The Cardinals’ defense took a step forward in Sunday’s 16-14 loss to the Bears. It forced a pair of turnovers, including a strip-sack by defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche that led to the team’s second touchdown of the game and a 14-0 lead. The Bears rallied for the win, but the splash play by Nkemdiche was a continuation of his progress after a slow start to his career. Nkemdiche, defensive tackle Corey Peters and coach Steve Wilks broke down the play in this week’s edition of Cardinals Film Room.
The situation: The Bears had a third-and-7 from their 27 with 1:53 remaining in the first quarter, trailing 7-0.
Peters details the play’s intent: “We’re blitzing off the edge. We’re coming off both edges, and we’re running a stunt on the inside, with the ends coming to the ‘A’ gap. We’re mostly trying to get everybody down inside so the edge rushers come clean.”
Nkemdiche has a clear mission: “I just know I’m attacking that gap. I’m trying to keep the pressure on the guard (Kyle Long) and use the tackle as a brace, just push off him.”
Nkemdiche fires upfield: “I knew I had that gap. If I ricocheted and stayed and kept pressure on the guard, it would keep me on the angle I needed to get to the quarterback.”
In a matchup of six rushers against six blockers, Wilks knows it’s critical for someone to get through: “You can see we’ve got exactly what we want across the board, and that’s one-on-ones. I emphasize and talk about it all the time. You have to win your one-on-one matchup.”
Peters appreciates the physical gifts Nkemdiche possesses: “Robert’s a very explosive guy. He has the ability to make the big play. That’s one of the things we count on him for. This is another example of what he can do.”
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky looks at wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, but holds the ball with Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson lurking. Peters: “Patrick is the best cornerback in the game. Not only his coverage ability, but a quarterback’s lack of willingness to even throw it over there helps everybody. It helps the back end. It helps the pass rush. He’s a great person to have on your team.”
Nkemdiche echoes Peters’ thoughts on Peterson and points out the sticky coverage by the secondary: “All across the board, really. Everywhere. Everyone is doing their job.”
Nkemdiche gets shoved by Long, but not before he cracks down on Trubisky’s arm: “I tried to chop and rip the ball out. I knew I hit him in the area of the ball. I was just trying to knock it out.”
Wilks is pleased to see Nkemdiche stick with it: “Tremendous effort, as you can see him laying out right there, trying to reach and grab the arm.”
The next day, Peters was still unaware Nkemdiche forced the fumble: “Is that what happened? Oh, see, I didn’t even know that. I just thought he dropped the ball.”
Nkemdiche turns to watch Peters recover it: “I didn’t even know because I was turned around. Then when I saw it, I was like, ‘Hell, yeah. We have a chance to score. We have a chance to do something on offense.’”
As the ball hits the grass, grand visions dance through Peters’ head: “When the quarterback tried to step up, he was kind of fumbling with the ball and then it fell. I just dove on it. I was wondering if I should have picked it up. I see some green, but I think I made the right decision.”