Tue, 19 Jan 2021

Cardinals' Top Plays Of 2020: Defense

Arizona Cardinals
14 Jan 2021, 04:03 GMT+10

A look back at the five best plays on the defensive side of the ball this season Kyle Odegard

The Cardinals' defense had its fair share of splash moments in 2020, finishing with 48 sacks, 11 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles. AZCardinals.com whittled it down to the five best defensive plays of the season, and here are those selections:

5. Budda Baker - Finally - Gets His Pick

The situation: The Cowboys had a first-and-10 from the Arizona 16, trailing 28-3 with 13:20 left in the fourth quarter.

The play: Despite excellent overall performance, safety Budda Baker did not have an interception through the first 50 games of his career. That changed in Week 6 against the Cowboys, when Baker drove hard on a pass by quarterback Andy Dalton and dove for the pick. Baker secured the interception despite having a cast on his right thumb.

The aftermath: The interception put an exclamation point on a stellar day from Baker. It was one of several standout games, as Baker was named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2020, establishing himself as one of the NFL's best safeties. He had one more interception on the year -- which will be covered later on this list.

4. Byron Murphy Swats The 49ers' Comeback Attempt

The situation: The 49ers had a fourth-and-5 from the Arizona 16, trailing 24-20 with 47 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

The play: San Francisco needed a touchdown to beat the Cardinals in the season opener, and marched into the red zone on its final possession. Jimmy Garoppolo tried to keep the drive alive by throwing an out route for Trent Taylor, but cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. broke quickly and swatted the pass away for an incompletion.

The aftermath: The Cardinals took over on downs and secured the 24-20 road win -- an impressive first-game outcome against the defending NFC champions. The pass breakup was a good example of Murphy's mental progress, as he made strides in Year 2.

3. Budda Baker Gets A Pick, But Not Six

The situation: The Seahawks had a first-and-goal at the Arizona 3, leading 13-7 with 9:08 left in the second quarter.

The play: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson seemed to think he had an easy touchdown early in this Week 7 matchup, lofting a pass to running back Chris Carson. However, Baker made an astute dissection and screamed toward Carson for the easy interception. He looked earmarked for the opposing end zone, until DK Metcalf happened.

The aftermath: Baker acknowledged Metcalf's superhuman trackdown after the game, saying "He got me. That's the first time I've ever been hawked in my entire life." Baker made an incredible read and play, but it was overshadowed by Metcalf and the many memes which resulted.

2. Haason Reddick Caps His Sack Party Against Giants

The situation: The Giants had a first-and-10 from their 36, trailing 26-7 with 1:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The play: Outside linebacker Haason Reddick finished off a dream day by easily getting around tackle Andrew Thomas to sack quarterback Colt McCoy. The ball came loose, and it was recovered by Dennis Gardeck to punctuate the victory.

The aftermath: It was a phenomenal afternoon for Reddick. He finished the Week 14 contest with a franchise-best five sacks and added three forced fumbles. Reddick had a breakout season with 12½ sacks and six forced fumbles, and this game was the peak.

1. Isaiah Simmons Gets The Best Of Russell Wilson

The situation: The Seahawks had a third-and-14 at their 48 in a tie game with 1:04 remaining in overtime.

The play: The Cardinals faked an all-out blitz but instead dropped most of their defenders into coverage. Russell Wilson was fooled, as he threw a hot route intended for Tyler Lockett. Rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons moved directly into the path of the throw and easily nabbed his first career interception.

The aftermath: Not only was it a huge moment in the first-round pick's career, but it led to a monumental shift in the primetime Week 7 showdown. The Cardinals took over at the Seattle 49 and quickly drove into field goal range. Zane Gonzalez converted from 48 yards out to give the Cardinals a 37-34 overtime victory.

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