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BJ Ojulari Sacks Helps Cardinals To Complete Win

Defense getting help from rookie as stops help Kyler comeback

Cardinals linebacker BJ Ojulari hauls down Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke for the first of his two sacks on Sunday.
Cardinals linebacker BJ Ojulari hauls down Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke for the first of his two sacks on Sunday.

BJ Ojulari is a rookie, but he's not.

Eleven games into the season, it's not about getting snacks for the veterans as much as making an impact for a defense that needs it.

Against the Falcons on Sunday, Ojulari played like a veteran, finishing the game with eight tackles and two sacks.

"Definitely just feel more comfortable out there," Ojulari said. "(Defensive coordinator) coach Nick (Rallis) comes to me every game and just tells me to play free. Don't worry about making mistake and I think that's what I did yesterday."

Coach Jonathan Gannon said Ojulari "played violent, physical, rushed pretty well and played the run pretty good too." The LSU product was a bright spot during a game where much of the attention was on Kyler Murray and the offense and capped by a special-teams field goal in the 25-23 victory over the Falcons.

That's the complimentary football this team has been seeking all season long.

"My job, of course, is to get the ball back to that offense so they can score some points," safety Budda Baker said ahead of Sunday's game. "That's going to be our ultimate goal."

The defense came up clutch at multiple points. With under eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals stopped Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder's fourth-and-1 sneak. The Falcons were within striking distance, turning the ball over on downs at the Cardinals 22-yard line.

The other key defensive stand was following Ridder's untouched score with 2:33 on the clock. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton made the tackle on the two-point conversion, allowing a field goal to win the game. 

"It was a huge play because now it's a completely different drive and I thought that was well-executed," Gannon said. "That's what we said that was going to be versus that group. That was the play. That was our two-point play for the whole week and they knew what was coming and executed. It was a great play."

Execution by the Cardinals defense led to the game-winning drive, orchestrated by Murray, tight end Trey McBride, and kicker Matt Prater.

Baker, who was on the field for 100 percent of the Cardinals defensive snaps, described Sunday's victory as a "complete game." It didn't matter if it was a rookie on defense or a 17-year pro in Prater helping in an all-around team win.

Before the Cardinals could put it together on the field, they're pushing each other at the Dignity Health Training Facility. Ojulari, who played 37 snaps, tied with fellow linebacker Zaven Collins, has been working overtime with the fairly newly minted edge rusher.

"Staying after practice and doing the coverage things (with Collins), that's really helped me just be able to go out there and be more confident in myself," Ojulari said.

"It's one thing for me or Nick or (outside linebackers coach) Rob (Rodriguez) saying something to him," Gannon said. "But when another player kind of puts it into his verbiage, 'Here's what they want, here's what they're talking about,' sometimes it clicks. All of our guys do a really good job of that."

The top images taken by the Cardinals team photographer during the 2023 Week 10 regular season game against Atlanta, presented by Earnhardt Auto Centers.