Preparing for One of the Best Defenses in the NFL
The Arizona Cardinals didn’t look like much of a threat after their 2-3 start to the season. Now, however, they are a team on a three-game win streak, with a suffocating defense and a fantastic coach in Bruce Arians, who knows how to get the most out of any player.
Arizona’s defense gives up the 9th fewest yards and 8th fewest points per game in the league. A deeper look reveals that Football Outsiders ranks them first overall in DVOA (4th against the pass and 2nd against the run). They are talented, disciplined, and opportunistic – a devastating combination.
Indianapolis, still struggling with the running game and with replacing Reggie Wayne’s production on the field, will have their hands full on Sunday. “Very salty defense,” Andrew Luck said of this week’s opponent. “They play hard. They do a good (job) of stuffing the run. They got a good front seven and a really talented secondary.”
Luck singled out CB Tyrann Mathieu and said the whole Cardinals defense is great at creating turnovers. “We know it’s going to be tough, tough sledding,” he added, “but we’re looking forward to it. It will be a great challenge.”
These Colts have proven they can win on a bad day. They can win with a porous offensive line or with struggling receivers. This will not fly against Arizona’s defense, however. The Cardinals take advantage of every missed assignment, every ball that glances of a receiver’s hands, every errant throw.
Few would have said it in Week 5, but the Colts need to be clicking in every phase from the start against Bruce Arians’s Cardinals. They can ill afford to stumble out of the gate this week.
Great to See You, BA
Much has been made of the Colts and Head Coach Chuck Pagano facing off against last year’s offensive coordinator and current Cardinals HC Bruce Arians.
Arians took over when Pagano was in the hospital battling cancer and helped guide the team on their stunning run to the playoffs. It was an emotional time, an emotional season. So, the matchup between these two probably has a little extra meaning, right?
“Honestly, I don’t think guys get too caught up,” Andrew Luck said of dealing with reunions with old coaches or former teammates (He also faced Jim Harbaugh this season). “I know I haven’t. The emotions of seeing someone come back, or going somewhere, or going up against a buddy or an old coach, I think football is an emotional game as it is.
“I know I haven’t had a problem. I don’t think guys in this locker room have, putting aside those other emotions. We realize every game is a big game. You focus on that. You focus on the opposition, not the side stories. We leave that for you guys and the fans.”
Or, as Arians put it when talking about the emotions of such a matchup, “I hide it real well.”
The Other Former Colts OC
There is another reunion with a former Colts offensive coordinator this weekend. It has gone largely unnoticed, perhaps because there has been so much turnover in the organization since he left. Donald Brown, Anthony Castonzo, and Reggie Wayne are the only remaining offensive players to have played under Tom Moore.
Moore was with the Colts from 1998 to 2010, ten of those years as offensive coordinator (the last two as an offensive consultant because of NFL retirement and pension rules). During Moore’s tenure, the offense ranked an average of 6th in scoring (5th if you throw out 1998), and the team went on a run of unprecedented success.
Seeing Tom Moore on the other sideline probably means more to long-time Colts fans than to the players and coaches here today, but for all those who do remember him, it’s great to see that he’s still doing what he loves.
Arians laid out what Moore does on a regular basis and what he brings to the Cardinals, as well as the benefit of having such experienced elder statesmen on the staff. “It’s been great. He’s my sounding board,” he said referring to Moore. “And Tom is so good with Carson (Palmer) on the sidelines. Freddie Kitchens is the quarterback coach, he’s upstairs. And Tom, assistant head coach/offense, he runs all our walkthroughs, does a lot of stuff.
“Harold Goodwin’s the offensive coordinator and does the running game and everything, but yeah it’s just that steady presence. He’s been there and done it all. We got the same thing on defense with Tom Pratt. Believe it or not, he’s a little bit older than Tom Moore. He coached in Super Bowl I. So those guys are just steady influences and great sources of knowledge of the game for our young coaches.”
Leftovers: Redding is Thankful, Arians’s Accent is Hard to Describe
With some recent things my family and some friends of ours have been through with our children, Cory Redding truly struck a chord when a reporter asked him about being thankful this time of year. He or she likely was asking him about football, but Redding has a way of saying much more when he breaks the usual interview script.
– Cory Redding on being thankful: “Yes there is. I love Thanksgiving and I love Christmas. It’s coming to an end of a great year God has blessed us with. Time to see family and friends we haven’t seen in months. To sit around and break bread with your close friends and family, it’s always a plus. This is a season of giving and a season of sharing and reflecting. And so I truly believe that each one of us, you guys, friends, everybody who’s watching, take the time back and just give thanks for everything that we have. The next breath you just took, give thanks for that. Give thanks for your wives and kids, husbands, everybody, because truly it could be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. You never know. Tomorrow’s not promised.”
– Greg Toler on returning to the field against his former team: “Most definitely. Those guys, they’re still my brothers. I still talk to them occasionally. But we’re over here trying to get it done, trying to hoist that trophy at the end of the day. We’re friends after the game. During the game, it’s mano y mano. You got to match up and make the plays that come your way. And I think we can put it out.”
– Andrew Luck on Bruce Arians and his personality: “It’s unique. He’s got a great way with players, I think. He’s obviously outgoing, and his speech patterns or his dialect is very interesting. But, he manages to get his points across in a great way. He knows when to yell at you and maybe when to give you a hug, in a sense. I think he’s got a great touch in that sense.”
– Luck answering a follow up on Arians’s dialect: “I couldn’t figure (out) if it was like Deep South, New Jersey; I couldn’t figure out where it came from, but he makes it work.”
Deep South New Jersey. That’s an accent, right there.
– Luck in defense of Trent Richardson: “I think he’s done a great job. I think he fits very well with the power running and the gap schemes. He’s done a great job of picking up protection duties and getting out of the backfield when he needs to, so I think he’s been a great fit. I think some of the criticism is unfair of his stat line. I don’t think that folks are seeing the bigger picture.”