Cardinals cornerback Cariel Brooks returns an interception 81 yards for a touchdown Sunday night in Oakland.
OAKLAND – As Cariel Brooks talked to a large pack of reporters for the first time in his NFL career Sunday night, a loud voice interrupted the proceedings.
"Great play, boy!" star cornerback Patrick Peterson yelled from across the locker room. "He gets a game ball!"
A few months ago, Brooks was an anonymous undrafted rookie free agent from small Adams State. After an 81-yard interception return for a touchdown which helped ignite the Cardinals' 30-23 victory over the Raiders in a
nationally televised matchup, he received that game ball from coach Bruce Arians and props from Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
"Coming from a small school and to be on this stage right now?" Brooks said. "It means everything."
While the accolades were nice, Brooks' real goal is to make the 53-man roster. The Cardinals will likely keep three or four cornerbacks, with the cuts coming over the next week. Brooks is right on that bubble, and by jumping a Derek Carr pass and sprinting to the opposite end zone with it, he undoubtedly helped his cause.
"All week I felt like I needed to make a big play so I could have a chance to make this team," Brooks said. "That came in clutch."
Brooks said he originally read screen pass and trailed Oakland wide receiver Rod Streater on the play. Carr rolled to his left as he was getting pressured and launched an ill-advised throw. Brooks picked it off and had blockers to help usher him to paydirt.
"I was so excited I didn't know what to do in the end zone," Brooks said. "I just looked at the fans. No celebration."
ALEX OKAFOR HELPS IMPRESSIVE RUSH DEFENSE
The Cardinals' starting defense was continually put in bad situations in the first half but never folded, giving up five field goals but no touchdowns. They kept the Raiders at bay in large part because of their run defense. The starters did a fantastic job against Oakland's running backs, allowing just one yard on 12
Linebacker Alex Okafor played a large part in it, registering three tackles, including two for loss. While he's mostly known for his pass-rushing skills, Okafor said he's intent on making an all-around impact by holding up against the run.
"It complements me and helps me become a complete player," Okafor said. "That's all I want to do, just improve in every aspect of the game. I think I showed a little bit of that today. It's encouraging."
The Cardinals played much of the first half with safeties Deone Bucannon, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson and Mathieu on the field together, which made the run-stuffing even more impressive.
CHRIS JOHNSON SITS, EXPECTED TO PLAY THURSDAY
Running back Chris Johnson (hamstring) did some sprints and cuts before the game but was held out. Arians said Johnson couldn't do full-speed cuts, which is what kept him sidelined. Both coach and player expect Johnson to see the field in the preseason finale against the Broncos on Thursday.
The normally-durable Johnson said it hasn't been easy to sit and watch his teammates in games without him.
"When I wasn't able to go, I sat out there for a little while just to cope with it," Johnson said. "I love to play the game. I don't like to sit out. It's just in this situation, you've got to be smart. I'm going on Year 8 and I know my body. I've just got to be smart with it and make sure I'm ready when the real games count."
Defensive tackle Xavier Williams played with a protection for his elbow after injuring it on Friday, but limped off with a separate injury near the end of the contest. Tight end Ifeanyi Momah was looked at by trainers following a big hit late, but Arians said he had no new injuries to report. Momah said he was fine.