There was a lot of white-knuckling going on last Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Arizona Cardinals led the Minnesota Vikings by three points in the last minute of the game. The Vikings were in field goal range for kicker Blair Walsh, but opted to run another play on third down even though they didn’t have any timeouts.
Linebacker Dwight Freeney beat left tackle Matt Kalil on one of his patented spin moves and sacked quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, forcing a fumble in the process. Defensive end Calais Campbell jumped on the loose ball to preserve the 23-20 win, which clinched a playoff spot for the Cardinals for the second straight year.
“I was thinking that was the best $200,000 we’ve ever spent,” Arizona general manager Steve Keim told Doug and Wolf Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Freeney’s sack was his fourth of the season and activated a $200,000 bonus in his contract. The 35-year-old pass rusher was signed to a one-year deal by the Cardinals in mid-October. It’s just another in a long line of one-year contract success stories for Keim.
“Dwight was chomping at the bit to get off the couch, and we knew from watching the tape that he still had the ability to apply pressure,” Keim said. “Last year, I think he only had four sacks in the entire season, but he was sixth in the NFL in pressures.”
Freeney had 21 quarterback hurries last season when he was a member of the San Diego Chargers. He’s already surpassed his sack total from 2014 and has 10 pressures in eight games for Arizona.
Even though Freeney has been terrorizing NFL quarterbacks since 2002, Keim still marvels at the effectiveness of the seven-time Pro Bowler’s signature spin move.
“That inside spin is remarkable,” he said. “I haven’t seen many guys who can master that. To have a guy come off the edge and be able to almost gain speed coming out of the spin is unusual. I haven’t seen anyone else do it like Dwight Freeney does it.”
Freeney’s deal also calls for more financial gain for every sack he registers for the rest of the regular season. Keim will be happy if that’s the case, as Freeney is capable of providing an ingredient that isn’t a surplus for the Cardinals’ defense.
“He’s a guy we’re going to count on down the stretch,” Keim said. “If there are any concerns, it is that ability to apply pressure without manufacturing and bringing the blitz.
“(Defensive coordinator) James Bettcher does a nice job of diagramming our defense and making sure guys are in positions to succeed, but we need to be able to win one-on-one situations from time to time, and Dwight Freeney is a guy that can do it for us.”
— NFL (@NFL) December 11, 2015