The Play: Tyrann Mathieu’s fourth-quarter pick helps Cardinals beat Jags
Nov 26, 2017, 7:49 PM | Updated: Nov 27, 2017, 3:57 pm
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
GLENDALE, Ariz. — With each week that passes, Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu is getting closer and closer to the 2015 version of the “Honey Badger” that wreaked havoc on NFL offenses before a knee injury ended his season.
Mathieu, who helped the Cardinals in their first win of 2017 with an overtime interception in Week 2 against Indianapolis, struck again Sunday in a 27-24 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In a 24-24 game, the Cardinals found themselves on defense after quarterback Blaine Gabbert was intercepted by Jacksonville safety Barry Church with just 3:38 remaining in the contest.
Fifty-six seconds later, it was Mathieu’s turn to make a big play. Jacksonville faced a 3rd-and-6 from the Arizona 38-yard line, just on the precipice of field goal range for kicker Josh Lambo. As the ball was snapped, Mathieu darted from the secondary toward the line to cover running back T.J. Yeldon out of the backfield.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles rolled right, looked downfield to the sideline to Dede Westbrook, but Mathieu positioned himself in the ball’s path, making a jumping interception before it could get to the intended target.
When you’re in the desert, watch out for Badgers. pic.twitter.com/7VZWLNETKA
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) November 27, 2017
“I never saw him,” Bortles said. “He made a good play, he’s a great player and he does stuff like that all the time. He jumped up and made a good play at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s tough, you’d like to have it back and throw it away, maybe give ourselves a chance to kick a field goal. You have to tip your cap to him.”
It wasn’t Mathieu’s only play on the day. The fifth-year veteran registered four tackles, one for loss and had three passes defensed.
“They started off four strong, it was a bunch with their backs to us,” Mathieu said. “I initially thought they were going to pick all of us and get the back to the flat and they motioned one guy back. I just started sprinting. I was just trying to get leverage on the back and I put my hands up and the ball was right there.”
Mathieu has had a sizable effect on the Cardinals’ defense over the past four games, registering 20 total tackles, two tackles for loss, three passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble in that span.
“He was close to two more interceptions,” Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s been playing better and better. You can see his swagger coming out.”
That’s certainly a welcome sign for a defense that has missed Mathieu’s splash-play ability.
“It felt good,” Mathieu said. “It felt like he obviously forced the throw, but it was a great play at a critical time.”