Cardinals special teams unit rides Turner’s blocked punt, reception

Dec 20, 2020, 7:49 PM | Updated: 10:04 pm
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zeke Turner (47) blocks the punt of Philadelphia Eagles punter Cameron...
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zeke Turner (47) blocks the punt of Philadelphia Eagles punter Cameron Johnston (1) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The special teams unit for the Arizona Cardinals has showed up in game-changing ways throughout this season.

Quantifying the impact of two plays Sunday in the Cardinals’ 33-26 win over the Philadelphia Eagles isn’t easy, but safe to say they weighed heavily on a game that went down to the wire.

Linebacker Ezekiel Turner was the focal point on both of them.

He ran unblocked up the middle of the Eagles’ line to block on a punt late in the first quarter. The ball dribbled out of bounds at Philadelphia’s 6-yard line before the Cardinals quickly punched in a touchdown that gave them a 16-0 lead that would, by the fourth quarter, be all but gone.

“Just putting the offense in that position, be able to flip the field like that, close games like that, field positioning is huge,” Turner said. “I don’t know what it looks like on tape, but I didn’t really feel anyone try to come to me or block me.”

The field position got a little better for Arizona two plays into the fourth quarter, with the Cardinals offense scuffling.

Arizona saw a look from the Eagles that had them confident in going for it on 4th-and-2.

Punter Andy Lee took the snap, and Turner ran downfield to catch a perfectly lofted ball for 26 yards.

“You’ve got to give Coach (Jeff) Rodgers credit,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “There was a certain look that we liked on film, and we knew if he could somehow slip through there, it had a chance.

“It wasn’t as clean as we probably would have liked, and Andy put touch on it. He threw it before (Turner) was going to look at him, which was insane. So his throw was a 10 out of 10. I thought there was no way we were hitting that. (Turner) wasn’t even looking at the ball, but it was perfect.”’

The Cardinals’ possession would stall at the Eagles 33-yard line, and they lost the ball on downs.

But again, the better field position mattered.

The Eagles went three-and-out, and Arizona scored the go-ahead touchdown with an 86-yard drive that followed.

Turner has been part of a close-knit special teams unit over the last three seasons that also includes linebacker Dennis Gardeck and receiver Trent Sherfield.

Two weeks ago, Sherfield’s stint on the COVID-19 reserve list stuck out with the coverage unit’s struggles in a loss to the New England Patriots. He was back at it last week with a key fumble recovery against the New York Giants in a 26-7 win.

And Gardeck, called upon often as a linebacker against the Eagles, kept his breakout season alive with two more sacks.

Turner said one of his own big moments on Sunday, the reception, was the first catch he’s made in a game since his high school days in Glen Burnie, Md.

“Andy puts a lot of touch on it,” he said. “We practiced that a lot. I’m glad I looked up and — I didn’t really have to do much. It was a perfect throw. He put it right in the bread basket.”

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