To judge how Budda Baker played in the month of October, it wasn't his excellent production in three victories -- it was what was absent in the game he missed.
The Cardinals struggled when their Pro Bowl safety had to skip a game in Carolina after undergoing thumb surgery, a loss to the Panthers in which the defense struggled. When Baker came back, he dominated, and the defense found itself.
However Baker was measured, it earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors Thursday morning.
"He is certainly the guy who, his tempo and the mentality he plays with, is really a game changer," GM Steve Keim said. "You saw the game he did not play really hurt us."
Baker also won NFC Defensive Player of the Week after the Week 6 win over the Cowboys in which Baker made his first career interception.
He becomes the fourth Cardinal ever to win a monthly award, joining safety Kwamie Lassiter (November 2001), safety Tyrann Mathieu (November 2015) and linebacker Chandler Jones (twice, December 2017 and December 2019).
Baker during training camp signed a contract extension making him the NFL's highest-paid safety, and he's playing like the best safety. In three games in October, Baker -- playing with a cast -- totaled 31 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
"I texted him the other day and said thank you," Keim said. "I told him a long time ago we were going to take care of him, and when we do, I would hope he would repay us. Budda Baker isn't a guy you have to ask to repay you."