Gameday leftovers: Cards DC’s ‘brilliant’ calls led to Simmons INT
Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph didn’t have much left in the tool box with two starting defensive ends and his vocal leader, Jordan Hicks, injured down the stretch against the Seattle Seahawks.
Those facts didn’t change his aggressive play-calling Sunday.
From a corner blitz on third down of Seattle’s first overtime drive to a wild play-call that forced Russell Wilson’s third interception in the Cardinals’ 37-34 win, he was pushing the right buttons when it counted most.
The second of those two aforementioned plays resulted in rookie Isaiah Simmons’ interception that gave Arizona the ball back for a game-winning field goal.
Not only was it the first-round pick’s fifth defensive snap of the game — it called for two defensive backs to rush and for three inside linebackers and one outside backer to drop into coverage after feigning a pass-rush.
It was apparently enough to confuse Wilson, who tried to attack a vacated area of the field on the hot route by receiver Tyler Lockett. But Lockett, seeing backers falling into coverage, didn’t read the play as his quarterback did.
ISAIAH SIMMONS. INTERCEPTED.
— NFL (@NFL) October 26, 2020
“I thought that was a brilliant sequencing of calls by Vance,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “He’d gone (coverage) zero-blitz, zero-blitz and then lined up. It looked like it again, and he bailed those guys out underneath it. The receivers felt them bailing and they didn’t look hot, and Russ thought it was hot, it looked like, and Isaiah did a great job getting underneath it.
“I thought in a crucial situation, V.J. had some great calls.”
Arizona got Wilson and the Seahawks’ NFL-leading offense off the field five of six times in the second half, and the defense only got stronger as Joseph dialed it up in overtime.
It was not just the creative plays.
Joseph put a ton of trust in Simmons and fellow backup linebacker Tanner Vallejo in crucial moments after Hicks went down. Vallejo got two crucial tackles on the final Seattle possession of regulation, including a stop on 3rd-and-2 that forced a punt to set up an overtime-forcing field goal at 0:00.
Key to last night's win was the @AZCardinals defensive effort in the 2nd half/OT. Seattle's possessions ended: punt, INT, TD, punt, punt, INT
On the Seahawks 2 OT possessions, AZ defense: 2.0 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, an INT and held Seattle to minus-6 rushing yards.
— Mike Helm (@AZ_Helm) October 26, 2020
Larry saving time (again)
Larry Fitzgerald’s awareness helped the Cardinals beat the clock for a key field goal before the first half ended in the team’s season-opening win against the San Francisco 49ers.
So forgive us if all the other crazy things that happened in Week 7’s win over Seattle overshadowed that he did the exact same thing on Sunday Night Football.
Good Morning Football’s Pete Schrager was sure to point out that Fitzgerald possibly won Arizona the game by running the ball to the hash mark for Kyler Murray to spike it, setting up a Zane Gonzalez game-winner.
This should not be surprising, as the future Hall of Famer — we already knew — has so far beaten father time.
"Larry Fitzgerald made one of the most clutch plays of the night. Grabbing the ball, running it to the center, and ensuring the ball could be spiked before the game-tying FG. That's the stuff that separates huge wins from brutal losses." — @PSchrags on the @AZCardinals win. pic.twitter.com/obvFu82R9y
— GMFB (@gmfb) October 26, 2020
Edmonds is a problem
With news that Kenyan Drake will be down for at least a few weeks due to an ankle injury, Chase Edmonds slides in as Arizona’s primary running back.
If it seems like the offense clicks better with him, well, that’s because he causes so many problems in the passing game.
Christian Kirk’s touchdown before halftime came as the Seahawks defensive backs found themselves a little too concerned with the running back split out in the slot.
Cardinals are in Empty and the RB’s Out grabs Griffin’s eyes for Murray to hit Kirk for the TD. Almost startlingly simple pitch & catch. pic.twitter.com/z9jKSb1tOx
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 26, 2020
Edmonds is Arizona’s third-leading receiver (222 yards). He’s also tied for third in targets (32) and second with 184 yards after catch.
While he will need to prove he can carry more as a north-south running back, it’s become apparent that Arizona’s fourth receiver is actually their backup running back.
Here’s a peek at his receptions chart after he grabbed seven catches for 87 yards.
No apologies for that one
We covered the most egregious of Kingsbury’s questionable calls — a “complete debacle” of icing his own kicker before Gonzalez missed a game-winner on 2nd-and-15 from plus-40 yards.
Kingsbury reiterated Monday he’ll learn from it, and he noted that Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins both communicated with him that they wanted the ball next time around.
As for a 4th-and-3 decision to go for it near the goal line after Budda Baker’s 90-yard interception return, Kingsbury said Sunday and again Monday that he’d do it all over again.
“That’s the leading scoring team in the NFL with arguably the MVP of the league so far,” he said Sunday. “You’re not going to beat that team with field goals. I would do that 10 out of 10 times.”
Now, Kingsbury did say he admittedly would change the play-call. But going for it was the right move analytically.