game than in previous games. The aggressiveness of the defense may have come thanks to the offense. Murray and the offense were on field more this game, which allowed the defense more time to rest. Haason Reddick stepped up in a big way on Sunday, with a handful of important blocks, good protection and one sac where he just carried Dalton away from the 1st down line. Jordan Hicks also had his highest Pro Football Focus rating last week against Seattle. If they can continue to help stop the run and put pressure on our opponents, the load on the secondary will be reduced.
In the Bengals opening drive, they rushed for 65 yards. 15.5 yards more than they had all season. The game didn’t start well for the Cardinals defense, but with the help of the secondary, they were able to stop the drive and make the Bengals settle for a field goal. After making more adjustments, the Cardinals were able to hold Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon to only 33 yards for the remainder of the game. Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert was also contained to only two receptions for 14 yards, making Sunday’s game the first one of the season where the Cardinals did not allow a touchdown by a tight end. Not only have the Cardinals lead the league in allowing the most points by tight ends, but they’ve allowed three 100-yard rushers in the last three games. So, it was progress.
The defense still allowed the Bengals to rally 16 points and tie it up in the 4th quarter. In their last touchdown play, QB Andy Dalton connected with WR Tyler Boyd, who outran Budda Baker to the end zone. Bengals used a decent mix of ground and air, but the Cardinals still have zero interceptions on the year. Given the lack of talent for Cincinnati, that should have changed on Sunday.
There are still plenty of areas the defense needs to improve on, but it seems the Cardinals secondary could take a big sigh of relief after Sunday’s win.