By Matthew Asher
With six weeks completed for both the Hawks and Cards, enough time has passed to start noticing certain patterns. At least for the Cardinals, one constant glaring weakness emerges in each of their three losses: the inability to shut down the opposing tight ends.
Earlier in the Week 1, it was kind of shocking to see Arizona’s defense having such a hard time shutting down the passing attack even with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu in the secondary. Peterson and Mathieu don’t typically cover tight ends, so that’s one possible reason for the less-than-stellar numbers for their passing defense.
In Week 1, the Cardinals lost to the Rams 24-27. St. Louis tight end Jared Cook simply could not be stopped. He finished with seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the Rams team only accounted for an additional 158 receiving yards.
Arizona’s second loss came in Week 3 against the New Orleans Saints. The main reason for the 31-7 blowout by New Orleans? Again, it was the tight end position. Jimmy Graham led the team with nine receptions, 134 yards and two touchdowns as well. To be fair, Graham has had an excellent season so far. Week 1 was the only week in which he didn’t pick up at least 100 yards, so this game wasn’t an aberration.
The Cards third loss came last week in Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers. Again, the tight end torched the Cardinals defense. Vernon Davis finished the game with eight receptions for a career-high 180 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Colin Kaepernick only completed an additional eight passes to other receivers going for just 72 yards so Davis was clearly the focal point of the offensive attack.
In those three games, Cook, Graham and Wells combined for 24 catches, 455 yards and six touchdowns. That means in all three Arizona losses, those three men averaged eight receptions, 152 yards and two touchdowns each.
It’s not just these three games, either. The only time the opposing tight end did not lead his team in both receptions and receiving yards was the Week 2 win over the Detroit Lions when Calvin “Megatron” Johnson caught six passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns as well.
Now for the Hawks, there’s a good chance that tight end Zach Miller, who played college ball at Arizona State less than 30 miles away, will be able to post some good numbers against this struggling Cards defense. Miller may only have eight receptions this season, but two of them have been for touchdowns. If he can keep pace with the other tight ends, he may leave the game doubling that number.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.