ARIZONA CARDINALS

Opponents be warned: The Honey Badger has returned

Nov 3, 2014, 12:43 AM | Updated: 4:36 am

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Upcoming Cardinals opponents: Brace yourselves.

The Honey Badger is back.

(Get it? Because he’s playing in a brace now?)

Bad jokes aside, there was nothing funny to the Cowboys about getting picked off by a guy they may have underestimated entering the game.

Since Tyrann Mathieu has returned to full minutes after injuring his knee last season, he’s been feeling out his left leg and adjusting to its new ‘armor’ — a fairly large brace.

Teammates have said he’s been closer and closer each game to his old self, and Sunday he made a statement about his health with his first interception of the season.

It came halfway through the third quarter. Arizona had a four-point lead on a headless Cowboys team, and was hunting for some momentum. Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden slung a pass to tight end Jason Witten, a carbon copy of an earlier play that was successful.

“They ran that play on us in a previous series,” said Mathieu.

Don’t duplicate a pass against the Honey Badger.

Mathieu got his mitts on it; cradled it close, then took off, gaining nine yards before getting wrapped up by Witten.

For the second-year safety, plays like that are the best indicator of his return to full health and movement.

“I don’t think there was any doubt (I’d be back),” said Mathieu of his personal thoughts regarding his injury recovery. “(But) people won’t really believe you until they actually see you perform and succeed on the field.”

With five combined tackles to accentuate his interception, there won’t be much left to doubt.

“Hopefully people understand that the Badger is back,” laughed Mathieu.

As for the Cardinals defense as a whole, ‘doubt’ is not really the emotion other teams experience when preparing to play Arizona.

Maybe ‘worry’. Or ‘fear’.

The defense was the major factor in deciding the game Sunday. They pressured Weeden consistently, intercepted two passes and held star Dallas running back DeMarco Murray to only 79 yards, the first time he’s had under 100 rush yards this season.

But the biggest defensive moment came via a fourth-and-1 stop by Deone Bucannon. From there, the Cardinals were in complete control of the game.

“We believe in each other,” said Matheiu. “We had no doubt we were going to come in and get the victory”

Now 7-1 with the 28-17 win, the Cardinals will host the St. Louis Rams in Week 10.

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Opponents be warned: The Honey Badger has returned