Dwight Freeney’s timely sack earns him a raise, Cardinals a win

Dec 11, 2015, 12:28 AM | Updated: 9:29 am
Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Dwight Freeney (54) forces Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy ...
Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Dwight Freeney (54) forces Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) to fumble during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals recovered the ball to secure the 23-20 win. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If at first you don’t succeed, the adage goes, try, try again.

Dwight Freeney apparently subscribes to the concept, and it’s a good thing, too. Had he not turned to his spin move to get past left tackle Matt Kalil, he may not have been able to sack Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the Arizona 38, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Calais Campbell in the final seconds to preserve Arizona’s 23-20 win.

“It was funny because I spun three times in that series,” Freeney said. “The first one, he blocked me, so I said, ‘nah, he’ll never expect another one,’ second one I spun I got killed, so then I came with the third. I’m like, ‘he’ll never expect a third one,’ and I actually got in there. I made a good move and we had good coverage in the back end.”

It was the fourth sack of the season for Freeney, who was signed in mid-October, and it brings his career total to 115.5. The takedown was valuable financially, as the 35-year-old earned a $200,000 bonus for reaching four sacks and stands to make another $100,000 per sack the rest of the way, up to a maximum of 12.

The team leader in that category, it was easily his biggest sack of the season. After all, it might very well have saved the game.

“Oh, they were in field goal range for sure,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of the Vikings. “You know, it was a great play by him and that’s why he’s going to the Hall of Fame.

“We brought him here to get pressure on the plays he plays, and he did a great job.”

Freeney said he was a little surprised the Vikings dropped back to pass given that they were already in field goal range, but he figured they must have been thinking about a touchdown and the win. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer said the plan was to get the ball a little further down the field but near the sideline, making it an easier field goal attempt while stopping the clock.

“We told them, ‘Can’t complete the ball inbounds,’ because at 12 to 13 seconds is right at the time that you can spike the ball and get the clock stopped. Can’t complete the ball inbounds and you can’t take a sack.”

Oops.

Freeney, who said he has a lot of different spin moves in his arsenal, admitted he was exhausted at that point in the game but was glad he was able to find enough left in the tank. It was fun, he said, and the very reason he decided to continue his career this season.

The Cardinals are glad he did.

“Dwight’s been huge,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “He studies the game — he loves the game. He’s always looking at film and coming to me and other guys, and telling us how we can make plays and win games.

“That last play of the game, he called a play, a stunt for us to do because he knew it was going to work, and he made a huge play. Any time you can assess the situation and call a good play, a good stunt, and then hit home, that’s huge. That’s a big-time play. That’s a playoff play. That’s a championship play. It was huge.”

Added safety Tyrann Mathieu: “He was running up the sideline all game saying, ‘Let me get the quarterback,’ and that was the perfect time for him to step up and make a play.”

Freeney brings Super Bowl experience, having been to the game twice and winning once with the Indianapolis Colts . That’s why while he’s understandably pleased with what transpired Thursday, he said it’s all about making sure the team gets its next win. The big play at the end may have sealed it, but every play that preceded it was also important.

While that is true, it’s the last one that got him paid a little more, and it’s the last one that ensured the Cardinals would win their 11th game of the season.

A walk-off sack? Might as well have been.

“I have had one of those,” Freeney said of a sack that sealed a win. “Those are the greatest feelings for a defensive lineman honestly. It is no different than two seconds on the clock and you’re a basketball player and you shoot a three to end the game, or ninth inning, two outs and you hit a home run.

“It’s one of those types of feelings that you can’t duplicate.”

Arizona Cardinals

J.J. Watt #99 and Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals take a knee during an injury timeout ...
Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ season a ‘massive failure’ in eyes of J.J. Watt, Kyler Murray

The once promising Cardinals season came to an unceremonious end on Monday, along with it any and all of the good feelings left from 2021.
3 hours ago
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on from the side line in the second quart...
Kellan Olson

Kliff Kingsbury: Struggles in 2nd half of seasons ‘definitely a priority’ to fix

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has seen one of his football teams melt down in the second half of the season yet again.
3 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin, left, sits on the bench with teammates during the seco...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals self-destruct in glaring Wild Card loss to Rams

The Cardinals' return to the postseason was quick and painful in a 34-11 shellacking at the hands of NFC West division winner L.A. Rams.
3 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. walks off the field after the Los Angeles Rams defeat...
Arizona Sports

Rapid reactions: Cardinals’ season ends with underwhelming loss to Rams

Arizona Sports hosts, editors and reporters give their main takeaways from the Cardinals' underwhelming loss to the Rams in the playoffs.
3 hours ago
Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during warmups before the game against...
Dan Bickley

Kliff Kingsbury has to go after Cardinals’ embarrassing loss to Rams

It’s time for a change. A new plan. A new head coach. And to complete the reboot, the team should unveil a host of brand new uniforms.
3 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury walks off the field after the Los Angeles Rams defeate...
Vince Marotta

Kingsbury, Murray look like deer in headlights in 1st playoff game

What happened in L.A. Monday night wasn't a game. A game requires two teams to show up. Only one did. And that team wasn't the Cardinals.
3 hours ago
Dwight Freeney’s timely sack earns him a raise, Cardinals a win