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Cardinals defense shows up for 3rd straight game in road win over Seattle

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 22: Jordan Hicks #58 recovers a fumble recovery alongside Jalen Thompson #34 of the Arizona Cardinals against the Seattle Seahawks in the third quarter during their game at CenturyLink Field on December 22, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks said it perfectly.

“I think we’re stacking. You can tell we’re getting better,” Hicks told the Burns & Gambo Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station ahead of the team’s matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.

Those words rung true at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, as the defense put together its third straight game of improved football.

Week 16’s win undoubtedly leads the way as the defense’s best performance to date under the new regime.

“Just the fight, the constant effort to keep going through a tough year at times,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters of the defense after the 27-13 win. “The last couple of weeks guys have been playing at a very high level and creating turnovers and have great juice.

“It’s just exciting to see those guys are that locked in. You know, Week 16, not going to make the playoffs and still playing with that type of effort and that type of enthusiasm is exciting to see.”

MVP-candidate Russell Wilson turned in one of the worst games of his career, completing just 16 of his 31 passes for 169 yards, a season-low, and a score. For Wilson, the 27-13 loss marked just the fifth time he threw one touchdown or less this season.

The defense also stepped up against Seattle’s run game, holding the Seahawks to just 91 yards and zero scores on 20 carries.

The win marks the eighth victory over the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, the most by a visiting team since it opened in 2002. The next closest? The Rams and 49ers with four apiece. Arizona is now 4-1 in their last five visits up north.

Leading the way was once again linebacker Chandler Jones.

Turning in a 4-sack effort along with two forced fumbles, six QB hits and six tackles, Jones was a force in the trenches. Safety budda Baker added a team-high nine tackles, one of which was for a loss.

“He’s been phenomenal, I think if we had a better record he’d be in that conversation for Defensive Player of the Year and should be,” Kingsbury told reporters of Jones. “He’s phenomenal, any time there’s a one-on-one there’s a good chance he’s going to get home and it’s a tough matchup for anybody.”

After allowing at least 28 points from weeks 8-13, Arizona has limited opponents to 24 points or less over its last three outings. The Cardinals turnover rate has steadily increased as well, with six turnovers in the last three games.

“Unfortunately, we’re not playing for a playoff [spot] but it gives us a sense of … we’re doing a lot of self-scouting a the end of the year,” Jones told reporters after the game. “We want the success from now to roll over into the next season and today a lot of young guys made plays, so I’m pretty sure the coaches are going to be analyzing that and getting ready for the next season for sure.”

The uptick in performance is a strong building block for the defense as a unit. If the team can put up a similar game in Week 17, the defense’s psyche will be at an all-time high heading into the offseason and Year 2 under Joseph and Co., Something many thought was not going to the case.

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