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first_img Top Stories Comments   Share   Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scrambles as Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling Passing the eye test is one thing. The Arizona Cardinals’ defense certainly did that in 2015.But putting a number on their success, especially in one specific category, helps to understand how good they are compared to the rest of the NFL.When it comes to finding a “sneaky strength” of Arizona’s defense last year, nothing stood out more from a statistical sense than the Cardinals’ ability to stop opponents on third-and-long. Based on Football Outsider’s defense-adjusted value over average statistic, Bruce Arians’ team was the best in third-and-long situations, and it isn’t particularly close.The Cardinals were far and away the best third-and-long defense with minus-97.6 percent DVOA, well ahead of second-ranked Houston and its minus-61.7 percent DVOA.That means Arizona was 97.6 percent better than the average team in a given situation. The statistic is based on several situational variables, including location on the field, score differential, quarter, the quality of the opponent and their ability in a given situation.The DVOA may be abstract, but it’s easy to understand why the second-best team in the NFL appeared far from matching Arizona’s third-and-long success.From cornerback to defensive end, the Cardinals’ defense was well-rounded in 2015. Its ability to blitz at such a high frequency, and the defensive backs’ competency to lock up downfield targets, likely had to do with opponents struggling to convert in third-and-long situations against Arizona. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retireslast_img read more