Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons breaks seal, seals Sunday win vs. Seahawks
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cornerback Patrick Peterson swears he called it pregame.
Even though rookie inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons has yet to find his role behind and along with starters Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell, Peterson felt like the first-round pick would have a breakout game Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
Although Simmons played just five total snaps on defense and special teams, he did.
With a minute left in overtime and the game tied, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson dropped back at midfield on 3rd-and-14. He felt pressure with Arizona posting about everyone save the cornerbacks right on the line of scrimmage, but three inside backers and one outside linebacker dropped into coverage.
Wilson correctly attacked Arizona by throwing into an area vacated by a blitzing slot corner. But with linebackers dropping into the zone, his errant pass intended for receiver Tyler Lockett was plucked out of the air by Simmons and returned 12 yards.
“It was clutch, clutch,” safety Budda Baker said. “It was kinda a smoke pressure. Isaiah was showing like he was blitzing and then got out, Russell didn’t see him. Isaiah used his length and got an interception.”
The Cardinals offense took over and advanced 19 yards to win the game, 37-34, on a 48-yard Zane Gonzalez field goal. So Peterson had to make sure to let reporters know he called Simmons’ first game-changing play as a pro.
“Coach Vance (Joseph) was very aggressive and Isaiah went through his keys — didn’t play all night,” Peterson said. “He came in and made a huge, huge play. You can ask him: Before the game, I told him, ‘This might be the game where you break that seal.'”
Simmons, Peterson and Baker all had interceptions of Wilson for the Cardinals, but it was the final turnover forced that was the big surprise.
Joseph had said last week that he expected Simmons to play more after receiving more than 20 snaps against the Dallas Cowboys last Monday. But even when Hicks was pulled from the game due to unknown reasons against the Seahawks, it was backup Tanner Vallejo stepping it at Mike.
Vallejo, who showed well last year, had three tackles, two of which came on the final defensive stand of the fourth quarter that allowed Arizona to set up a 44-yard field goal as regulation expired.
So Simmons didn’t get his chance until Joseph, dealing with losing three starters on the defensive side of the ball, opted for the Simmons package of three inside linebackers on the final defensive play Arizona needed.
What it will do for Simmons moving into a bye week and with Hicks’ status unknown remains to be seen, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury believes it could be a confidence boost for the No. 8 pick, who without a full offseason of work has been brought along slowly at the most complex defensive position.
“You saw tonight the ability he has to make that play, and that situation was huge and will do wonders for him moving forward,” Kingsbury said.
The Arizona (5-2) win featured so many other weird moments:
— The Cardinals failed to convert a 4th-and-3 from three yards out after Budda Baker’s 90-yard interception return but came away scoreless in the first half.
— Baker being tracked down by, in Kingsbury’s words, “stallion of a human” D.K. Metcalf in what was a points-saving effort from the Seattle wideout.
— Kingsbury iced Gonzalez on a potential overtime game-winning kick with 2:47 left and on second down.
— Seattle thought it had a 48-yard game-winning touchdown by D.K. Metcalf on its first possession of overtime before it was called back on a hold.
— DeAndre Hopkins’ big mitts lost the ball on a fumble for just the sixth time in more than 7,400 career snaps.
Simmons’ play, however, might have been the weirdest of them all.
“The moment our defense stopped Russell Wilson a second time,” running back Chase Edmonds said. “I was just in disbelief when Isaiah got that pick.”