Arizona Cardinals cornerback Robert Alford raved about defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s game plan entering Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans.
He wasn’t lying.
The Cardinals absolutely manhandled the Titans in Arizona’s 38-13 win on Sunday, with the defense setting the tone early on.
“No doubt [the win starts with the defense],” head coach Kliff Kingsbury told Paul Calvisi on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “They were blowing up the line of scrimmage, negative play after negative play, keeping them off schedule and that was the game plan.
“VJ had a tremendous game plan trying to get those guys to third down because we didn’t think they could hold up blocking us and he was right.”
Being a Titans team that thrives off play actions and a stout running attack, the biggest challenge was limiting the their effectiveness in third-and-short looks, an area Tennessee excelled in a season prior. Mission accomplished.
Of the Titans’ 14 third downs, only four of them were inside four yards. Just one touchdown was scored over those four attempts, a major win for Arizona.
“He worked tremendously hard on them all offseason,” Kingsbury told Calvisi. “I’d walk in there this summer and he’s watching Titans film and Titans games. He put together a real masterpiece.”
The biggest win of them all, however, is stopping reigning two-time NFL rushing king Derrick Henry to 58 yards on 17 carries. Last season, Henry had just two games that were worse than Sunday’s.
With Henry locked down, the Cardinals could focus on putting more pressure on quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Check another box off of the to-do list.
The Cardinals pressured Ryan Tannehill on 17 of 41 dropbacks (41.5%), led by Chandler Jones & their defensive front.
7 QBP on 28 pass rushes (25.0%)
4 QBP on 23 pass rushes (17.4%)
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 12, 2021
Behind Chandler Jones’ incredible five-sack effort, highlighted by a pair of strip-sacks, Tannehill had little time to look down the field for receiving threats Julio Jones and A.J. Brown.
The duo combined for just seven catches and 78 yards, with Brown the lone Titans WR to find pay dirt.
“(Chandler Jones) was unblockable most of training camp to the point where it’s like, ‘Hey, we can only pass when he’s out of game,’ type of deal,” Kingsbury told reporters after the win. “He was awesome. So, I didn’t know if he would have five, but I knew he would impact the game. There was no doubt.”